Topics and trends related to the Java ecosystem with occasional random rants.

  • October 24, 2017

JDK9 keytool Transitions Default Keystore to PKCS12

James Connors
Principal Solutions Consultant
When it comes to the JDK9 release, project jigsaw garners nearly all the attention, sucking the air out of the room and leaving very little oxygen for many other smaller but interesting enhancements. One such feature addresses the universal quest to modernize overall security and involves an improvement to the keytool utility. For approximately two decades, Java and keytool had relied on the JDK-specific JKS keystore type as its default store. As specified by JEP 229, JDK9 transitions the default keystore to PKCS12.

This change means that any new keystores will be created in the PKCS12 format.  It should however not affect existing applications that rely upon the original JKS keystore type.  Backwards compatibility will be maintained allowing existing applications to continue operating unmodified for the foreseeable future.

PKCS12 has a number of advantages:
  1. It is more extensible
  2. It supports stronger cryptographic algorithms
  3. It is widely adopted.  PKCS12 is frequently the format provided by certificate authorities when issuing certificates.

With respect to point (3) above, as mentioned in this previous article, keytool has historically been unable to directly import PKCS12 generated trusted keys and certificates, and instead must rely on external workarounds like the following:

  • Use openssl to create a keystore containing the certificate chain and private key. Then use keytool to import this keystore into either a new or larger keystore..
  • Platforms like Oracle WebLogic contain a utils.ImportPrivateKey class (with a main method) that is included in weblogic.jar which can accomplish this task

Unfortunately this shortcoming still exists in JDK9.  However a request for enhancement has been recently been created and can be found here: 

keytool should be able to import private keys: https://bugs.openjdk.java.net/browse/JDK-8189321 

Perhaps enough folks can weigh in and vote, increasing its priority.

Be the first to comment

Comments ( 0 )
Please enter your name.Please provide a valid email address.Please enter a comment.CAPTCHA challenge response provided was incorrect. Please try again.