Redact is a set of applications that allows developers to build websites with end-to-end encrypted data. When leveraging Redact, website owners are able to display secure user data on their webpages without having access to that data themselves. Securing websites in this way is beneficial to both the user and the website owner as it protects from data leaks, allows complete control and knowledge over who has access to data, and standardizes secure authentication mechanisms that don’t rely on passwords.
The two applications that enable a user to store and retrieve encrypted data are redact-client and redact-store.
The Client runs on the user’s device and handles requests from the browser for secure data display. The Storage is a server that fronts some backing database and provides a stable API for CRUD operations on encrypted data.
The redact-crypto library provides all important cryptographic and storage abstractions.
Redact protects from data leaks as it removes the website’s need to store sensitive data entirely. In a traditional website, the website owner maintains a database which allows them to store relevant information that their users submit (such as a phone number or address). When a user visits the website, this information is fetched from the database and displayed. By storing the data of many users in a centralized database, a single breach can expose the data of all users of a site. A user must trust that the website has implemented appropriate protection measures.
In a Redact-enabled website, a user can guarantee that “Redacted” data on a webpage has been secured with strong encryption, is only accessible to those who are explicitly granted access, and can be deleted or updated at any time. In order to operate on the redacted data, websites maintain references to it. For example, in a traditional website, there might be a database field called “name” with the value “Alice Doe”. In the Redact-enabled website, the database field would still be called “name” but its value would be something like “.profile.name.”. This value is interpreted by the Client (installed on the user’s device), and is translated into the readable data in a way that makes it impossible for the website owner to read it unless granted access by the user. With no data to steal, the website owner no longer has to worry about the liability of data leaks, and users can rest assured in knowing that the potential attack surface for their data is greatly reduced to a single, higly-secure, encrypted location.
This tight control over data storage then empowers users to make explicit decisions as to who has access to their data. For example, imagine the Redact-enabled website in question is a portal used by healthcare providers to share test results and track prescriptions. A user may want that data to be shared with all treating medical professionals, and would want to make sure they all have access to the most up-to-date set of data. With Redact, all of a user’s data can be stored in their personal Storage while still being accessible on the health portal. Not only can a user see their own data, they can also grant access to health professionals or institutions so they can view the data in a Redact-enabled portal as well. Furthermore, it’s all updated in one place, so everyone always gets the same copy.
In order to identify different users to each other and secure this data storage, Redact is paired with a strong authentication and authorization framework. It employes a public-key infrastructure and assigns keypairs to individual users, and certificate authorities to organizations. At the lowest level, users can authenticate themselves anonymously to any Redact service using mutual-TLS requests with a self-signed Client certificate. Depending on the authorization requirements of the request, this request could be accepted, or it could be denied. By augmenting the certificate with metadata and having it be signed by a certificate authority recognized by the server, any arbitrary authorization check can be performed to further approve or deny the request. The management of certificates and secret keys is entirely handled by Redact and eliminates the need for passwords or user-initiated login procedures.
When put together, the components of Redact represent a method for storing and handling user data that fundamentally changes the model for data ownership that has existed since the beginning of the internet. The expectation has always been for users to generate data that is then stored and managed by the website owner. This creates numerous liabilities for both the website owner and user as this data is valuable and prone to theft. In the Redact model, user-generated data remains owned by the user but organized into a coherent interface by the website. The result is the ability to create rich user interfaces and applications without having to implement time-consuming and expensive data protection and authentication systems.