High-level functions for supporting encryption and decryption of data from R. This allows secure storage and exchange of information, while trying to keep the encryption/decryption code from taking over your analyses.
cyphr wraps the lower-level support from
openssl. This package is designed to be easy to use, rather than the most secure thing (you’re using R, remember - for examples of what
cyphr can’t protect against see
cyphr provides high level functions to:
- Encrypt and decrypt
- User-friendly wrappers (
decrypt) around R’s file reading and writing functions that enable transparent encryption (support included for
The package aims to make encrypting and decrypting as easy as
cyphr::encrypt(save.csv(dat, "file.csv"), key)
In addition, the package implements a workflow that allows a group to securely share data by encrypting it with a shared (“symmetric”) key that is in turn encrypted with each users ssh keys. The use case is a group of researchers who are collaborating on a dataset that cannot be made public, for example containing sensitive data. However, they have decided or need to store it in a setting that they are not 100% confident about the security of the data. So encrypt the data at each read/write.
cyphr from CRAN with
To install a development version from github, you can use
cyphr from github:
remotes::install_github("ropensci/cyphr", upgrade = FALSE)
The scope of the package is to protect data that has been saved to disk. It is not designed to stop an attacker targeting the R process itself to determine the contents of sensitive data. The package does try to prevent you accidentally saving to disk the contents of sensitive information, including the keys that could decrypt such information.
Decide on a style of encryption and create a key object
key_sodium: Symmetric encryption, using sodium – everyone shares the same key (which must be kept secret!) and can encrypt and decrypt data with it. This is used as a building block but is inflexible because of the need to keep the key secret.
key_openssl: Symmetric encryption using openssl
keypair_sodium: Public key encryption with sodium – this lets people encrypt messages using your public key that only you can read using your private key.
keypair_openssl: Public key encryption, using openssl, which has the big advantage that many people already have compatible (ssh) keys in standard places with standard file formats (see
?encrypt_envelopein the the
cyphr does not include wrappers for key generation for sodium - sodium keys do not have a file format: So a secret symmetric key in
sodium might be:
k <- sodium::keygen() k
##  48 35 a2 6c 05 27 65 75 cb 08 01 de 76 8f 71 fe 3f d7 e4 7a df bf d8 e7 08 ##  d5 fb e9 61 c8 5f d1
With this key we can create the
key <- cyphr::key_sodium(k) key
## <cyphr_key: sodium>
If the key was saved to file that would work too:
If you load a password protected ssh key you will be prompted for your passphrase.
cyphr will ensure that this is not echoed onto the console.
key <- cyphr::key_openssl() ## Please enter private key passphrase: key
If you have files that already exist and you want to encrypt or decrypt, the functions
cyphr::decrypt_file will do that (these are workhorse functions that are used internally throughout the package)
The file is encrypted now:
## Error in readRDS("myfile.encrypted"): unknown input format
Decrypt the file and read it:
cyphr::decrypt_file("myfile.encrypted", key, "myfile.clear") identical(readRDS("myfile.clear"), iris)
##  TRUE
Encrypting files like the above risks leaving a cleartext (i.e., unencrypted) version around. If you want to wrap the output of something like
saveRDS you really have no choice but to write out the file first, encrypt it, and delete the clear version. Making sure that this happens even if a step fails is error prone and takes a surprising number of repetitive lines of code.
Alternatively, to encrypt the output of a file producing command, just wrap it in
Then to decrypt the a file to feed into a file consuming command, wrap it in
The round-trip preserves the data:
identical(dat, iris) # yay
##  TRUE
But without the key, it cannot be read:
## Error in readRDS("myfile.rds"): unknown input format
The above commands work through computing on the language, rewriting the
saveRDS commands. Commands for reading and writing tabular and plain text files (
readLines, etc) are also supported, and the way the rewriting is done is designed to be extensible.
The argument to the wrapped functions can be connection objects. In this case the actual command is written to a file and the contents of that file are encrypted and written to the connection. When reading/writing multiple objects from/to a single connection though, this is likely to go very badly.
The functions supported so far are:
cyphr::decrypt(readxl::read_excel("myfile.xlsx"), key, file_arg = "path")
or register the function with the package using
cyphr::rewrite_register("readxl", "read_excel", "path")
Then you can use
to decrypt the file (these are equivalent, but the former will likely be more convenient if you’re only dealing with a couple of files, the latter will be more convenient if you are dealing with many).
Even with high-level functions to ease encrypting and decrypting things given a key, there is some work to be done to distribute a set of keys across a group of people who are working together so that everyone can encrypt and decrypt the data but so that the keys themselves are not compromised.
The package contains support for a group of people are working on a sensitive data set. The data will be stored with a symmetric key. However, we never actually store the key directly, instead we’ll store a copy for each user that is encrypted with the user’s key. Any user with access to the data can authorise another user to access the data. This is described in more detail in the vignette (in R:
vignette("data", package = "cyphr")).
The low level functions in
openssl work with raw data, for generality. Few users encounter raw vectors in their typical use of R, so these require serialisation. Most of the encryption involves a little extra random data (the “nonce” in
sodium and similar additional pieces with
openssl). These need storing with the data, and then separating from the data when decryption happens.