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Insights and updates on Java SE and OpenJDK from the Java Platform Group Product Management Team

  • November 16, 2015

Strengthening Signatures part 2

The scheduled Critical Patch Update of Oracle Java SE on January 19 2016 is planned to disable X.509 certificates signed with MD5. Plans are also being developed to disable X.509 certificates signed with SHA-1 and further details will be announced in a future post.

Specifically, this change will treat certificate chains containing a certificate with an MD5-based signature to be invalid and blocked by default. This affects Java clients and servers using TLS (via the JSSE API), signed applets and Web Start applications, and any application using the PKIX implementation of the CertPath API to validate certificate chains.

This was previously covered in a post, Strengthening Signatures, and is similar to announcements from other platform providers like Microsoft, which deprecated MD5 in June 2014 and is focusing on SHA-1 efforts for 2016.

System Administrators wanting to test their systems can update their JAVA_HOME/lib/security/java.security file and add MD5 into jdk.certpath.disabledAlgorithms.

Change "jdk.certpath.disabledAlgorithms=MD2, RSA keySize < 1024" to "jdk.certpath.disabledAlgorithms=MD2, MD5, RSA keySize < 1024"

After this change, the MD5 algorithm will still be available for other non-certificate uses. For example applications that use MessageDigest.getInstance("MD5") for alternate reasons will continue to function.

For System Administrators that must re-enable the weaker MD5 algorithm

In cases where a system authenticates itself through MD5 signatures, system administrators are encouraged to generate newer certificates that use SHA-256 or higher.

Users are encouraged to accept the default security settings and not re-enable MD5 in X.509 certificates. However, if necessary, MD5 can be re-enabled in either of the following ways:

 Option A (preferred if weak MD5 is needed), by using a startup flag that will only impact specific applications.
  1. Create a file that copies the jdk.certpath.disabledAlgorithms line from JAVA_HOME/lib/security/java.security
  2. Remove MD5 from that line
  3. In your startup command, add -Djava.security.properties=FILE
  4. Plan your migration away from weak algorithms and undoing this change.
 Option B, editing a configuration file that will affect all applications used by a JRE:
  1. Open JAVA_HOME/lib/security/java.security
  2. Remove MD5 from the line jdk.certpath.disabledAlgorithms
  3. Plan your migration away from weak algorithms and undoing this change.

SHA-1 plans

We are also working with industry groups on a plan to migrate away from certificates signed with SHA-1. The Certificate Authority Browser Forum previously set guidance to avoid issuing new SHA-1 certificates after January 2016. This guidance assists in our planning, as well as that of peer programs such as Microsoft, Mozilla, and Google


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