How do I automatically modify a method when accessing it?

I'm in a weird situation where I'm storing encrypted information in a
database. For example, a User.name field would be stored in its
encrypted format, so its not human-readable when accessing:

User.name
=> ")@Nw0asna;sd//20b3Q#A02nsoasd \n"

(This is just an example. I'm not actually encrypting names and the
model isn't User :wink: But you get the idea.)

What I'm trying to figure out is the right way to go about
automatically assigning the "name" method to decrypt the data itself
when it's being pulled out for display.

For example, I tried:

def name
self.name = decrypt_name
end

private
def decrypt_name
decryption_object.decrypt(self.name)
end

Okay, I think I'm on the right track.

I just found out that ActiveRecord::Base has a section on overwriting
default accessors. So my basic method is now:

def name
  decrypt(read_attribute(:name))
end

The only thing that concerns me is that I also have a
before_save :encrypt_data call as part of the class definition. So
let's say I submit a form via post:

@user = User.new(params[:user])
@user.save

If I read this right, when I call User.new, or if I were to specify
User.find(:first, :conditions => {:name => "John Doe"}), it would
first try to decrypt data *that isn't encrypted in the first place*).

Am I way off track here or is this about right, and if so, is there
any way I can automate the abstraction that needs to take place, so
that User.name, when accessed, is decrypted only if it's in an
encrypted form?

Hope that makes sense :slight_smile: