Encrypting your MySQL backups and more

Assuming you have a backup and recovery strategy in place, how secure is your data? Does a hacker need to obtain access to your production system bypassing all the appropriate security protection you have in place, or just the unencrypted data on the backup server?

Encryption with zNcrypt

The following steps demonstrate how I setup a mysqldump encrypted backup with zNcrypt, a product from Gazzang. You can request a free trial evaluation of the software from http://gazzang.com/request-a-trial. I asked for a AWS EC2 instance, and was able to provide my bootstrap instructions for OS and MySQL installation. Following installation and configuration, the first step is to verify the zNcrypt process is running:

$ sudo ezncrypt-service status
  ezncrypt | Checking system dependencies
** ezncrypt system is UP and running **
       log | File: /var/log/ezncrypt/ezncrypt-service.log

If the process is not running you would find the following error message:

$ sudo ezncrypt-service status
  ezncrypt | Checking system dependencies
** ezncrypt system is NOT running **
       log | File: /var/log/ezncrypt/ezncrypt-service.log

$ sudo ezncrypt-service start
  ezncrypt | Checking system dependencies
  ezncrypt | checking encryption directories
    keymgr | Retrieving key from KSS
           |  > Encryption password retrieved from KSS
  ezncrypt | starting service
           |  > using "aes_256" cipher algorithm
           | done!
    access | Loading access control list
           | done!
  ezncrypt | Thank you for using ezncrypt.
       log | File: /var/log/ezncrypt/ezncrypt-service.log

Under the covers you will find the following attached devices, and no actual processes.

$ df -h
Filesystem ...
...
/var/lib/ezncrypt/storage/encrypted_private
/var/lib/ezncrypt/ezncrypted

$ ps -ef | grep ezn
uid  4947  3327  0 23:15 pts/3    00:00:00 grep ezn

$ ps -ef | grep cry
root        30     2  0 21:41 ?        00:00:00 [ecryptfs-kthrea]
root        31     2  0 21:41 ?        00:00:00 [crypto]
uid  4951  3327  0 23:15 pts/3    00:00:00 grep cry

The first step is to create a backup directory and encrypt all contents that are placed in the directory. ezNcrypt uses the concept of an @category for reference with an encrypted file or directory.

$ mkdir /mysql/backup/encrypted
$ sudo ezncrypt --encrypt @backup /mysql/backup/encrypted
  ezncrypt | Checking system dependencies
           | Verifying ezncrypt license
           | getting information about location
           |   > path: /var/lib/ezncrypt/ezncrypted/backup
  ezncrypt | Checking encryption status
           | done!
    keymgr | Retrieving key from KSS
           |  > Encryption password retrieved from KSS
           | generating keys
           | done!
    backup | backing up data
           | This can take a while. Please be patient
           |  > backing up /mysql/backup/encrypted
           |  > File: /opt/ezncrypt/backup/2012-04-27/encrypted.tar.gz
           | done!
  ezncrypt | encrypting files
           |  > checking disk space
           |  > encrypting /mysql/backup/encrypted
           | done!
  ezncrypt | congratulations. you have encrypted your Files!!
       log | File: /var/log/ezncrypt/ezncrypt.log

The underlying regular directory is now replaced:

$ ls -l /mysql/backup
total 0
lrwxrwxrwx 1 root root 59 2012-04-27 00:03 encrypted -> /var/lib/ezncrypt/ezncrypted/backup//mysql/backup/encrypted

Any attempts to write to this encrypted directory will now fail, even with the Linux super user:

$ mysqldump --all-databases > /mysql/backup/encrypted/edump1.sql
-bash: /mysql/backup/encrypted/edump1.sql: Permission denied

$ sudo mysqldump --all-databases > /mysql/backup/encrypted/edump1.sql
-bash: /mysql/backup/encrypted/edump1.sql: Permission denied

In order to read and write from an encrypted directory you need to grant access controls to a given program, for example mysqldump:

$ sudo ezncrypt-access-control -a "ALLOW @backup * /usr/bin/mysqldump"
passphrase:
salt:
Rule added

You verify the defined access control rules with:

$ sudo ezncrypt-access-control -L
passphrase:
salt:
# -  Type     Category       Path    Process
1    ALLOW    @backup        *       /usr/bin/mysqldump

However, writing with mysqldump still causes an error because it is the shell redirection that is performing the writing, as seen in the system error log:

$ mysqldump --all-databases > /mysql/backup/encrypted/edump1.sql
-bash: /mysql/backup/encrypted/edump1.sql: Permission denied
$ dmesg | tail
[4138848.618559] ezncryptfs: DENIED type="acl" exec="/bin/bash" script="/dev/pts/4" comm="bash" path="/var/lib/ezncrypt/ezncrypted/backup" pid=7448 uid=1000

You can use the –result-file option with mysqldump to enable the process to create the file directly. For example:

$ time mysqldump --all-databases   --result-file=/mysql/backup/encrypted/edump2.sql
real      1m34.714s
user      0m59.388s
sys       0m9.589s

$ sudo ezncrypt-run "ls -l /mysql/backup/encrypted/"
passphrase:
salt:
total 3.0G
-rw-rw-r-- 1 uid gid 2.9G 2012-04-27 02:43 edump2.sql

In this single test, the transparent encryption added only a very nominal overhead to the mysqldump test backup used. You can easily extract the file from the encrypted directory, however that would defeat the purpose of using encryption. The following syntax is shown just to confirm the validity of the encrypted file:

$ sudo /usr/sbin/ezncrypt-run "cp /mysql/backup/encrypted/edump2.sql ."
passphrase:
salt:
$ ls –al edump*
total 3916
-rw-r--r-- 1 uid gid 2.9G 2012-04-27 02:55 edump2.sql

$ grep "^CREATE.*DATABASE" edump2.sql
CREATE DATABASE /*!32312 IF NOT EXISTS*/ `book2` /*!40100 DEFAULT CHARACTER SET latin1 */;
CREATE DATABASE /*!32312 IF NOT EXISTS*/ `employees` ...
CREATE DATABASE /*!32312 IF NOT EXISTS*/ `musicbrainz` ...
CREATE DATABASE /*!32312 IF NOT EXISTS*/ `mysql` ...
CREATE DATABASE /*!32312 IF NOT EXISTS*/ `sakila` ...
CREATE DATABASE /*!32312 IF NOT EXISTS*/ `world_innodb` ...
CREATE DATABASE /*!32312 IF NOT EXISTS*/ `world_myisam` ...

When using correctly configured directories and access controls, the use is truly transparent to the backup process.

Restoring an encrypted file is a little more involved. The best approach is to create a script to perform the work, than encrypt this script. When executed, this script will have the permissions necessary to read and apply the encrypted file.

Perhaps the best tip about using this type of transparent encryption is that it is possible to encrypt the MySQL user and password securely in a plain text configuration file and used with appropriate MySQL client commands. This helps to address another common security problem.

Tags: , , ,

3 Responses to “Encrypting your MySQL backups and more”

  1. Cédric says:

    That sounds nice.
    I’ve a question about files stored in the encrypted volume.
    Is it possible to backup these files with a tape backup tool ?
    If it’s possible, I guess the files won’t be encrypted on the tape ?
    Thx

  2. Mike Frank says:

    Is it possible to backup these files with a tape backup tool ?
    Yes
    If it’s possible, I guess the files won’t be encrypted on the tape ?
    They would be encrypted – see below.

    zNcrypt uses a stacked (virtual) file system (sits above ext4, reiserfs,…)

    So you can backup the encrypted files that are on the file system (not the stacked file system).

    If restored those files on another system those files can be made accessible if the same key is put in place for zncrypt. Thus this could be used for a cold backups or as a way to transport individual files encrypted. I have a blog where I discuss copying encrypted files and restoring access to them that should help – http://www.gazzang.com/blog/item/270-securely-distributing-data-%E2%80%93-protecting-data-at-rest-data-in-motion
    With that method you are putting the TDE (via PBAC) back in place to have access or you can set the key in a session.

    Basically the files are under – /var/lib/ezncrypt/.encrypted_private/
    They are all AES-256 encrypted.

    So going to tape you can backup these encrypted files.

    Note: you can also decrypt a file directly using a direct call
    /usr/sbin/ezncrypt –encrypt –file –in=my_test_file –out=my_test_file_encrypted

  3. [...] Encrypting your MySQL Backups and more [...]