Genetic Data Encryption (Crypt4GH)

Provides an encrypted file format to keep data secure throughout its lifetime while allowing random access

Widespread genomic data sharing between researchers and clinicians is crucial to maximise the utility of datasets and deliver better patient outcomes. However, sharing information across networks and countries increases the risk of a data breach. Strong approaches to security are paramount when working with genomic data. Developed by the GA4GH Large Scale Genomics (LSG) Work Stream, Crypt4GH is a file format that employs industry standards to keep genomic data secure.

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  • Allows data to be secure throughout its lifetime — from storage, to transfer, to analysis
  • Can be added as an input file format to tools and applications
  • Is supported by existing applications such as SAMTools
  • Makes it easy to create files accessible to individual users

Target users

Researchers, and data custodians

Image summary: Crypt4GH helps researchers keep data secure throughout their lifetime — from transit to storage.
Work Stream
Product Lead
  • Alexander Senf
Staff Contact
Tools & Platforms

Community resources

Dive deeper into this product! Researchers securely share genomic and other sensitive data files using industry-standard encryption, keeping sensitive information secure during transfer. But proper safeguarding of the data thereafter is not guaranteed: a user may store the file on their local hard drive in a decrypted state, leaving the data vulnerable. To overcome this challenge, Crypt4GH uses envelope encryption to keep data secure throughout its lifetime. In this process, the data itself is encrypted for a specific recipient who then uses their associated private key to unlock the file. Furthermore, Crypt4GH enables random access without the need to decrypt the entire file. The data are hence always secured — from transfer, to analysis, to storage.







Working meeting focussed on storing and accessing data in encrypted and authenticated states

14:00 UTC
1 Hour



21 Oct 2019


Related Driver Projects and Organisations

All of Us Research Program
European Joint Programme on Rare Disease (EJP RD)
ENA / EVA / EGA, EMBL's European Bioinformatics Institute (EBI), Centre for Genomic Regulation
Human Heredity and Health in Africa (H3Africa)

Don't see your name? Get in touch:

  • Dixie Baker
    Martin, Blanck and Associates
  • Robert Davies
    Wellcome Sanger Institute (WSI)
  • Oliver Hofmann
    University of Melbourne Centre for Cancer Research
  • John Marshall
    University of Glasgow
  • Martin Pollard
    Wellcome Sanger Institute (WSI)
  • Alexander Senf

News, events, and more

Catch up with all news and articles associated with Genetic Data Encryption (Crypt4GH).

8 Jul 2021
GA4GH standards in a global learning health system
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22 Oct 2019
Announcing five new standards at GA4GH 7th Plenary meeting
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22 Oct 2019
Crypt4GH: a secure method for sharing human genetic data
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