Previous: Up: Developers GuideNext:


Cryptographers are responsible for encrypting, decrypting, signing, and validating signatures and support multiple message container constructs. They are defined by the Cryptographer interface.

package org.nhindirect.stagent.cryptography;

public interface Cryptographer 
    public MimeEntity encrypt(MimeMultipart entity, X509Certificate encryptingCertificate);
    public MimeEntity encrypt(MimeMultipart mmEntity, Collection<X509Certificate> encryptingCertificates);
    public MimeEntity encrypt(MimeEntity entity, X509Certificate encryptingCertificate);
    public MimeEntity encrypt(MimeEntity entity,  Collection<X509Certificate> encryptingCertificates);

    public MimeEntity decrypt(Message message, X509CertificateEx decryptingCertificate);
    public MimeEntity decrypt(MimeEntity encryptedEntity, X509CertificateEx decryptingCertificate);
    public MimeEntity decrypt(MimeEntity encryptedEntity, Collection<X509CertificateEx> decryptingCertificates);
    public SignedEntity sign(Message message, X509Certificate signingCertificate);
    public SignedEntity sign(Message message, Collection<X509Certificate> signingCertificates);
    public SignedEntity sign(MimeEntity entity, X509Certificate signingCertificate);

    public SignedEntity sign(MimeEntity entity, Collection<X509Certificate> signingCertificates);
    public void checkSignature(SignedEntity signedEntity, X509Certificate signerCertificate, Collection<X509Certificate> anchors) throws SignatureValidationException;
    public CMSSignedData deserializeSignatureEnvelope(SignedEntity entity);
    public CMSSignedData deserializeEnvelopedSignature(MimeEntity envelopeEntity);
    public CMSSignedData deserializeEnvelopedSignature(byte[] messageBytes);


Although the cryptography classes do not enforce the content type of the messages provided to the each method, the security and trust agent uses the following series of cryptography tasks in order:

Outgoing Messages

  1. Sign Message
  2. Encrypt Message

Incoming Message

  1. Decrypt Message
  2. Validate Signature

NOTE: All of the following method descriptions assume the SMIME implementation.


The Encrypt method and its variants accept a message that needs to be encrypted and the public certificate of each recipient. The methods generates a random symmetric key to encrypt the message based on the implementation's configured encryption algorithm such as AES128. The message is encrypted using the symmetric key, and the key is then encrypted using each public certificate. Each encrypted version of the symmetric key is stored in the final message and can only be decrypted be the recipients' private key.

All variants result in the same output: an MimeEntity that contains an SMIME encrypted version of the original message. The raw representation is base64 encoded.


The Decrypt method and its variants accept a message that needs to be decrypted and the private certificate of reach recipient. The message must be a valid encrypted message using the cryptographer's expected format such as SMIME. This method uses the recipients' private keys to extract the symmetric key from the message. Only one valid private key needs to be found in the collection of certificates to extract the symmetric key. Once the symmetric key is extracted, the message content is then decrypted using the algorithm specified in the message.

All variants result in the same output: an MimeEntity that contains the decrypted version of the original message.


The Sign method and its variants accept a message that needs to be signed and private certificate(s) of the sender. The methods generates a digest of the message based on the implementation's configured digest algorithm such as SHA256. The message also provides other attributes such as the signers public key(s) and produces a digital signature using the provided private key.

All variants result in the same output: an SignedEntity object that contains the original message and a signature block. The raw representation of the or the SignedEnity is a multipart MIME that contains two parts: the original message in the first part and a detached signature in the second part. The signature block is base64 encoded.


The CheckSignature method asserts the validity and integrity of a signed message using the sender's public certificate. The method validates that the signature in the messages signature block matches the provided public certificate and validates that the message has not been tampered with using the message digest. NOTE: You should not extract the certificate from the signature block and provide it as the signerCertificate parameter as this essentially defeats the purpose of validation. The signerCertificate should be obtained from a public certificate store. However, the extracted certificate is used for trust validation.

This method returns without incident if the signature can be validated. Otherwise an exception is thrown.

NOTE: The default agent implementation does not use this method. Instead it uses the MessageSignature interface to validate signatures on incoming messages during the trust validation stage.


The DeserializeSignatureEnvelope method and its variants are utility functions to extract the CMS data embedded in the message signature block. The latest version of CMS is decribed by RFC5652.


The SMIMECryptographerImpl is an SMIME specific implementation of the Cryptographer interface. Internal algorithms use the SMIME specification to generate encrypted and signed message representation. It includes multiple constructors depending on the consumer's needs. NOTE: The last constructor signature is decorated with Guice specific annotations for dependency injection. This class is also the default implementation of the Cryptographer interface if no other implementation is provided Guice.

The class provides multiple constructors for various needs:

public SMIMECryptographerImpl()

public SMIMECryptographerImpl(DirectSignedDataGeneratorFactory sigFactory, DirectRecipientInformationFactory decFactory)

public SMIMECryptographerImpl(EncryptionAlgorithm encryptionAlgorithm, DigestAlgorithm digestAlgorithm)

public SMIMECryptographerImpl(EncryptionAlgorithm encryptionAlgorithm, DigestAlgorithm digestAlgorithm,
    		DirectSignedDataGeneratorFactory sigFactory, DirectRecipientInformationFactory decFactory)

The following are the default values for each variable:

Strong Cryptographic Algorithms Enforcement

Version 1.2 of applicability statement removed allowance of SHA-1 as a digest algorithm for outgoing messages, however, for backward compatibility it allows for receiving messages that use lesser strength digests. Similar statements can be made for encryption algorithms, however no change has been made in version 1.2 on the strength of allowed encryption algorithms (AES128 is still the minimum allowed for sending).

For institutional or policy reasons, agent implementors may which to choose to enforce receiving messages only from other systems that comply with the higher strength cryptographic algorithms. This policy can be set using the ENFORCESTRONGDIGESTS and ENFORCESTRONGENCRYPTION options parameters. For behavioral passivity reasons, these policies are set to false by default.

PKCS11 Token Support

Some institutional and agency policies require a high level of protection of sensitive cryptographic material, specifically asymmetric private keys. A common protection method is to use a PCKS11 token such as a hardware security module (HSM) where the private key is loaded into the token and the cryptographic operations that utilize the key are performed on the token instead of in the agent's process memory. The method for loading keys into the token are arbitrary, but generally policies do not allow the private keys to be exposed in a non-encrypted format when not present in the token. Once loaded into the token and "activated", the private key is only accessible to the token meaning that cryptographic operations MUST be performed on the token.

Using PKCS11 tokens for cryptographic operations is supported by the agent, however it has the ability to optimize the process. What does this mean? Both SMIME message decryption and signing use a two phase process where cryptographic operations are performed in both phases. For message signing, the first phase consists of computing a message digest and the second phase digitally signs the digest using the sender's asymmetric private key. For message decryption, the first phase uses the recipeint's asymmetric private key to decrypt a symmetric secret key and this symmetric key is then used to decrypt the entire message in the second phase. In both scenarios the private key phase only operates on a small piece of information where as the other phase acts on the entire message. Because the small operations are the only ones that utilize the protect asymmetric private key, they are the only ones that really need to performed on the token. Performing potentially large digest and message decryption operations on the the token can quickly lead to performance bottlenecks especially in deployments where the token is configured as a network appliance.

In Java, cryptographic operations are performed by JCE provider implementations, and these providers are configurable using various methods keyed by a provider name. PKCS11 tokens are mapped to JCE providers via the provider name, and routing cryptographic operations to a token is done by specifying the mapped JCE provider name to the appropriate cryptographic API call. The BouncyCastle libraries, utilized by the SMIMECryptographerImpl class, only allow for signing and decryption operations to be routed to a single JCE provider. Because SMIME signing and decryption is actually a two phase process, a different JCE provider could be used in each phase.

The org.nhindirect.stagent.cryptography.activekeyops package implements various "active key" classes that support routing cryptographic operations to JCE providers. The SplitDirectxxx classes support routing to different JCE providers for each phase in the signing and decryption operations. If your agent implementation requires that you use a PKCS11 token, optimally you would want to configure the agent to utilize the SplitDirectxxx classes to route only sensitive (i.e. those that use the private key) operation to the token. Routing to JCE providers is configured using the JCEPROVIDERandJCESENTITIVEPROVIDER options. By default, the SMIMECryptographerImpl utilizes the SplitDirectxxx classes, but routes all signing and decryption phases to the BouncyCastle JCE provider.

Concurrent Programming

All public methods of the SMIMECryptographerImpl are thread safe and can be called concurrently.

Previous: Up: Developers GuideNext: