Welcome!

AJAX & REA Authors: Elizabeth White, Trevor Parsons, ChandraShekar Dattatreya, Liz McMillan, David H Deans

Related Topics: Java, XML, SOA & WOA, AJAX & REA, Apache, Security

Java: Article

Designing a Java Cryptography Header

Encrypt personal files, exchange confidential messages and authenticate the sender

Designing and implementing a hybrid encryption application is a big challenge but without a supporting infrastructure it's almost impossible. There are open source libraries that allow you to encrypt a file but only provide the translation technique. After the information has been encrypted, how do you know what algorithm was used, who you encrypted it, what version did you used, etc. In order to decrypt the protected message or file, a well-defined cryptographic header provides all the information required. This also applies if the encrypted data is digitally signed and the recipient wants to validate the signature.

This article will address one of the critical components of a support infrastructure by providing a design of a cryptographic header used to precede encrypted and/or digitally signed messages and files. The header is used within an application known as DocuArmor that was written using Java and the Cryptography library from the BouncyCastle organization and designed by Logical Answers Inc. The header will store information used when encrypting and/or digitally signing a message or file and allow the recipient to decrypt the information and/or verify the digital signature. With a properly designed header, a person can encrypt their personal files as well as exchange confidential messages and authenticate the sender.

Hybrid Encryption
In order to encrypt personal files and exchange protected data, we use a hybrid technique with two types of encryption, symmetric and asymmetric.

Symmetric encryption uses a single key to hide the message and reveal the message. There are several symmetric algorithms available such as AES (the Advanced Encryption Standard) but the important thing to remember is that the file can be encrypted and decrypted using the same key. An example is the Caesar cipher that shifts the letters of the alphabet by a specific number. If the shift is 2 (single key) then we get the following translation; a=c, b=d, c=e, ..., z=b.

Asymmetric encryption uses a pair of keys (public, private) to hide and reveal the message and the RSA algorithm is most commonly used. The RSA algorithm was credited in 1977 to Ronald Rivest, Adi Shamir, and Leonard Adleman. Sometimes referred to as Public Key Infrastructure (PKI), the pubic key is used to encrypt data and the private key is used to decrypt data.

Figure 1: Public and Private Key Functions

The hybrid technique uses the symmetric key to encrypt a file. The asymmetric public key is used to encrypt the symmetric key and is placed in the header. When the recipient receives an encrypted file, the encrypted symmetric key is extracted from the header. The encrypted symmetric key is decrypted using the private key. The file is decrypted using the symmetric key.

The same pair of keys can be used with digital signatures. The private key is used to generate a digital signature from a file and inserted into the header. The public key is used to verify the authenticity of the signature.

When two people want to exchange encrypted files, they each generate a pair of asymmetric keys and exchange a copy of their public keys. By using the other person's public key, they can encrypt a file, storing the cryptographic information in the header and then e-mail it to the recipient. The recipient will use the header to extract a symmetric key with their private key and decrypt the accompanying file. If a digital signature is included, the recipient can authenticate the sender.

Figure 2: Exchange of Encrypted Files

Cryptographic Header
When a file is encrypted, digitally signed or both, a Cryptographic header is placed in front of the resulting file and has the following structure. The structure consists of two sections, the header and the encrypted/plain file contents.

Figure 3: Encrypted File Structure

The header structure contains information required to reverse the encryption process and decrypt the contents of the file or verify the digital signature. The header contains the total length, an ID, version, and two sections containing encryption and digital signature information. Using Java, you can write out the contents of header within a byte stream as well as read it back in.

Figure 4: Cryptographic Header Structure

  • Total Len: Contains the total length of the header (stored as a 4 byte integer)
  • Header ID: Contains the string "LAHEADER" to identify the file (16 bytes)
  • Header Version: Structural version of the header (stored as a 4 byte integer)
  • Encryption Information: Holds the algorithm, mode, encrypted symmetric key, etc.
  • Digital Signature Information: Holds digital signature

Encryption Information
The Encryption Information structure contains information that was used to encrypt the contents of the file and later decrypt the file. The symmetric key and initialization vector is encrypted with the recipient's asymmetric public key. The recipient could be the owner if you are encrypting a file for yourself or another user you want to send confidential information to.

An additional field has been allocated to allow the encryption of the symmetric key with another set of asymmetric keys. For example, if owner A is sending an encrypted file to another person B, the symmetric key can be encrypted with B's public key as well as A's public key so that either person can decrypt the file.

Alternatively, an employee can encrypt a file with their public key and a corporation could insert an encrypted symmetric key into the header using their asymmetric keys. The corporation's asymmetric keys can be a Certifying Authority (CA), which can be used to issue employee keys.

Figure 5: Encryption Information Structure

  • Encrypt Flag: (Y/N - 2 bytes) specifies whether the file is encrypted.
  • Decrypt ID Length: (integer - 4 bytes) length in chars(bytes) of the Key ID.
  • Decrypt ID: (size varies) an identifier of the RSA keys used in the encryption/decryption process. It is the alias associated to the asymmetric encryption keys (e.g., JaneDoe_12ff).
  • Other Decrypt ID Length: (integer - 4 bytes) length in chars(bytes) of the Key ID.
  • Other Decrypt ID: (size varies) an identifier of the RSA keys used in the encryption/decryption process. It can be the alias or the common name (e.g., JaneDoe_12ff or Logical Answers CA).
  • Symmetric Key Algorithm: (integer - 4 bytes) specifies the symmetric key algorithm used to encrypt the file. The default value is 1=AES.
  • Symmetric Key Mode: (integer - 4 bytes) specifies the symmetric key block cipher mode used to enhance confidentiality. The default value is 5=Segmented Integer Counter mode (CTR).
  • Symmetric Key Padding: (integer - 4 bytes) specifies the type of padding for block cipher. The default value is 1=No Padding
  • Wrapped Symmetric Key Length: (integer - 4 bytes)
  • Wrapped Symmetric Key: (size varies) symmetric key used to encrypt/decrypt the file and encrypted with the asymmetric key.
  • Initialization Vector Length: (integer - 4 bytes)
  • Initialization Vector: (byte[] - size varies) vector used with the symmetric encryption process.
  • Other Wrapped Symmetric Key Length: (integer - 4 bytes)
  • Other Wrapped Symmetric Key: (size varies) symmetric key used to encrypt/decrypt the file and encrypted with another person's asymmetric key.
  • Other Initialization Vector Length: (integer - 4 bytes)
  • Other Initialization Vector: (byte[] - size varies) vector used with the symmetric encryption process.

Digital Signature Information
The Digital Signature Information structure contains information used to add or verify a digital signature generated from the contents of the file. The digital signature is generated with the owner's private key using a specific algorithm and then inserted into the header. When the recipient receives the signed file, they can use the signer's public key to validate its authenticity. If the signature is authenticated, it implies the file has not been altered and the holder of the private key generated the signature.

Figure 6: Digital Signature Information Structure

  • Signed Flag: (Y/N - 2 bytes) specifies whether the file contains a digital signature
  • Signature Algorithm: (integer - 4 bytes) specifies the algorithm used to generate the digital signature. The default value is 12= SHA512WithRSAEncryption
  • Verify Signature Cert Name Length: (integer - 4 bytes) length in chars(bytes) of the filename of the certificate used to verify a digital signature
  • Verify Signature Cert Name: (size varies) filename of the certificate holding the RSA public key used to verify the digital signature of a file (e.g., JaneDoe_fa39.cer).
  • Signature Date/Time: (long - 8 bytes) date the digital signature was generated.
  • Signature Length: (integer - 4 bytes)
  • Signature: (size varies) holds digital signature generated with RSA private key and signature engine

File Naming Conventions
The Cryptographic header holds information that designates which keys were used to encrypt a file but it's not physically accessible without reading it in first. With proper naming conventions, you can determine who the intended recipient is for encrypted files - whether it is for yourself or a colleague. When you generate your pair of asymmetric encryption keys using Java, store them in a file called a key store. The key store holds a pair of asymmetric keys as an entry with a unique alias. The alias typically consists of the initial of your first name and your last name. To make it more unique, you can extract 4 hex digits from your public key and append an underline and the hex digits to the alias. For example, if the person's name was Jane Smith, then the resulting unique alias would be jsmith_ad5e. A certificate holds a person's public key and the alias would be used in the filename, as jsmith_ad5e.cer. Similarly, the key store holding the pair of asymmetric keys would be saved as, jsmith_ad5e.jks.

Following the unique alias analogy, Jane Smith could encrypt files for herself and the file name would be appended with her alias and an appropriate file extension. For example, if Jane encrypted a personal file, myTaxes.txt, then the result would be myTaxes.txt.jsmith_ad5e.aes. If Jane wanted to send her colleague Dick an encrypted document, she would use Dick's certificate to encrypt it. If Dick's certificate is djones_9fa2, Jane could encrypt the file, comments.doc, for Dick and the resulting file would be comments.doc.djones_9fa2.aes. When Dick receives the file, he knows it is for him by recognizing his alias on the file name.

The unique alias is stored within the header. This reinforces the importance of having a well-defined Cryptographic header for implementing encryption within your applications.

Benefits
A well-defined cryptographic header stores the information required to encrypt, decrypt and digitally sign a file. Along with facilitating the implementation of standard cryptographic functions, the header also provides the following benefits:

  • The header allows for the protection of personal files as well as the exchange of confidential data.
  • Using the stored digital signature, the recipient can determine if the sender is valid and whether file has been altered.
  • The header allows either the sender or recipient to decrypt the encrypted file since both would encrypt the symmetric key with their public key.
  • Using the concept of a Certifying Authority pair of asymmetric keys, a corporation, group, or family could issue pairs of asymmetric keys to their employees or members and decipher files encrypted by them in case of emergencies.
  • The header allows for using different combinations of symmetric algorithms, modes, padding and key sizes to be used to encrypt information.
  • The header version allows for enhancements to be added to the structure for implementing new functions and still support older versions.

References and Other Technical Notes
Software requirements:

Recommended Reading:

  • "Beginning Cryptography with Java" by David Hook.
  • "The Code Book" by Simon Singh

More Stories By James H. Wong

James H. Wong has been involved in the technology field for over 30 years and has dual MS degrees in mathematics and computer science from the University of Michigan. He worked for IBM for almost 10 years designing and implementing software. Founding Logical Answers Corp in 1992, he has provided technical consulting/programming services to clients, providing their business with a competitive edge. With his partner they offer a Java developed suite of “Secure Applications” that protect client’s data using the standard RSA (asymmetric) and AES (symmetric) encryption algorithms.

Comments (0)

Share your thoughts on this story.

Add your comment
You must be signed in to add a comment. Sign-in | Register

In accordance with our Comment Policy, we encourage comments that are on topic, relevant and to-the-point. We will remove comments that include profanity, personal attacks, racial slurs, threats of violence, or other inappropriate material that violates our Terms and Conditions, and will block users who make repeated violations. We ask all readers to expect diversity of opinion and to treat one another with dignity and respect.


@CloudExpo Stories
The BPM world is going through some evolution or changes where traditional business process management solutions really have nowhere to go in terms of development of the road map. In this demo at 15th Cloud Expo, Kyle Hansen, Director of Professional Services at AgilePoint, shows AgilePoint’s unique approach to dealing with this market circumstance by developing a rapid application composition or development framework.
The cloud is becoming the de-facto way for enterprises to leverage common infrastructure while innovating and one of the biggest obstacles facing public cloud computing is security. In his session at 15th Cloud Expo, Jeff Aliber, a global marketing executive at Verizon, discussed how the best place for web security is in the cloud. Benefits include: Functions as the first layer of defense Easy operation –CNAME change Implement an integrated solution Best architecture for addressing network-l...
SYS-CON Events announced today Isomorphic Software, the global leader in high-end, web-based business applications, will exhibit at SYS-CON's DevOps Summit 2015 New York, which will take place on June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Isomorphic Software is the global leader in high-end, web-based business applications. We develop, market, and support the SmartClient & Smart GWT HTML5/Ajax platform, combining the productivity and performance of traditional desktop software ...
“We help people build clusters, in the classical sense of the cluster. We help people put a full stack on top of every single one of those machines. We do the full bare metal install," explained Greg Bruno, Vice President of Engineering and co-founder of StackIQ, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 15th Cloud Expo, held Nov 4–6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
AppZero has announced that its award-winning application migration software is now fully qualified within the Microsoft Azure Certified program. AppZero has undergone extensive technical evaluation with Microsoft Corp., earning its designation as Microsoft Azure Certified. As a result of AppZero's work with Microsoft, customers are able to easily find, purchase and deploy AppZero from the Azure Marketplace. With just a few clicks, users have an Azure-based solution for moving applications to the...
“In the past year we've seen a lot of stabilization of WebRTC. You can now use it in production with a far greater degree of certainty. A lot of the real developments in the past year have been in things like the data channel, which will enable a whole new type of application," explained Peter Dunkley, Technical Director at Acision, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at @ThingsExpo, held Nov 4–6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
The major cloud platforms defy a simple, side-by-side analysis. Each of the major IaaS public-cloud platforms offers their own unique strengths and functionality. Options for on-site private cloud are diverse as well, and must be designed and deployed while taking existing legacy architecture and infrastructure into account. Then the reality is that most enterprises are embarking on a hybrid cloud strategy and programs. In this Power Panel at 15th Cloud Expo (http://www.CloudComputingExpo.com...
"BSQUARE is in the business of selling software solutions for smart connected devices. It's obvious that IoT has moved from being a technology to being a fundamental part of business, and in the last 18 months people have said let's figure out how to do it and let's put some focus on it, " explained Dave Wagstaff, VP & Chief Architect, at BSQUARE Corporation, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at @ThingsExpo, held Nov 4-6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
The move in recent years to cloud computing services and architectures has added significant pace to the application development and deployment environment. When enterprise IT can spin up large computing instances in just minutes, developers can also design and deploy in small time frames that were unimaginable a few years ago. The consequent move toward lean, agile, and fast development leads to the need for the development and operations sides to work very closely together. Thus, DevOps become...
"Our premise is Docker is not enough. That's not a bad thing - we actually love Docker. At ActiveState all our products are based on open source technology and Docker is an up-and-coming piece of open source technology," explained Bart Copeland, President & CEO of ActiveState Software, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at DevOps Summit at Cloud Expo®, held Nov 4-6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
Verizon Enterprise Solutions is simplifying the cloud-purchasing experience for its clients, with the launch of Verizon Cloud Marketplace, a key foundational component of the company's robust ecosystem of enterprise-class technologies. The online storefront will initially feature pre-built cloud-based services from AppDynamics, Hitachi Data Systems, Juniper Networks, PfSense and Tervela. Available globally to enterprises using Verizon Cloud, Verizon Cloud Marketplace provides a one-stop shop fo...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Windstream, a leading provider of advanced network and cloud communications, has been named “Silver Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 16th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 9–11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York, NY. Windstream (Nasdaq: WIN), a FORTUNE 500 and S&P 500 company, is a leading provider of advanced network communications, including cloud computing and managed services, to businesses nationwide. The company also offers broadband, p...
The Internet of Things is not new. Historically, smart businesses have used its basic concept of leveraging data to drive better decision making and have capitalized on those insights to realize additional revenue opportunities. So, what has changed to make the Internet of Things one of the hottest topics in tech? In his session at @ThingsExpo, Chris Gray, Director, Embedded and Internet of Things, discussed the underlying factors that are driving the economics of intelligent systems. Discover ...

ARMONK, N.Y., Nov. 20, 2014 /PRNewswire/ --  IBM (NYSE: IBM) today announced that it is bringing a greater level of control, security and flexibility to cloud-based application development and delivery with a single-tenant version of Bluemix, IBM's

SYS-CON Events announced today that IDenticard will exhibit at SYS-CON's 16th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. IDenticard™ is the security division of Brady Corp (NYSE: BRC), a $1.5 billion manufacturer of identification products. We have small-company values with the strength and stability of a major corporation. IDenticard offers local sales, support and service to our customers across the United States and Canada...
SYS-CON Events announced today that AIC, a leading provider of OEM/ODM server and storage solutions, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 16th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. AIC is a leading provider of both standard OTS, off-the-shelf, and OEM/ODM server and storage solutions. With expert in-house design capabilities, validation, manufacturing and production, AIC's broad selection of products are highly flexible and are conf...
Leysin American School is an exclusive, private boarding school located in Leysin, Switzerland. Leysin selected an OpenStack-powered, private cloud as a service to manage multiple applications and provide development environments for students across the institution. Seeking to meet rigid data sovereignty and data integrity requirements while offering flexible, on-demand cloud resources to users, Leysin identified OpenStack as the clear choice to round out the school's cloud strategy. Additional...
DevOps Summit 2015 New York, co-located with the 16th International Cloud Expo - to be held June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY - announces that it is now accepting Keynote Proposals. The widespread success of cloud computing is driving the DevOps revolution in enterprise IT. Now as never before, development teams must communicate and collaborate in a dynamic, 24/7/365 environment. There is no time to wait for long development cycles that produce software that is obsolete...
“DevOps is really about the business. The business is under pressure today, competitively in the marketplace to respond to the expectations of the customer. The business is driving IT and the problem is that IT isn't responding fast enough," explained Mark Levy, Senior Product Marketing Manager at Serena Software, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at DevOps Summit, held Nov 4–6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
Mobile commerce traffic is surpassing desktop, yet less than 20% of sales in the U.S. are mobile commerce sales. In his session at 15th Cloud Expo, Dan Franklin, Segment Manager, Commerce, at Verizon Digital Media Services, defined mobile devices and discussed how next generation means simplification. It means taking your digital content and turning it into instantly gratifying experiences.