[security-dev 01130]: [PATCH FOR REVIEW]: Elliptic Curve Cryptography in OpenJDK6 with NSS

Andrew John Hughes gnu_andrew at member.fsf.org
Thu Aug 27 16:21:22 PDT 2009

In OpenJDK6, the elliptic curve cryptography algorithms are available
if the PKCS11 provider is configured to point to NSS. See:


If NSS is configured as specified in this blog, keytool can be used to
generate a key as follows:

$ keytool -v -genkeypair -keyalg EC -keysize 256 -keystore ectest.jks
-storepass test12 -dname "CN=ECC Test"

With NSS 3.12.3 (the current version), this fails as follows:

java.lang.RuntimeException: Could not parse key values
	at sun.security.pkcs11.P11Key$P11ECPublicKey.fetchValues(P11Key.java:1028)
	at sun.security.pkcs11.P11Key$P11ECPublicKey.getEncodedInternal(P11Key.java:1038)
	at sun.security.pkcs11.P11Key.getEncoded(P11Key.java:126)
	at sun.security.x509.CertificateX509Key.encode(CertificateX509Key.java:105)
	at sun.security.x509.X509CertInfo.emit(X509CertInfo.java:819)
	at sun.security.x509.X509CertInfo.encode(X509CertInfo.java:189)
	at sun.security.x509.X509CertImpl.sign(X509CertImpl.java:528)
	at sun.security.x509.X509CertImpl.sign(X509CertImpl.java:486)
	at sun.security.x509.CertAndKeyGen.getSelfCertificate(CertAndKeyGen.java:288)
	at sun.security.tools.KeyTool.doGenKeyPair(KeyTool.java:1223)
	at sun.security.tools.KeyTool.doCommands(KeyTool.java:827)
	at sun.security.tools.KeyTool.run(KeyTool.java:194)
	at sun.security.tools.KeyTool.main(KeyTool.java:188)
Caused by: java.io.IOException: Point does not match field size
	at sun.security.ec.ECParameters.decodePoint(ECParameters.java:95)
	at sun.security.pkcs11.P11ECKeyFactory.decodePoint(P11ECKeyFactory.java:78)
	at sun.security.pkcs11.P11Key$P11ECPublicKey.fetchValues(P11Key.java:1023)
	... 12 more

I did a bit of debugging, and the exception is caused by the array
generated by NSS being too large (for a keysize of 256, its size is 67
rather than 65).

Looking at the NSS code, it turns out that it handles a case which the
code in ECParameters.decodePoint doesn't:

           /* special note: We can't just use the first byte to
             * between these 2 cases because both
             * and SEC_ASN1_OCTET_STRING are 0x04 */

            /* handle the non-DER encoded case (UNCOMPRESSED only) */
            if (pubKey->u.ec.publicValue.data[0] == EC_POINT_FORM_UNCOMPRESSED
                && pubKey->u.ec.publicValue.len == keyLen) {
                break; /* key was not DER encoded, no need to unwrap */

            /* if we ever support compressed, handle it here */

            /* handle the encoded case */
            if ((pubKey->u.ec.publicValue.data[0] == SEC_ASN1_OCTET_STRING)
                && pubKey->u.ec.publicValue.len > keyLen) {
                SECItem publicValue;
                SECStatus rv;

                rv = SEC_QuickDERDecodeItem(arena, &publicValue,
                /* nope, didn't decode correctly */
                if ((rv != SECSuccess)
                    || (publicValue.data[0] != EC_POINT_FORM_UNCOMPRESSED)
	            || (publicValue.len != keyLen)) {
                    crv = CKR_ATTRIBUTE_VALUE_INVALID;
                /* replace our previous with the decoded key */
                pubKey->u.ec.publicValue = publicValue;

The code in decodePoint, by comparison, assumes that a block beginning
with 0x04 is uncompressed, then throws an exception because the array
is too large.  The fact is that the array returned by NSS is DER
encoded, and this encoding specifies an octet string using a header of
0x04.  Luckily enough, there is a DER encoder in sun.security.util
which can decode this and with the following webrev:


we can quite easily support this format.

With the patch applied:

$ keytool -v -genkeypair -keyalg EC -keysize 256 -keystore ectest.jks
-storepass test12 -dname "CN=ECC Test"
Generating 256 bit EC key pair and self-signed certificate
(SHA1withECDSA) with a validity of 90 days
	for: CN=ECC Test
Enter key password for <mykey>
	(RETURN if same as keystore password):
[Storing ectest.jks]

$ keytool -v -list -keystore ectest.jks -storepass test12 -dname "CN=ECC Test"

Keystore type: JKS
Keystore provider: SUN

Your keystore contains 1 entry

Alias name: mykey
Creation date: 27-Aug-2009
Entry type: PrivateKeyEntry
Certificate chain length: 1
Owner: CN=ECC Test
Issuer: CN=ECC Test
Serial number: 4a97068b
Valid from: Thu Aug 27 23:19:55 BST 2009 until: Wed Nov 25 22:19:55 GMT 2009
Certificate fingerprints:
	 MD5:  10:39:9E:CA:11:50:CD:BF:61:BC:16:1F:B2:43:52:E6
	 SHA1: F7:8F:80:77:48:51:C6:3B:49:89:28:A8:5E:5F:7C:ED:D1:BD:CF:BE
	 Signature algorithm name: SHA1withECDSA
	 Version: 3


key creation works fine.

The code has been refactored in 7 and the NSS source code included
(ugh) so this bug isn't triggered there:

keytool -v -genkeypair -keyalg EC -keysize 256 -keystore ectest.jks
-storepass test12 -dname "CN=ECC Test"
Generating 256 bit EC key pair and self-signed certificate
(SHA1withECDSA) with a validity of 90 days
	for: CN=ECC Test
Enter key password for <mykey>
	(RETURN if same as keystore password):
New certificate (self-signed):
  Version: V3
  Subject: CN=ECC Test
  Signature Algorithm: SHA1withECDSA, OID = 1.2.840.10045.4.1

  Key:  Sun EC public key, 256 bits
  public x coord:
  public y coord:
  parameters: secp256r1 [NIST P-256, X9.62 prime256v1] (1.2.840.10045.3.1.7)
  Validity: [From: Fri Aug 28 00:17:30 BST 2009,
               To: Wed Nov 25 23:17:30 GMT 2009]
  Issuer: CN=ECC Test
  SerialNumber: [    67f1afea]

Certificate Extensions: 1
[1]: ObjectId: Criticality=false
SubjectKeyIdentifier [
KeyIdentifier [
0000: C0 12 A6 B9 61 A7 78 C3   F9 B2 A4 E6 76 69 12 A0  ....a.x.....vi..
0010: 10 59 C8 90                                        .Y..

  Algorithm: [SHA1withECDSA]
0000: 30 44 02 20 2B 9A D6 8A   3E F4 37 2D D8 43 67 F6  0D. +...>.7-.Cg.
0010: DF 51 EC 9D DC EF 0A 88   86 F5 2F 25 84 3E E6 92  .Q......../%.>..
0020: 0D DA D5 51 02 20 0F 34   9D 55 E5 C2 74 14 72 DA  ...Q. .4.U..t.r.
0030: 53 95 9B 60 01 9A 0D D0   64 89 B6 28 7F 96 22 83  S..`....d..(..".
0040: DC 7F EF 10 EF 21                                  .....!

[Storing ectest.jks]

However, the same block of code is still there in ECParameters.java so
I presume the version of NSS imported from OpenSolaris is just older.
Andrew :-)

Free Java Software Engineer
Red Hat, Inc. (http://www.redhat.com)

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