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Securing Your Data with PostgreSQL Encryption Techniques

Introduction to Encryption

When we talk about technology, security is one of the primary concerns. All the sensitive information that we store on our devices or transmit over the internet is vulnerable to attack.

Therefore, we need to secure our data by using various techniques, and encryption is one of them. In this article, we will discuss what encryption is, its importance, and how it can protect our data.

We will also focus on PostgreSQL database encryption, different approaches for encrypting data, and the best form of encryption to use. What is Encryption?

Encryption is the process of converting plain text or data into a coded form. It is done to protect sensitive information from unauthorized access.

The coded text can only be deciphered by using a decryption key. Encryption algorithms use mathematical operations to scramble the data, making it extremely difficult, if not impossible, to read.

Importance of Encryption

Today’s businesses operate in a digitally connected world, where data is the new currency. Companies store vast amounts of sensitive data on their servers, including customer names, addresses, credit card numbers, and other personal information.

If this information falls into the wrong hands, it can cause irreparable damage to the company’s reputation and its customers.

Encryption plays a vital role in protecting sensitive information.

It can prevent hackers from intercepting or reading the data during transmission or storage. Encryption also prevents data tampering, ensuring that the data remains unchanged.

PostgreSQL Database Encryption

PostgreSQL is an open-source relational database management system that is widely used by businesses and organizations to store and manage their data. Despite its many benefits, data stored in PostgreSQL databases is not entirely secure.

Hackers can exploit vulnerabilities in the system to gain unauthorized access and steal sensitive information.

Layers of Database Encryption

There are three layers of database encryption: client application, storage device, and database.

The client application layer is responsible for encrypting the data before it is sent to the database.

This layer ensures that the data is protected during transmission. The storage device layer refers to encrypting the physical disk that stores the data.

This method ensures that even if a disk is stolen, the data remains secure. Finally, the database layer provides encryption of the data stored in PostgreSQL.

There are different approaches to encrypting the data at this layer.

Best Form of Encryption

Out of the three layers, the most effective form of encryption is the database layer’s self-encryption. In this method, the database engine automatically encrypts the data before storing it, ensuring that sensitive data remains protected.

Self-encryption also allows for ease of use, as there is no need to manually encrypt or decrypt the data.

Approaches for Encrypting Data in PostgreSQL

There are three common approaches to encrypting data in PostgreSQL.

The first approach is system disk encryption, where the entire disk is encrypted with a key.

This method ensures that the data is protected, even if the disk is stolen or physically removed. The second approach is transparent data encryption.

In this method, the encryption and decryption of data are done transparently, without any involvement from the client application or the user. This method provides a high level of security, but it can be complicated to set up.

The third approach is selective Postgres encryption, where specific tables or columns are encrypted. This method allows for highly granular control over the encryption of sensitive data.


In conclusion, encryption is a critical component of securing corporate and personal data. PostgreSQL database encryption provides an effective method of protecting sensitive information from unauthorized access, and self-encryption is the most effective form of encryption.

There are different approaches to encrypting data in PostgreSQL, and each method has its advantages and disadvantages. It is important to assess each method’s suitability to the organization’s needs and choose the most appropriate method to secure data.

In today’s digital world, data security is of utmost importance, and encryption is the first line of defense against hackers. In the previous section, we discussed database encryption, and in this section, we will dive deeper into the two approaches for PostgreSQL database encryption:

System Disk Encryption and

Transparent Data Encryption.

System Disk Encryption

System disk encryption software or hardware is designed to protect computer subsystems by converting the contents of a hard drive into a unreadable block of data. This encryption process can be performed using software or hardware encryption methods.

System disk encryption software applies the encryption algorithm to the hard drive, while hardware encryption uses built-in encryption engines for encryption.

System Disk Encryption protects data by encrypting everything on the hard drive, including the operating system itself. Even if an intruder gains access to the hard drive or server, they will not be able to view the data without a decryption key.

This approach has become increasingly popular as cyber-attacks grow in complexity and sophistication. Steps for Performing

System Disk Encryption

System Disk Encryption is implemented by encrypting the entire hard drive. The following are the steps for performing system disk encryption:

Step 1: Install a virtual machine (VM)

First, you will need to install a virtual machine that has a pre-existing bootable operating system.

Step 2: Mount the target disk

Mount the target disk that holds the operating system to the virtual machine.

Step 3: Create encrypted partition

Encrypt the partition using the cryptsetup utility, which creates a logical partition called LUKS (Linux Unified Key Setup).

Step 4: Install a boot loader

Install a boot loader such as GRUB (Grand Unified Bootloader), which will allow access to the encrypted partition during the boot process. Step 5: Boot into the encrypted partition

Boot into the encrypted partition by providing the decryption key during the boot process.

From this point onwards, everything on the machine is encrypted by default.

Transparent Data Encryption

Transparent Data Encryption (TDE) is an approach that provides encryption at the database cluster level without requiring application changes or altering the database schema. TDE protects the data at rest, in transit, and during backup.

In PostgreSQL, TDE prevents data breaches by encrypting the database cluster’s physical access. A database cluster in PostgreSQL consists of a group of databases, so encrypting the database cluster means all its constituent databases will be encrypted.

Steps for Using

Transparent Data Encryption

To use TDE effectively, you need to install PostgreSQL with the necessary TDE support. Here are the steps:

Step 1: Install PostgreSQL with TDE support

Select the installation package that has TDE support, install it, and configure it appropriately.

Step 2: Create a key

Create a key for encryption using the pgcrypto extension. This extension is used to perform encryption and decryption functions for data in PostgreSQL.

Step 3: Encrypt data using the created key

Encrypt the data you wish to protect using the created key.

Step 4: Additional configuration

Configure other necessary settings such as creating a backup key and recovering it.

Step 5: Verify that encryption is working

Verify that data encryption is working correctly by trying to access the encrypted data without the decryption key.


In conclusion, system disk encryption and transparent data encryption (TDE) provide two different methods for securing PostgreSQL databases. System disk encryption protects data by encrypting the entire hard drive and provides security for the entire system.

In contrast, TDE provides encryption at the cluster level, ensuring that all constituent databases are also secure. Both approaches have their distinct advantages and disadvantages.

Nonetheless, both methods are effective in protecting PostgreSQL databases and can be chosen based on organizational needs. By using encryption in both approaches, businesses can safeguard sensitive data from cyberattacks.

In the previous sections, we have discussed system disk encryption and transparent data encryption (TDE). In this section, we will explore Selective Postgres Encryption, an approach that allows you to encrypt a specific set of data in your PostgreSQL database.

Explanation of Selective Postgres Encryption

Selective Postgres Encryption is a method that encrypts only a specific set of data in your PostgreSQL database. This method is often used when you want to encrypt only sensitive data, such as credit card numbers or social security numbers, rather than encrypting the whole database.

PostgreSQL uses the pgcrypto extension to implement cryptographic functions. The PGP_SYM_ENCRYPT and PGP_SYM_DECRYPT functions are used to encrypt and decrypt data using the pgcrypto extension.

The PGP_SYM_ENCRYPT function encrypts the values using a secret key, while the PGP_SYM_DECRYPT function decrypts the previously encrypted values.

Steps for Encrypting and Decrypting Data using pgcrypto

To implement selective Postgres encryption, you need to follow the steps below:

Step 1: Install the pgcrypto extension

The first step is to install the pgcrypto extension. This extension provides functions for cryptographic operations.

Step 2: Create columns to store encrypted data

Next, create columns in the database to store encrypted data. The data can be of any data type, including text, numbers, or binary data types.

Step 3: Update the table using INSERT INTO and UPDATE statements

Use INSERT INTO and UPDATE statements to add and update records respectively. When inserting or updating records, apply the encryption function to the data that needs to be encrypted.

For example:


INSERT INTO customers (name, credit_card_number)

VALUES (‘John Doe’, PGP_SYM_ENCRYPT(‘1234567890’, ‘mysecretkey’));


In the above example, the PGP_SYM_ENCRYPT function is used to encrypt the credit card number ‘1234567890’ with the key ‘mysecretkey.’ The encrypted value is then inserted into the credit_card_number column. Similarly, use the UPDATE statement to update existing records:


UPDATE customers

SET credit_card_number = PGP_SYM_ENCRYPT(‘0987654321’, ‘mysecretkey’)

WHERE name = ‘John Doe’;


Step 4: Decrypt the data

To decrypt the data, use the PGP_SYM_DECRYPT function to decrypt the data. For example:


SELECT name, PGP_SYM_DECRYPT(credit_card_number, ‘mysecretkey’) as credit_card_number

FROM customers

WHERE name = ‘John Doe’;


In the above example, the PGP_SYM_DECRYPT function is used to decrypt the credit card number. The result is displayed using the AS clause, which allows you to give a column a more meaningful name.


Selective Postgres Encryption allows you to encrypt only the sensitive data in your PostgreSQL database. It uses the pgcrypto extension to provide powerful cryptographic functions like PGP_SYM_ENCRYPT and PGP_SYM_DECRYPT to encrypt and decrypt data, respectively.

With this approach, you can keep your sensitive data secure while leaving the other data in your database unencrypted. By tailoring the method to your organizational needs and following these steps, you can keep your sensitive data secure and sound.

In conclusion, data encryption is crucial in safeguarding sensitive information against cybercriminals who continually evolve in sophistication. We’ve discussed

System Disk Encryption,

Transparent Data Encryption (TDE), and Selective Postgres Encryption, and their distinct advantages and disadvantages on their applications.

System Disk Encryption secures everything on the hard drive while TDE provides encryption at the cluster level. Selective Postgres Encryption protects specific data within the database.

By using encryption technology, we enhance security and keep confidential data secure. Therefore, businesses and individuals should prioritize implementing encryption approaches in their security strategy.

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