Secure searchable encryption: a survey

  • Yunling Wang
  • Jianfeng Wang
  • Xiaofeng Chen
Review paper


Cloud computing facilitates convenient and on-demand network access to a centralized pool of resources. Currently, many users prefer to outsource data to the cloud in order to mitigate the burden of local storage. However, storing sensitive data on remote servers poses privacy challenges and is currently a source of concern. SE (Searchable Encryption) is a positive way to protect users sensitive data, while preserving search ability on the server side. SE allows the server to search encrypted data without leaking information in plaintext data. The two main branches of SE are SSE (Searchable Symmetric Encryption) and PEKS (Public key Encryption with Keyword Search). SSE allows only private key holders to produce ciphertexts and to create trapdoors for search, whereas PEKS enables a number of users who know the public key to produce ciphertexts but allows only the private key holder to create trapdoors. This article surveys the two main techniques of SE: SSE and PEKS. Different SE schemes are categorized and compared in terms of functionality, efficiency, and security. Moreover, we point out some valuable directions for future work on SE schemes.


cloud storage encrypted data searchable encryption searchable symmetric encryption public key encryption with keyword search 


  1. [1]
    CURTMOLA R, GARAY J, KAMARA S, et al. Searchable symmetric encryption: improved definitions and efficient constructions[C]//Proceedings of the 13th ACM Conference on Computer and Communications Security, Alexandria, USA, 2016: 79–88.Google Scholar
  2. [2]
    SONG D X, WAGNER D, PERRIG A. Practical techniques for searches on encrypted data[C]//2000 IEEE Symposium on Security and Privacy, Berkeley, California, USA, 2000: 44–55.Google Scholar
  3. [3]
    GOH E J. Secure indexes[J]. IACR cryptology eprint archive, 2003: 216.Google Scholar
  4. [4]
    BLOOM, B H. Space/time trade-offs in hash coding with allowable errors[J]. Communications of the ACM, 1970, 131(5): 451–459.zbMATHGoogle Scholar
  5. [5]
    VAN LIESDONK P, SEDGHI S, DOUMEN J, et al. Computationally efficient searchable symmetric encryption[C]//Proceedings of the 7th VLDB Workshop on Secure Data Management, Singapore, 2010: 87–100.Google Scholar
  6. [6]
    KAMARA S, PAPAMANTHOU C, ROEDER T. Dynamic searchable symmetric encryption[C]//The ACM Conference on Computer and Communications Security, Raleigh, USA, 2012: 965–976.Google Scholar
  7. [7]
    KAMARA S, PAPAMANTHOU C. Parallel and dynamic searchable symmetric encryption[C]//The 17th International Conference on Financial Cryptography and Data Security, Okinawa, Japan, 2013: 258–274.Google Scholar
  8. [8]
    STEFANOV E, PAPAMANTHOU C, SHI E. Practical dynamic searchable encryption with small leakage[C]//The 21st Annual Network and Distributed System Security Symposium, California, USA, 2014: 23–26.Google Scholar
  9. [9]
    CASH D, JAEGER J, JARECKI S, et al. Dynamic searchable encryption in very-large databases: data structures and implementation[J]. IACR cryptology eprint archive, 2014: 853.Google Scholar
  10. [10]
    NAVEED M, PRABHAKARAN M, GUNTER C A. Dynamic searchable encryption via blind storage[C]//2014 IEEE Symposium on Security and Privacy, Berkeley, USA, 2014: 639–654.Google Scholar
  11. [11]
    HAHN F, KERSCHBAUM F. Searchable encryption with secure and efficient updates[C]//Proceedings of the 2014 ACM SIGSAC Conference on Computer and Communications Security, Scottsdale, USA, 2014: 310–320.Google Scholar
  12. [12]
    GAJEK S. Dynamic symmetric searchable encryption from constrained functional encryption[C]//The Cryptographers Track at the RSA Conference, San Francisco, USA, 2016: 75–89.zbMATHGoogle Scholar
  13. [13]
    CASH D, GRUBBS P, PERRY J, et al. Leakage-abuse attacks against searchable encryption[C]//Proceedings of the 22nd ACM SIGSAC Conference on Computer and Communications Security, Denver, USA, 2015: 668–679.Google Scholar
  14. [14]
    ZHANG Y, KATZ J, PAPAMANTHOU C. All your queries are belong to us: the power of file-injection attacks on searchable encryption[C]//The 25th USENIX Security Symposium, Austin, USA, 2016: 707–720.Google Scholar
  15. [15]
    ISHAI Y, KUSHILEVITZ E, LU S, et al. Private large-scale databases with distributed searchable symmetric encryption[C]//Cryptographers Track at the RSA Conference, San Francisco, USA, 2016: 90–107.zbMATHGoogle Scholar
  16. [16]
    KAMARA S, MOATAZ T. SQL on structurally-encrypted databases[R]. Cryptology ePrint Archive, Report 2016/453, 2016.Google Scholar
  17. [17]
    ASHAROV G, NAOR M, SEGEV G, et al. Searchable symmetric encryption: optimal locality in linear space via two-dimensional balanced allocations [C]//Proceedings of the 48th Annual ACM SIGACT Symposium on Theory of Computing, Cambridge, USA, 2016: 1101–1114.Google Scholar
  18. [18]
    LI J, WANG Q, WANG C, et al. Fuzzy keyword search over encrypted data in cloud computing[C]//The 29th IEEE International Conference on Computer, San Diego, USA, 2010: 441–445.Google Scholar
  19. [19]
    KUZU M, ISLAM M S, KANTARCIOGLU M. Efficient similarity search over encrypted data[C]//The 28th IEEE International Conference on Data Engineering, Washington, USA, 2012: 1156–1167.Google Scholar
  20. [20]
    WANG J, MA H, TANG Q, et al. Efficient verifiable fuzzy keyword search over encrypted data in cloud computing[J]. Computer science and information systems, 2013, 10(2): 667–684.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. [21]
    ADJEDJ M, BRINGER J, CHABANNE H, et al. Biometrie identification over encrypted data made feasible[C]//The 5th International Conference on Information Systems Security, Kolkata, India, 2009: 86–100.Google Scholar
  22. [22]
    WANG C, REN K, YU S, et al. Achieving usable and privacy-assured similarity search over outsourced cloud data[C]//Proceedings of the IEEE INFOCOM, Orlando, USA, 2012: 451–459.Google Scholar
  23. [23]
    GOLLE P, STADDON J, WATERS B. Secure conjunctive keyword search over encrypted data[C]//The 2nd International Conference on Applied Cryptography and Network Security, Yellow Mountain, China, 2004: 31–45.zbMATHGoogle Scholar
  24. [24]
    BALLARD L, KAMARA S, MONROSE F. Achieving ecient conjunctive keyword searches over encrypted data[C]//The 7th International Conference on Information and Communications Security, Beijing, China, 2005: 414–426.zbMATHGoogle Scholar
  25. [25]
    CASH D, JARECKI S, JUTLA C, et al. Highly-scalable searchable symmetric encryption with support for Boolean queries[C]//The 33rd Annual Cryptology Conference (CRYPTO), Santa Barbara, USA, 2013: 353–373.zbMATHGoogle Scholar
  26. [26]
    FABER S, JARECKI S, KRAWCZYK H, et al. Rich queries on encrypted data: beyond exact matches[C]//The 20th European Symposium on Research in Computer Security, Vienna, Austria, 2015: 123–145.Google Scholar
  27. [27]
    BYUN J W, LEE D H, LIM J. Efficient conjunctive keyword search on encrypted data storage system[C]//The 3rd European Public Key Infrastructure Workshop on Theory and Practice, Turin, Italy, 2006: 184–196.Google Scholar
  28. [28]
    WANG P, WANG H, PIEPRAYK J. Keyword field-fiee conjunctive keyword searches on encrypted data and extension for dynamic groups[C]//The 7th International Conference on Cryptology and Network Security, Hong-Kong, China, 2008: 178–195.zbMATHGoogle Scholar
  29. [29]
    SWAMINATHAN A, MAO Y, SU G M, et al. Confidentiality-preserving rank-ordered search[C]//Proceedings of the 2007 ACM Workshop on Storage Security and Survivability, Alexandria, USA, 2007: 7–12.Google Scholar
  30. [30]
    ZERR S, OLMEDILLA D, NEJDL W, et al. Zerber+ r: Top-k retrieval from a confidential index[C]//Proceedings of the 12th International Conference on Extending Database Technology: Advances in Database Technology, Saint Petersburg, Russia, 2009: 439–449.Google Scholar
  31. [31]
    WANG C, CAO N, LI J, et al. Secure ranked keyword search over encrypted cloud data[C]//2010 International Conference on Distributed Computing Systems, Genova, Italy, 2010: 253–262.Google Scholar
  32. [32]
    WANG C, CAO N, REN K, et al. Enabling secure and efficient ranked keyword search over outsourced cloud data[J]. IEEE transactions on parallel and distributed systems, 2012, 23(8): 1467–1479.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. [33]
    CAO N, WANG C, LI M, et al. Privacy preserving multi-keyword ranked search over encrypted cloud data[C]//The 30th International Conference on Computer Communications, Shanghai, China, 2011: 829–837.Google Scholar
  34. [34]
    SUN W, WANG B, CAO N, et al. Verifiable privacy-preserving multi-keyword text search in the cloud supporting similarity based ranking[J]. IEEE transactions on parallel and distributed systems, 2014, 25(11): 3025–3035.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. [35]
    XIA Z, WANG X, SUN X, et al. A secure and dynamic multi-keyword ranked search scheme over encrypted cloud data[J]. IEEE transactions on parallel and distributed systems, 2016, 27(2): 340–352.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. [36]
    CHEN C, ZHU X, SHEN P, et al. An efficient privacy-preserving ranked keyword search method[J]. IEEE Transactions on Parallel and Distributed Systems, 2016, 27(4): 951–963.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. [37]
    ORENCIK C, KANTARCIOGLU M, SAVAS E. A practical and secure multi-keyword search method over encrypted cloud data[C]//The 6th IEEE International Conference on Cloud Computing, Santa Clara, USA, 2013: 390–397.Google Scholar
  38. [38]
    ZHANG W, XIAO S, LIN Y, et al. Secure ranked multi-keyword search for multiple data owners in cloud computing[C]//The 44th Annual IEEE/IFIP International Conference on Dependable Systems and Networks, Atlanta, USA, 2014: 276–286.Google Scholar
  39. [39]
    BOUABANA-TEBIBEL T, KACI A. Parallel search over encrypted data under attribute based encryption on the Cloud Computing[J]. Computers & security, 2015, 54: 77–91.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. [40]
    PANG H H, TAN K L. Authenticating query results in edge computing[C]//Proceedings of the 20th International Conference on Data Engineering, Boston, USA, 2004: 560–571.Google Scholar
  41. [41]
    LI F, HADJILEFTHERIOU M, KOLLIOS G, et al. Authenticated index structures for outsourced databases[M]. Handbook of database security-applications and trends, Springer US, 2008: 115–136.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. [42]
    MOURATIDIS K, SACHARIDIS D, PANG H H. Partially materialized digest scheme: an efficient verification method for outsourced databases[J]. The International journal on very large data bases, 2009, 18(1): 363–381.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. [43]
    KUROSAWA K, OHTAKI Y. UCsecure searchable symmetric encryption[C]//International Conference on Financial Cryptography and Data Security, Kralendijk, Bonaire, 2012: 285–298.Google Scholar
  44. [44]
    CHAI Q, GONG G. Verifiable symmetric searchable encryption for semi-honest but-curious cloud servers[C]//Proceedings of IEEE International Conference on Communications, Ottawa, Canada, 2012: 917–922.Google Scholar
  45. [45]
    WANG J, CHEN X, HUANG X, et al. Verifiable auditing for outsourced database in cloud computing[J]. IEEE transactions on computers, 2015, 64(11): 3293–3303.MathSciNetCrossRefzbMATHGoogle Scholar
  46. [46]
    BONEH D, DI CRESCENZO G, OSTROVSKY R, et al. Public key encryption with keyword search[C]//International Conference on the Theory and Applications of Cryptographic Techniques, Interlaken, Switzerland, 2004: 506–522.zbMATHGoogle Scholar
  47. [47]
    BONEH D, FRANKLIN M. Identity-based encryption from the Weil pairing[J]. SIAM journal on computing, 2003, 32(3): 586–615.MathSciNetCrossRefzbMATHGoogle Scholar
  48. [48]
    SHAMIR A. Identity-based cryptosystems and signature schemes[C]//Workshop on the Theory and Application of Cryptographic Techniques Santa, Barbara, California, USA, 1984: 47–53.zbMATHGoogle Scholar
  49. [49]
    ABDALL M, BELLARE M, CATALANO D, et al. Searchable encryption revisited: consistency properties, relation to anonymous IBE, and extensions[J]. Journal of cryptology, 2008, 21(3): 350–391.MathSciNetCrossRefzbMATHGoogle Scholar
  50. [50]
    DI CRESCENZO G, SARASWAT V. Public key encryption with searchable keywords based on Jacobi symbols[C]//International Conference on Cryptology in India, Chennai, India, 2007: 282–296.zbMATHGoogle Scholar
  51. [51]
    COCKS C. An identity based encryption scheme based on quadratic residues[C]//The 8th IMA International Conference on Cryptography and Coding, Cirencester, UK, 2001: 360–363.zbMATHGoogle Scholar
  52. [52]
    KHADER D. Public key encryption with keyword search based on k-resilient IBE[C]//International Conference on Computational Science and Its Applications, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, 2007: 1086–1095.Google Scholar
  53. [53]
    BAEK J, SAFAVI-NAINI R, SUSILO W. Public key encryption with keyword search revisited[C]//International conference on Computational Science and Its Applications, Perugia, Italy, 2008: 1249–1259.zbMATHGoogle Scholar
  54. [54]
    RHEE H S, PARK J H, AUSILO W, et al. Improved searchable public key encryption with designated tester[C]//Proceedings of the 4th International Symposium on Information, Computer, and Communications Security, Sydney, Australia, 2009: 376–379.Google Scholar
  55. [55]
    EMURA K, MRYAJI A, RAHMAN M S, et al. Generic constructions of secure channel free searchable encryption with adaptive security[J]. Security and communication networks, 2015, 8(8): 1547–1560.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. [56]
    BYUN J W, RHEE H S, PARK H A, et al. O_-line keyword guessing attacks on recent keyword search schemes over encrypted data[C]//The 3rd VLDB Workshop on Secure Data Management. Springer Berlin Heidelberg, 2006: 75–83.Google Scholar
  57. [57]
    YAU W C, HENG S H, GOIB M. O_-line keyword guessing attacks on recent public key encryption with keyword search schemes[C]//International Conference on Autonomic and Trusted Computing, Seoul, Korea, 2008: 100–105.Google Scholar
  58. [58]
    BAEK J, SAFAVI-NAINI R, SUSILO W. On the integration of public key data en cryption and public key encryption with keyword search[C]//The 9th International Conference on Information Security, Samos Island, Greece, 2006: 217–232.zbMATHGoogle Scholar
  59. [59]
    RHEE H S, PARK J H, SUSILO W, et al. Trapdoor security in a searchable publickey encryption scheme with a designated tester[J]. Journal of systems and software, 2010, 83(5): 763–771.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. [60]
    FANG L, SUSILO W, GE C, et al. Public key encryption with keyword search secure against keyword guessing attacks without random oracle[J]. Information sciences, 2013, 238: 221–241.MathSciNetCrossRefzbMATHGoogle Scholar
  61. [61]
    JEONG I R, KWON J O, HONG D, et al. Constructing PEKS schemes secure against keyword guessing attacks is possible?[J]. Computer communications, 2009, 32(2): 394–396.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. [62]
    XU P, JIN H, WU Q, et al. Public-key encryption with fuzzy keyword search: a provably secure scheme under keyword guessing attack[J]. IEEE transactions on computers, 2013, 62(11): 2266–2277.MathSciNetCrossRefzbMATHGoogle Scholar
  63. [63]
    CHEN R, MU Y, YANG G, et al. Dual-server public-key encryption with keyword search for secure cloud storage[J]. IEEE transactions on information forensics and security, 2016, 11(4): 789–798.Google Scholar
  64. [64]
    PARK D J, KIM K, LEE P J. Public key encryption with conjunctive field keyword search[C]//The 5th International Workshop on Information Security Applications, Jeju Island, Korea, 2004: 73–86.Google Scholar
  65. [65]
    BONEH D, WATERS B. Conjunctive, subset, and range queries on encrypted data[C]//The 4th Theory of Cryptography Conference, Amsterdam, Netherlands, 2007: 535–554.zbMATHGoogle Scholar
  66. [66]
    SHI E, BETHENCOURT J, CHAN T H H, et al. Multi-dimensional range query over encrypted data[C]//2007 IEEE Symposium on Security and Privacy (SP’07). Oakland, California, USA, 2007: 350–364.Google Scholar
  67. [67]
    HWANG Y H, LEE P J. Public key encryption with conjunctive keyword search and its extension to a multi-user system[C]//The 1st International Conference on Pairing- Based Cryptography, Tokyo, Japan, 2007: 2–22.zbMATHGoogle Scholar
  68. [68]
    KATZ J, SAHAI A, WATERS B. Predicate encryption supporting disjunctions, polynomial equations, and inner products[C]//The 27th Annual International Conference on the Theory and Applications of Cryptographic Techniques, Istanbul, Turkey, 2008: 146–162.zbMATHGoogle Scholar
  69. [69]
    LAI J, ZHOU X, DENG R H, et al. Expressive search on encrypted data[C]//The 8th ACM symposium on Information, computer and communications security, Hangzhou, China, 2013: 243–252.Google Scholar
  70. [70]
    LEWKO A, OKAMOTO T, SAHAI A, et al. Fully secure functional encryption: Attribute-based encryption and (hierarchical) inner product encryption[C]//The 29th Annual International Conference on the Theory and Applications of Cryptographic Techniques, French Riviera, 2010: 62–91.zbMATHGoogle Scholar
  71. [71]
    BRINGER J, CHABANNE H, KINDARJI B. Error-tolerant searchable encryption[C]//2009 IEEE International Conference on Communications, Dresden, Germany, 2009: 1–6.Google Scholar
  72. [72]
    INDYK P, MOTWANI R. Approximate nearest neighbors: towards removing the curse of dimensionality[C]//Proceedings of the 30th annual ACM symposium on Theory of computing, Dallas, Texas, USA, 1998: 604–613.zbMATHGoogle Scholar
  73. [73]
    BONEH D, KUSHILEVITZ E, OSTROVSKY R, et al. Public key encryption that allows PIR queries[C]//The 27th Annual International Cryptology Conference, Santa Barbara, USA, 2007: 50–67.zbMATHGoogle Scholar
  74. [74]
    ZHENG Q, XU S, ATENIESE G. VABKS: verifiable attribute-based keyword search over outsourced encrypted data[C]//2014 IEEE Conference on Computer Communications, Toronto, Canada, 2014: 522–530.Google Scholar
  75. [75]
    LIU P, WANG J, MA H, et al. Efficient verifiable public key encryption with keyword search based on KP-ABE[C]//The 9th International Conference on Broadband and Wireless Computing, Communication and Applications (BWCCA), Guangdong, China, 2014: 584–589.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Posts & Telecom Press and Springer Nature Singapore Pte Ltd. 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Yunling Wang
    • 1
  • Jianfeng Wang
    • 1
    • 2
  • Xiaofeng Chen
    • 1
  1. 1.State Key Laboratory of Integrated Service Networks (ISN)Xidian UniversityXianChina
  2. 2.Guangxi Cooperative Innovation Center of Cloud Computing and Big DataGuilin University of Electronic TechnologyGuilinChina

Personalised recommendations