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As you say ... when doing encryption with any tool that already structures the data such as XML or an RDBMS, we immediately run into a clash. Encrypt it all or parts? Which parts? Is it a major upgrade to add another part? Who has to share what key for what search / query?

The above commentary is ok as far as it goes, but it goes practically no-where without a grounding in the application. The application generates requirements, and those requirements tend to create havoc if one is relying on some built-in crypto, especially at the structured data level.

An encryption layer is generally best done as either a completely separate lower layer with no relationship to upper layer -- in which case it is "throwaway" because you can never tell if it is turned on -- or has to be done integrally with the app.

Both of these approaches mitigate against XML-style encryption, to the extent that XML encryption can be put in place .. of course .. but it is hard to place reliance on the result.

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