About Asymmetric Cryptography¶
All WSO2 products including WSO2 API Manager use asymmetric cryptography by default for the authentication and protection of data. In asymmetric cryptography, keystores (with private keys and public key certificates) and truststores (with only public key certificates) are created and stored for a product. It is possible to have multiple keystores so that the keys used for different use cases are kept unique. The following topics explain more details on keystores and truststores, and how they are used in WSO2 products.
Understanding keystores and truststores¶
A keystore is a repository (protected by a password) that holds the keys and certificates of a trust chain. There may be multiple trust chains (i.e., multiple keys with corresponding certificates) in one keystore. You use these artifacts for security purposes such as protecting sensitive information and establishing trust between your server and outside parties that connect to the server. The usage of keys and certificates contained in a keystore are explained below.
Keys: According to public-key cryptography, the concept of a key pair (public key and the corresponding private key) is used for protecting sensitive information and for authenticating the identity of external parties that communicate with your server. For example, the information that is encrypted in your server using the public key can only be decrypted using the corresponding private key. Therefore, if any party wants to decrypt this encrypted data, they should have the corresponding private key, which is usually kept as a secret (not publicly shared).
Digital certificate: When there is a key pair, it is also necessary to have a digital certificate to verify the identity of the keys. Typically, the public key of a key pair is embedded in this digital certificate, which also contains additional information such as the owner, validity, etc. of the keys. For example, if an external party wants to verify the integrity of data or validate the identity of the signer (by validating the digital signature), it is necessary for them to have this digital certificate of the signer.
Trusted certificates and certificate signing authorities: To establish trust, the digital certificate containing the public key should be signed by a trusted certificate signing authority (CA). You can generate self-signed certificates for the public key (thereby creating your own certifying authority), or you can get the certificates signed by the digital certificate of an external CA. When the certificate is signed by a reputed CA, all the parties that trust this CA will also trust the certificates signed by them. To establish maximum trust, it is important to have a root CA directly sign your public key certificate, or else, you can have an intermediate CA certificate (which is already signed by a root CA) sign your certificate. Therefore, in the later case, there can be a chain of CAs involved in signing your public key certificate. However, note that both types of public key certificates (self-signed or CA-signed) can be effectively used depending on the sensitivity of the information that is protected by the keys.
In summary, each trust chain entry in a keystore contains the following:
- A private key protected by a password.
- A digital certificate in which the public key (corresponding to the private key) is embedded.
- Additionally, If this public key certificate is not self-signed but signed by a Certificate Signing Authority (CA), an additional set of certificates (of the CAs involved in the signing process) will also be included. This may be just one additional certificate if the immediate CA certificate that was used to sign the public key certificate is of a Root CA. If the immediate certificate is not of a root CA, all the certificates of the intermediate CAs should also be included in the keystore.
The usage of a truststore aligns with this concept of trust explained above. A truststore is just another repository that is protected by a password (similar to a keystore), which stores digital certificates. These certificates can be either of the following:
- Certificates of trusted third parties with which a software system intends to communicate directly.
- Certificates of reputed certificate signing authorities (CA) that can be used to validate the identity of untrusted third parties that are being contacted. For example, consider a scenario where the exact certificate of the third party that the WSO2 server is attempting to contact is not in the truststore. In this scenario, if the third party has a CA-signed certificate and one of the certificates of its trust chain is already included in the WSO2 server's truststore, the trust is automatically granted and a successful SSL connection is established between the WSO2 server and the third party.
Default keystore and truststore¶
All WSO2 products including WSO2 API Manager are by default shipped with a keystore file and truststore file (stored in the
- wso2carbon.jks: This is the default keystore, which contains a private key and the self-signed public key certificate.
- client-truststore.jks: This is the default truststore, which contains certificates of reputed CAs that can validate the identity of third party systems. This truststore also contains the self-signed certificate of the default wso2carbon.jks keystore.
Usage of keystores¶
- Authenticating the communication over Secure Sockets Layer (SSL)/Transport Layer Security (TLS) protocols.
- Encrypting sensitive data such as plain-text passwords found in both product-level and product feature-level configurations/configuration files using secure vault.
- Ensuring the integrity of the messages communicated with external parties (such as JWT, SAML, OIDC id_token signing)
The default keystore that is shipped with WSO2 API Manager (wso2carbon.jks) is by default configured for all of the above purposes. However, in a production environment, it is advised to set up several different keystores with separate trust chains for the above use cases. Go through the Recommendations for setting up keystores for more information.