Encryption Service


DO NOT use this or any other encryption library for password storage! Passwords must be hashed instead, and you should do that through PHP’s Password Hashing extension.

The Encryption Service provides two-way symmetric (secret key) data encryption. The service will instantiate and/or initialize an encryption handler to suit your parameters as explained below.

Encryption Service handlers must implement CodeIgniter’s simple EncrypterInterface. Using an appropriate PHP cryptographic extension or third-party library may require additional software is installed on your server and/or might need to be explicitly enabled in your instance of PHP.

The following PHP extensions are currently supported:

This is not a full cryptographic solution. If you need more capabilities, for example, public-key encryption, we suggest you consider direct use of OpenSSL or one of the other Cryptography Extensions. A more comprehensive package like Halite (an O-O package built on libsodium) is another possibility.


Support for the MCrypt extension has been dropped, as that has been deprecated as of PHP 7.2.

Using the Encryption Library

Like all services in CodeIgniter, it can be loaded via Config\Services:

$encrypter = \Config\Services::encrypter();

Assuming you have set your starting key (see Configuring the Library), encrypting and decrypting data is simple - pass the appropriate string to encrypt() and/or decrypt() methods:

$plainText = 'This is a plain-text message!';
$ciphertext = $encrypter->encrypt($plainText);

// Outputs: This is a plain-text message!
echo $encrypter->decrypt($ciphertext);

And that’s it! The Encryption library will do everything necessary for the whole process to be cryptographically secure out-of-the-box. You don’t need to worry about it.

Configuring the Library

The example above uses the configuration settings found in app/Config/Encryption.php.

There are only two settings:

Option Possible values (default in parentheses)
key Encryption key starter
driver Preferred handler (OpenSSL)

You can replace the config file’s settings by passing a configuration object of your own to the Services call. The $config variable must be an instance of either the Config\Encryption class or an object that extends CodeIgniter\Config\BaseConfig.

$config         = new \Config\Encryption();
$config->key    = 'aBigsecret_ofAtleast32Characters';
$config->driver = 'OpenSSL';

$encrypter = \Config\Services::encrypter($config);

Default Behavior

By default, the Encryption Library uses the OpenSSL handler. That handler encrypts using the AES-256-CTR algorithm, your configured key, and SHA512 HMAC authentication.

Setting Your Encryption Key

Your encryption key must be as long as the encryption algorithm in use allows. For AES-256, that’s 256 bits or 32 bytes (characters) long.

The key should be as random as possible, and it must not be a regular text string, nor the output of a hashing function, etc. To create a proper key, you can use the Encryption library’s createKey() method.

// $key will be assigned a 32-byte (256-bit) random key
$key = Encryption::createKey(32);

The key can be stored in app/Config/Encryption.php, or you can design a storage mechanism of your own and pass the key dynamically when encrypting/decrypting.

To save your key to your app/Config/Encryption.php, open the file and set:

public $key = 'YOUR KEY';

Encoding Keys or Results

You’ll notice that the createKey() method outputs binary data, which is hard to deal with (i.e. a copy-paste may damage it), so you may use bin2hex(), hex2bin() or Base64-encoding to work with the key in a more friendly manner. For example:

// Get a hex-encoded representation of the key:
$encoded = bin2hex(Encryption::createKey(32));

// Put the same value with hex2bin(),
// so that it is still passed as binary to the library:
$key = hex2bin('your-hex-encoded-key');

// In the Encryption config class you can use a special 'hex2bin:'
// prefix so that the value is still passed as binary to the library:
public $key = 'hex2bin:your-hex-encoded-key';

// You can also use the same prefix in your .env file
encryption.key = hex2bin:your-hex-encoded-key

You might find the same technique useful for the results of encryption:

// Encrypt some text & make the results text
$encoded = base64_encode($encrypter->encrypt($plaintext));

Encryption Handler Notes

OpenSSL Notes

The OpenSSL extension has been a standard part of PHP for a long time.

CodeIgniter’s OpenSSL handler uses the AES-256-CTR cipher.

The key your configuration provides is used to derive two other keys, one for encryption and one for authentication. This is achieved by way of a technique known as an HMAC-based Key Derivation Function (HKDF).

Message Length

An encrypted string is usually longer than the original, plain-text string (depending on the cipher).

This is influenced by the cipher algorithm itself, the initialization vector (IV) prepended to the cipher-text, and the HMAC authentication message that is also prepended. Furthermore, the encrypted message is also Base64-encoded so that it is safe for storage and transmission regardless of the character-set in use.

Keep this information in mind when selecting your data storage mechanism. Cookies, for example, can only hold 4K of information.

Using the Encryption Service Directly

Instead of (or in addition to) using Services as described in Using the Encryption Library, you can create an “Encrypter” directly, or change the settings of an existing instance.

// create an Encrypter instance
$encryption = new \Encryption\Encryption();

// reconfigure an instance with different settings
$encrypter = $encryption->initialize($config);

Remember, that $config must me an instance of either a ConfigEncryption class or an object that extends CodeIgniterConfigBaseConfig.

Class Reference

static createKey($length)
  • $length (int) – Output length

A pseudo-random cryptographic key with the specified length, or FALSE on failure

Return type:


Creates a cryptographic key by fetching random data from the operating system’s sources (i.e. /dev/urandom).

  • $config (BaseConfig) – Configuration parameters

CodeIgniter\Encryption\EncrypterInterface instance

Return type:




Initializes (configures) the library to use different settings.


$encrypter = $encryption->initialize(['cipher' => '3des']);

Please refer to the Configuring the Library section for detailed info.

encrypt($data, $params = null)
  • $data (string) – Data to encrypt
  • $params – Configuration parameters (key)

Encrypted data or FALSE on failure

Return type:




Encrypts the input data and returns its ciphertext.

If you pass parameters as the second argument, the key element will be used as the starting key for this operation if $params is an array; or the starting key may be passed as a string.


$ciphertext = $encrypter->encrypt('My secret message');
$ciphertext = $encrypter->encrypt('My secret message', ['key' => 'New secret key']);
$ciphertext = $encrypter->encrypt('My secret message', 'New secret key');
decrypt($data, $params = null)
  • $data (string) – Data to decrypt
  • $params – Configuration parameters (key)

Decrypted data or FALSE on failure

Return type:




Decrypts the input data and returns it in plain-text.

If you pass parameters as the second argument, the key element will be used as the starting key for this operation if $params is an array; or the starting key may be passed as a string.


echo $encrypter->decrypt($ciphertext);
echo $encrypter->decrypt($ciphertext, ['key' => 'New secret key']);
echo $encrypter->decrypt($ciphertext, 'New secret key');