HOWTO Use Encryption

Java includes some good tools for performing encryption. POJava wraps those tools to create a simpler and more accessible interface.

This document will demonstrate creation and storage of a portable key, and use of that key in encrypting and decrypting a document.

Key generation

A key is essentially a password that is harder than most to guess. It is used to shape how the binary data is encrypted. You can provide your own key, or have the tool generate one for you. A key is itself composed of binary data, but we can export the key into a String format so we can more easily store it in an xml document, property file, database, or elsewhere.

String keyString=EncryptionTool.generateAES256WithCBCKeyString();

POJava's keyString describes both the encryption algorithm and the key. You would typically generate the keyString, then store it wherever you store your other passwords. For example, you could access it through JNDI, and have Tomcat load it from your server.xml file. To use it, you retrieve the key and pass it as a parameter to your EncryptionTool.encrypt(...) method.


Encryption produces binary data in the form of a byte array.
String keyString=(String) JNDIRegistry.lookupEnv("");
byte[] encrypted=EncryptionTool.encrypt(doc.getBytes(), keyString);
What you do with the encrypted byte array is your business. Publish it, Base64 encode it and store it in a client cookie, whatever. Just be careful about your key and your data will remain safely secured by whichever encryption method is described in your keyString.


When you're ready to decrypt it, you use EncryptionTool.decrypt(...) to get the original data.
String keyString=(String) JNDIRegistry.lookupEnv("");
byte[] decrypted=EncryptionTool.decrypt(encrypted, keyString);
String decryptedDoc=new String(decrypted);

Encryption Strengths and Settings

Java (TM) has a default limit of 128 bit encryption so their software can be more easily distributed worldwide and still be in compliance with U.S. export laws. Sun (now Oracle) provides a JCE (Java Cryptography Extension) library that removes that 128 bit restriction, and there may be restrictions outside of the U.S. and Canada governing access to that library.

POJava provides the convenience of making Java's encryption easy to use and manage. If the JCE is not installed, POJava's encryption and decryption methods will be able perform encryption up to 128 bits. Stronger encryption is possible when the JCE is installed.

The keyString used to define the encryption algorithm and key is formatted as follows.

"{algorithm} {base64key}"
The {algorithm} is the same parameter one uses when constructing a Cipher object.
The {base64key} is a base64 encoding of often random binary data of the proper bit length. For example, a binary key used for 128-bit encryption is 128 bits long before base64 encoding.