The Java EE 6 Tutorial, Volume I

Establishing a Secure Connection Using SSL

Secure Socket Layer (SSL) technology is security that is implemented at the transport layer (see Transport-Layer Security, for more information about transport layer security). SSL allows web browsers and web servers to communicate over a secure connection. In this secure connection, the data that is being sent is encrypted before being sent and then is decrypted upon receipt and before processing. Both the browser and the server encrypt all traffic before sending any data. SSL addresses the following important security considerations.

Installing and Configuring SSL Support

An SSL HTTPS connector is already enabled in the Enterprise Server. For more information on configuring SSL for the Enterprise Server, refer to the Sun GlassFish Enterprise Server v3 Administration Guide.

If you are using a different application server or web server, an SSL HTTPS connector might or might not be enabled. If you are using a server that needs its SSL connector to be configured, consult the documentation for that server.

As a general rule, to enable SSL for a server, you must address the following issues:

You can verify whether or not SSL is enabled by following the steps in Verifying SSL Support.

Specifying a Secure Connection in Your Application Deployment Descriptor

To specify a requirement that protected resources be received over a protected transport layer connection (SSL), specify a user data constraint in the application deployment descriptor. The following is an example of a web.xml application deployment descriptor that specifies that SSL be used:

        <web-resource-name>view dept data</web-resource-name>

A user data constraint (<user-data-constraint> in the deployment descriptor) requires that all constrained URL patterns and HTTP methods specified in the security constraint are received over a protected transport layer connection such as HTTPS (HTTP over SSL). A user data constraint specifies a transport guarantee (<transport-guarantee> in the deployment descriptor). The choices for transport guarantee include CONFIDENTIAL, INTEGRAL, or NONE. If you specify CONFIDENTIAL or INTEGRAL as a security constraint, that type of security constraint applies to all requests that match the URL patterns in the web resource collection and not just to the login dialog box.

The strength of the required protection is defined by the value of the transport guarantee.

The user data constraint is handy to use with basic and form-based user authentication. When the login authentication method is set to BASIC or FORM, passwords are not protected, meaning that passwords sent between a client and a server on an unprotected session can be viewed and intercepted by third parties. Using a user data constraint with the user authentication mechanism can alleviate this concern.

Verifying SSL Support

For testing purposes, and to verify that SSL support has been correctly installed, load the default introduction page with a URL that connects to the port defined in the server deployment descriptor:


The https in this URL indicates that the browser should be using the SSL protocol. The localhost in this example assumes that you are running the example on your local machine as part of the development process. The 8181 in this example is the secure port that was specified where the SSL connector was created. If you are using a different server or port, modify this value accordingly.

The first time that you load this application, the New Site Certificate or Security Alert dialog box displays. Select Next to move through the series of dialog boxes, and select Finish when you reach the last dialog box. The certificates will display only the first time. When you accept the certificates, subsequent hits to this site assume that you still trust the content.

Tips on Running SSL

The SSL protocol is designed to be as efficient as securely possible. However, encryption and decryption are computationally expensive processes from a performance standpoint. It is not strictly necessary to run an entire web application over SSL, and it is customary for a developer to decide which pages require a secure connection and which do not. Pages that might require a secure connection include login pages, personal information pages, shopping cart checkouts, or any pages where credit card information could possibly be transmitted. Any page within an application can be requested over a secure socket by simply prefixing the address with https: instead of http:. Any pages that absolutely require a secure connection should check the protocol type associated with the page request and take the appropriate action if https is not specified.

Using name-based virtual hosts on a secured connection can be problematic. This is a design limitation of the SSL protocol itself. The SSL handshake, where the client browser accepts the server certificate, must occur before the HTTP request is accessed. As a result, the request information containing the virtual host name cannot be determined before authentication, and it is therefore not possible to assign multiple certificates to a single IP address. If all virtual hosts on a single IP address need to authenticate against the same certificate, the addition of multiple virtual hosts should not interfere with normal SSL operations on the server. Be aware, however, that most client browsers will compare the server’s domain name against the domain name listed in the certificate, if any (this is applicable primarily to official, CA-signed certificates). If the domain names do not match, these browsers will display a warning to the client. In general, only address-based virtual hosts are commonly used with SSL in a production environment.

Working with Digital Certificates

Digital certificates for the Enterprise Server have already been generated and can be found in the directory as-install/domain-dir/config/. These digital certificates are self-signed and are intended for use in a development environment; they are not intended for production purposes. For production purposes, generate your own certificates and have them signed by a CA.

The instructions in this section apply to the developer and cluster profiles of the Enterprise Server. In the enterprise profile, the certutil utility is used to create digital certificates. For more information, see the Sun GlassFish Enterprise Server v3 Administration Guide.

To use SSL, an application or web server must have an associated certificate for each external interface, or IP address, that accepts secure connections. The theory behind this design is that a server should provide some kind of reasonable assurance that its owner is who you think it is, particularly before receiving any sensitive information. It may be useful to think of a certificate as a “digital driver’s license” for an Internet address. It states with which company the site is associated, along with some basic contact information about the site owner or administrator.

The digital certificate is cryptographically signed by its owner and is difficult for anyone else to forge. For sites involved in e-commerce or in any other business transaction in which authentication of identity is important, a certificate can be purchased from a well-known certificate authority (CA) such as VeriSign or Thawte. If your server certificate is self-signed, you must install it in the Enterprise Server keystore file (keystore.jks). If your client certificate is self-signed, you should install it in the Enterprise Server truststore file (cacerts.jks).

Sometimes authentication is not really a concern. For example, an administrator might simply want to ensure that data being transmitted and received by the server is private and cannot be snooped by anyone eavesdropping on the connection. In such cases, you can save the time and expense involved in obtaining a CA certificate and simply use a self-signed certificate.

SSL uses public key cryptography, which is based on key pairs. Key pairs contain one public key and one private key. If data is encrypted with one key, it can be decrypted only with the other key of the pair. This property is fundamental to establishing trust and privacy in transactions. For example, using SSL, the server computes a value and encrypts the value using its private key. The encrypted value is called a digital signature. The client decrypts the encrypted value using the server’s public key and compares the value to its own computed value. If the two values match, the client can trust that the signature is authentic, because only the private key could have been used to produce such a signature.

Digital certificates are used with the HTTPS protocol to authenticate web clients. The HTTPS service of most web servers will not run unless a digital certificate has been installed. Use the procedure outlined in the next section, Creating a Server Certificate, to set up a digital certificate that can be used by your application or web server to enable SSL.

One tool that can be used to set up a digital certificate is keytool, a key and certificate management utility that ships with the Java SE SDK. It enables users to administer their own public/private key pairs and associated certificates for use in self-authentication (where the user authenticates himself or herself to other users or services) or data integrity and authentication services, using digital signatures. It also allows users to cache the public keys (in the form of certificates) of their communicating peers. For a better understanding of keytool and public key cryptography, read the keytool documentation at

Creating a Server Certificate

A server certificate has already been created for the Enterprise Server. The certificate can be found in the domain-dir/config/ directory. The server certificate is in keystore.jks. The cacerts.jks file contains all the trusted certificates, including client certificates.

If necessary, you can use keytool to generate certificates. The keytool utility stores the keys and certificates in a file termed a keystore, a repository of certificates used for identifying a client or a server. Typically, a keystore is a file that contains one client or one server’s identity. It protects private keys by using a password.

If you don’t specify a directory when specifying the keystore file name, the keystores are created in the directory from which the keytool command is run. This can be the directory where the application resides, or it can be a directory common to many applications.

    To create a server certificate, follow these steps:

  1. Create the keystore.

  2. Export the certificate from the keystore.

  3. Sign the certificate.

  4. Import the certificate into a truststore: a repository of certificates used for verifying the certificates. A truststore typically contains more than one certificate.

Run keytool to generatea new key pair in the default development keystore file, keystore.jks. This example uses the alias server-alias to generate a new public/private key pair and wrap the public key into a self-signed certificate inside keystore.jks. The key pair is generated using an algorithm of type RSA, with a default password of changeit. For more information and other examples of creating and managing keystore files, read the keytool online help at

Note –

RSA is public-key encryption technology developed by RSA Data Security, Inc. The acronym stands for Rivest, Shamir, and Adelman, the inventors of the technology.

    From the directory in which you want to create the key pair , run keytool with the following parameters.

  1. Generate the server certificate. (Type the keytool command all on one line.)

    java-home/bin/keytool -genkey -alias server-alias -keyalg RSA -keypass changeit 
    -storepass changeit -keystore keystore.jks

    When you press Enter, keytool prompts you to enter the server name, organizational unit, organization, locality, state, and country code.

    You must enter the server name in response to keytool’s first prompt, in which it asks for first and last names. For testing purposes, this can be localhost.

    When you run the example applications, the host (server name) specified in the keystore must match the host identified in the property specified in the file tut-install/examples/bp-project/

  2. Export the generated server certificate in keystore.jks into the file server.cer. (Type the keytool command all on one line.)

    java-home/bin/keytool -export -alias server-alias -storepass changeit 
    -file server.cer -keystore keystore.jks
  3. If you want to have the certificate signed by a CA, read the example at

  4. To add the server certificate to the truststore file, cacerts.jks, run keytool from the directory where you created the keystore and server certificate. Use the following parameters:

    java-home/bin/keytool -import -v -trustcacerts -alias server-alias -file server.cer 
    -keystore cacerts.jks -keypass changeit -storepass changeit

    Information on the certificate, such as that shown next, will display.

    % keytool -import -v -trustcacerts -alias server-alias -file server.cer 
    -keystore cacerts.jks -keypass changeit -storepass changeit
    Owner: CN=localhost, OU=Sun Micro, O=Docs, L=Santa Clara, ST=CA, 
    C=USIssuer: CN=localhost, OU=Sun Micro, O=Docs, L=Santa Clara, ST=CA, 
    C=USSerial number: 3e932169Valid from: Tue Apr 08Certificate 
    fingerprints:MD5: 52:9F:49:68:ED:78:6F:39:87:F3:98:B3:6A:6B:0F:90 SHA1: 
    Trust this certificate? [no]:
  5. Enter yes, and then press the Enter or Return key. The following information displays:

    Certificate was added to keystore[Saving cacerts.jks]

Miscellaneous Commands for Certificates

To check the contents of a keystore that contains a certificate with an alias server-alias, use this command:

keytool -list -keystore keystore.jks -alias server-alias -v

To check the contents of the cacerts file, use this command:

keytool -list -keystore cacerts.jks