SoK: cryptographically protected database search
May 22, 2017
Protected database search systems cryptographically isolate the roles of reading from, writing to, and administering the database. This separation limits unnecessary administrator access and protects data in the case of system breaches. Since protected search was introduced in 2000, the area has grown rapidly, systems are offered by academia, start-ups, and established companies. However, there is no best protected search system or set of techniques. Design of such systems is a balancing act between security, functionality, performance, and usability. This challenge is made more difficult by ongoing database specialization, as some users will want the functionality of SQL, NoSQL, or NewSQL databases. This database evolution will continue, and the protected search community should be able to quickly provide functionality consistent with newly invented databases. At the same time, the community must accurately and clearly characterize the tradeoffs between different approaches. To address these challenges, we provide the following contributions:(1) An identification of the important primitive operations across database paradigms. We find there are a small number of base operations that can be used and combined to support a large number of database paradigms.(2) An evaluation of the current state of protected search systems in implementing these base operations. This evaluation describes the main approaches and tradeoffs for each base operation. Furthermore, it puts protected search in the context of unprotected search, identifying key gaps in functionality.(3) An analysis of attacks against protected search for different base queries.(4) A roadmap and tools for transforming a protected search system into a protected database, including an open-source performance evaluation platform and initial user opinions of protected search.