Encrypting tables

Configure Transparent Data Encryption (TDE) to protect all data in a table, except for the primary key columns. Different tables can use different keys.

Primary keys are stored in plain text. Do not put sensitive information in partition key or clustering columns.

Two keys are used for table encryption:

  • Local encryption key: Encrypts/decrypts internal table encryption key values.

  • Table encryption key: DSE creates a single key entry in the dse_system.encrypted_keys table for each cipher algorithm, key strength, and local encryption key combination that is defined for table encryption.

    Data is encrypted when written to SSTables on disk. Applications can read and write to SSTables that use different encryption algorithms or no encryption at all.

    Tables with the same encryption settings use the same encryption key.

Creating a table with encryption and compression

DataStax recommends creating tables with both encryption and compression enabled, using EncryptingLZ4Compressor as the encryption class.


Complete the key setup described in Setting up local encryption keys.

When using a local encryption key file, set the location system_key_directory in dse.yaml and ensure that the key file is owned by the account running DSE.


  1. Change to the keyspace where you want to create the table. The following examples use test as the keyspace name:

    USE test;
  2. Create the table with encryption and compression.

    The following example encrypts a table named encryption_test using the DESede algorithm, with a key length of 112. Data is compressed using the EncryptingLZ4Compressor compressor.

    A local encryption key called system_key must exist in the directory specified by system_key_directory in dse.yaml. This file was created when Setting up local encryption keys.

    If the DSE account does not have read/write permission or the file is missing, an error message Failed to initialize Encryptor displays.

    CREATE TABLE test.encryption_test (d int PRIMARY KEY) WITH COMPRESSION = {
          'class': 'EncryptingLZ4Compressor',
          'cipher_algorithm' : 'DESede/CBC/PKCS5Padding',
          'secret_key_strength' : 112,
          'system_key_file' : 'system_key' };

    See Table encryption options and syntax for more information.

  3. To change the encryption settings, use the ALTER TABLE command and specify the settings to modify.

    The following command changes the encryption key used to encrypt the table data, and modifies the key strength.

    ALTER TABLE test.encryption_test WITH COMPRESSION = {
          'class': 'EncryptingLZ4Compressor',
          'cipher_algorithm' : 'AES/ECB/PKCS5Padding',
          'secret_key_strength' : 128,
          'system_key_file' : 'system_key' };
  4. If you changed encryption settings, run the following command on all nodes in the cluster to rewrite the SSTables using the new encryption key:

    nodetool upgradesstables -a test encryption_test

Table encryption options and syntax

When a table definition uses an encryption class, all table data except for primary keys is encrypted with a key entry from the dse_system.encrypted_keys table. If no keys match the cipher_algorithm, secret_key_strength, and system_key_file settings, a new key is created and added to the table.

The following syntax only shows encryption options. All other compression options, such as chunk_length_in_kb, are also available.


  'class' : 'encryption_class'[,
  'cipher_algorithm' : 'cipher_algorithm_type'] [,
  'secret_key_strength' : length] [,
  'system_key_file': 'key_filename'] };



Specifies the encryption type. Use one of the class names from the following table. (Required)

Name Encrypts Compresses

Encryptor [1]












[1] When using the Encryptor class, specify a larger young generation heap (the -Xmn parameter) to improve garbage collection (GC). For example, set the size to: -Xmn1600M when running cassandra-stress.


Sets the type of encryption key. DSE supports the following JCE algorithms and corresponding length.


DSE supports the following JCE cipher algorithms and corresponding length:

  • AES/CBC/PKCS5Padding (valid with length 128, 192, or 256).

  • AES/ECB/PKCS5Padding (valid with length 128, 192, or 256)

  • DES/CBC/PKCS5Padding (valid with length 56)

  • DESede/CBC/PKCS5Padding (valid with length 112 or 168)

  • Blowfish/CBC/PKCS5Padding (valid with length 32-448)

  • RC2/CBC/PKCS5Padding (valid with length 40-128) Default: AES/CBC/PKCS5Padding (with length 128).

Default: AES/CBC/PKCS5Padding (with length 128).


Specifies the length of the encryption key.

Default: 128. (Optional)


Specifies the file name of the local encryption key used to encrypt the table key. Local keys are specified in system_key_directory in dse.yaml.

Default: system_key. (Optional)

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