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Django model fields encrypted using Pycryptodome AES-256 GCM.

Project description

Django Searchable Encrypted Fields

This package is for you if you would like to encrypt model field data "in app" - ie before it is sent to the database.

Why another encrypted field package?

  1. We use AES-256 encryption with GCM mode (via the Pycryptodome library).
  2. Encryption keys never leave the app.
  3. It is easy to generate appropriate encryption keys with secrets.token_hex(32) from the standard library.
  4. You can make 'exact' search lookups when also using the SearchField.

Install & Setup

$ pip install django-searchable-encrypted-fields
# in
INSTALLED_APPS += ["encrypted_fields"]

# A list of hex-encoded 32 byte keys
# You only need one unless/until rotating keys


This package provides two types of model field for Django.

  1. A series of EncryptedField classes which can be used by themselves and work just like their regular Django counterparts. Contents are transparently encrypted/decrypted.
  2. A SearchField which can be used in conjunction with any EncryptedField. Values are concatentaed with a hash_key and then hashed with SHA256 before storing in a separate field. This means 'exact' searches can be performed.

This is probably best demonstrated by example:

Using a stand-alone EncryptedField

from encrypted_fields import fields

class Person(models.Model):
    favorite_number = fields.EncryptedIntegerField(help_text="Your favorite number.")

You can use all the usual field arguments and add validators as normal. Note, however, that primary_key, unique and db_index are not supported because they do not make sense for encrypted data.


Always add a new EncryptedField and do a data-migration, rather than alter an existing regular Django model field. See the encrypted_fields_test app for an example.

Included EncryptedField classes

The following are included:


Note that, although untested, you should be able to extend other regular Django model field classes like this:

class EncryptedIPAddressField(EncryptedFieldMixin, models.GenericIPAddressField):

Using a SearchField along with an EncryptedField


The SearchField is responsible for:

  1. Providing the input for its EncryptedField
  2. Displaying (returning) the EncryptedField's value
  3. Storing the searchable hashed version of the input

The EncryptedField is the "real" field and so should be the appropriate field type for the expected input. It does all the under-the-hood things you would expect, eg:

  • Providing validation/validators for the input
  • Converting the input and database values to the appropriate python object
  • Encryption/decryption

Example usage

def get_hash_key():
    # This must return a suitable string, eg from secrets.token_hex(32)
    return "f414ed6bd6fbc4aef5647abc15199da0f9badcc1d2127bde2087ae0d794a8a0a"

class Person(models.Model):
    _name_data = fields.EncryptedCharField(max_length=50, default="", null=True/False)
    name = fields.SearchField(hash_key=get_hash_key, encrypted_field_name="_name_data")
    favorite_number = fields.EncryptedIntegerField()
    city = models.CharField(max_length=255) # regular Django model field

You can then use it like:

# "Jo" is hashed and stored in 'name' as well as symmetrically encrypted and stored in '_name_data'
Person.objects.create(name="Jo", favorite_number=7, city="London")
person = Person.objects.get(name="Jo")
assert == "Jo"
assert person.favorite_number == 7

person = Person.objects.get(city="London")
assert == "Jo" . # the data is taken from '_name_data', which decrypts it first.

You can safely update like this: = "Simon"

But when using update() you need to provide the value to both fields:

Person.objects.filter(name="Jo").update(name="Bob", _name_data="Bob")

Please note:

A SearchField inherits the validators, default value and default formfield (widget) from its associated EncryptedField. So:

  1. Do not add validators (they will be ignored), add them to the associated EncryptedField instead.
  2. Use null=, blank= and default= on the EncryptedField, not the SearchField.
  3. Do not include the EncryptedField in forms, only include the SearchField.
  4. Typically you should avoid editable=False in the EncryptedField - it prevents validation.
  5. You can override the SearchField widget in a ModelForm as usual (see the encrypted_fields_test app).
  6. By convention, declare the EncryptedField before the SearchField in your Model.

Note Although unique validation (and unique constraints at the database level) for an EncryptedField makes little sense, it is possible to add unique=True to a SearchField.

An example of when this makes sense is in a custom user model, where the username field is replaced with an EncryptedCharField and SearchField. Please see the custom user model in encrypted_fields_test.models and its tests for an example.

Please let us know if you have problems when doing this.

Migrations: Add Search/EncryptedFields to your model, don't alter existing fields

You are encouraged to look at the demo migrations in the encrypted_fields_test app.

Stand alone EncryptedFields:

Be careful not to change/alter a pre-existing regular django field to be an EncryptedField. The data for existing rows will be unencrypted in the database and appear 'corrupted' when trying to decrypt/fetch it. Instead, add the new EncryptedField to the model and do a data-migration to transfer data from the old field.

SearchField with EncryptedField:

The same goes for SearchFields: add the new SearchField and new Encrypted field to the model. Then do a data-migration to transfer data from the old field to the SearchField (the SearchField will populate the new EncryptedField automatically).

IMPORTANT! Never add a SearchField and point it to an existing EncryptedField, or your SearchField will have the wrong value, and you might lose all your data! How? Why? When adding a new field to a model, Django will update each existing row's new field to have the default value. Note that the default value might be None or "" even if default= is not defined in your field. If the new field is a SearchField then it will be saved with the EncryptedField's default value. This is almost certainly not what you want, even if you did define a default for it.

Generating Encryption Keys

You can use secrets from the standard library. It will print appropriate hex-encoded keys to the terminal, ready to be used in settings.FIELD_ENCRYPTION_KEYS or as a hash_key for a SearchField:

$ python shell
>>> import secrets
>>> secrets.token_hex(32)

Note: Thanks to Andrew Mendoza for the suggestion.

Note: encryption keys must be hex encoded and 32 bytes

Important: use different hash_key values for each SearchField and make sure they are different from any keys in settings.FIELD_ENCRYPTION_KEYS.

Rotating Encryption Keys

If you want to rotate the encryption key just prepend settings.FIELD_ENCRYPTION_KEYS with a new key. This new key (the first in the list) will be used for encrypting/decrypting all data. If decrypting data fails (because it was encrypted with an older key), each key in the list is tried. A model instance will start using the new encryption key the next time they are accessed.

You can do a data-migration, simply fetching and saving all objects, to force a complete rotation to the new encryption key. See the encrypted_fields_test app for an example.

Be sure to keep all old encryption keys in the list until you are certain all objects have rotated to the new key.


django-searchable-encrypted-fields is tested with Django(3.2, 4.0, 4.1) on Python(3.8, 3.9) using SQLite and PostgreSQL (11 and 12).

Test coverage is at 96%.

More on testing

Please see the encrypted_fields_test app (in the gitlab repo) for some example admin site and model form implementations. Just run pip install -r requirements.txt, python migrate and python runserver to get started using SQLite.

There is also a basic DjangoRestFramework implementation with a ModelSerializer and ModelViewSet.

In our test app, the User model uses a SearchField for the username. This means that when creating a superuser you must provide the --username argument: python createsuperuser --username bob to avoid an error.

Final note of interest: the tox test suite runs python makemigrations for every environment with an empty initial migration directory. This helps ensure the test app will work as expected in all tested environments.

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