Winter 2018 Release train for Atbash libraries

Introduction

Atbash is a set of libraries which tries to make security easier. It contains features around cryptographic keys (RSA and EC keys for example), reading and writing keys in all the different formats, algorithms (like the Diffie-Hellman Algorithm), securing JAX-RS endpoints, and many more. The top-level project is Atbash Octopus which is a complete platform for declarative security for Java SE, Java EE and Micro-Services (MicroProfile).

Besides this security focus point, some useful Java SE and MicroProfile extensions are also made available instead of just bundling them with the security features which uses them.

A new set of Atbash features are ready and are released to Maven Central. This blog post gives a short overview of the different new features but in the coming weeks, the main features are described in more detail in separate blogs.

Winter 2018 release

The first time I released multiple Atbash libraries to Maven Central was last summer, with the Summer 2018 release. Also now there are multiple features ready so I found it a good time to release again a lot of the libraries together.

The 3 main top features in this winter release are

  • Reading and writing many cryptographic key types (RSA, EC, OCT, and DH) in many formats like PEM (including different encodings like PKCS1 and PKCS8), JWK, JWKSet, and Java KeyStore (‘old versions’ and PKCS12).
  • Easy encryption helper methods (using symmetric AES keys) and methods for creating JWE objects (Encrypted JWT tokens).
  • Implementation of the Diffie-Hellman algorithm to exchange data in an encrypted way without the need for exchanging the key.

The non-security highlights in this release are

  • An extensible Resource API
  • The option to define alternative keys for MicroProfile config.

More on them in the next section and in the upcoming dedicated blogs

Supported Java versions.

The goal of Atbash is also to bring you all those goodies, even when you are still stuck with Java 7. Therefore are libraries support Java 7 as the minimum version. But with the release of JDK 11 a few months ago, I made sure that all the libraries which are released as part of this Winter 2018 release, can also run on this new Long Term supported Java version. It only supports the Class-Path fully, there are no Java modules created.

New features

Atbash Utils
A library containing some useful utilities for Java SE, CDI, and JSF. In the new 0.9.3 version, there are 2 major new features implemented.

Resource API

With the resource API, it becomes easy to retrieve the content of a file, a class path resource, a URL or any custom defined location in a uniform way.

Based on the prefix, like classpath:, http:, etc …, the implementation will look up and read the resource correctly. But you can also define your own type, defining your custom prefix, and register is through the Service Loader mechanism.

This uniform reading of a resource is very handy when you need to read some resource content in your application (or your own framework) and wants to make the location of the file configurable.
You just need to retrieve the ‘location’ from the configuration and can call

ResourceUtil.getInstance().getStream();

Resource Scanner

Another addition, also related to resources, is the resource scanner to retrieve all class path resources matching a certain pattern. There are various use cases where it could be handy that you can retrieve a list of resources, like all files ending on .config.properties, from the class path. This allows having some extension mechanism that brings their own configuration files.

The alternative keys for MicroProfile config make use of this.

Atbash Config

The library contains a few useful extensions for MicroProfile Configuration. It has also an implementation of the MicroProfile Config 1.2 version for Java 7. It is a compatible version (not certified) as MP Config requires Java 8.

Alternative keys

A useful addition in this release is the alternative keys which can be defined. Useful in case you want to change the name of a config parameter key but you want to the users of your library the time to adapt to your new key value.
So you can basically define a mapping between 2 keys, old value, and a new value. Within your library code, you already use the new value. But when the Atbash Config library is on the classpath, the developer can still use the old name.

Atbash JWT support

A library to support many aspects of the JWT stack. Not only signed and encrypted JWT tokens, but also JWK (storing keys). And by extension, it has extensive support for cryptographic keys.

In this library, the most notable new features of this winter release can be found.

Reading and writing many cryptographic keys

Reading and writing cryptographic keys was already partially implemented in the previous version of the library. But now it supports more or less all possible scenarios.

On the one side, there is support for the different types

  • RSA keys
  • Elliptic Curve (EC) keys
  • OCT keys (just a set of bits usable for HMAC and AES)

And this can be stored (and read) in many formats

  • Asymmetric private keys in PEM (using PKCS1, PKCS8 or none encoding), JWK, JWKSet, and KeyStores (JKS, JCEKS, and PKCS12)
  • Asymmetric private keys in PEM, JWK, JWKSet, and KeyStores (JKS, JCEKS, and PKCS12)
  • OCT keys as JWK and JWKSet.

And this reading and writing are performed by a single method (all checking is done behind the scenes) namely KeyWriter.writeKeyResource and KeyReader.readKeyResource.

More info in a later blog post.

Encryption

There are various helper methods to perform encryption easier. The encryption can be performed with an OCT key, or this key can be generated based on a password or passphrase using the Key Derivation Functions.

A second possibility for encryption is the use of JWE, an encrypted version of the JWT token. In the blog post, an example will be given how you can easily create a JWE. And it is the same method to create a JWT, without encryption, just a different parameter.

Key Server

The Key Server is more an example of the Diffie-Hellman algorithm which is implemented in this release more than it is a production-ready component. With the Diffie-Hellman algorithm, it is possible to perform encryption of the data without the need to exchange the secret key. The same principle is used for SSL communication. But now it is performed by the application itself and thus no termination like the one performed by the firewalls is possible.

The blog will explain the Key Server principals and another use case where the posting of JSON data to an endpoint is transparently encrypted.

Future

More features from Octopus are also transferred from the original Octopus to the Atbash Octopus framework, including the support for OAuth2 and OpenId Connect. But there wasn’t enough time to migrate all the features that I wanted, so Octopus isn’t released is this time. But migration and improvements will continue to be performed.

With the release of JDK 11, more focus will be placed on this new version and thus the master branch will hold only code which will be compatible with Java 8 and Java 11. The support for Java 7 will be transferred to a separate branch and will go in maintenance mode. No real new features will be implemented anymore in this branch unless required for Atbash Octopus which will stay at Java 7 for a little longer.

Since the first application server supporting JDK 11 is released, and more of them coming in the next months, more focus will be placed on that runtime environment.

Conclusion

As you can read in the above paragraphs, this release contains some interesting features around security and configuration. And the good thing, they all can be used already with JDK 11 in Class-Path mode.

In the follow-up blogs, the mean new features will be discussed more in details, so I hope to welcome you again in the near future.

Have fun.

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