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Explained: What Is a Java SSL Certificate?

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Is there such a thing as a Java SSL certificate? Let’s find out…

If you’re a Java developer, the data security in your application must be of the highest  matter of concern to you as you most likely are working with applications that deal with sensitive financial and personal information. Therefore, having sound knowledge of security-related aspects is an absolute must. One such thing that you need to know as a Java programmer is the workings of a Java SSL certificate. Some Java developers like to call them “Java SSL certificates” or “Java security certificates,” but primarily, they’re regarded as “SSL/TLS certificates.”

Today, SSL has become the bedrock of internet security. A Java SSL certificate enables the HTTPS protocol between a client and a server. HTTPS is the successor of HTTP. While HTTP transmits data in plaintext format, HTTPS transfers the data in an encrypted form. Therefore, HTTPS is a must for websites/applications that deal with sensitive information such as passwords, credit card details, social security numbers, etc.

Here’s What a Java SSL Certificate Does

First of all, don’t get confused between the terms “Java SSL certificate” and “SSL certificate” as they both mean the same thing. As we mentioned earlier, a Java SSL certificate facilitates a secure connection between a client and a server. This secure connection is done by three things:

  1. Authentication: The Java SSL certificate makes sure that the client is in communication with the intended web server. This is done by the verification of the Java SSL certificate installed on the server.
  2. Data Encryption: The data transmitting between client and server is encrypted, and therefore doesn’t allow any unauthorized entity to see the original data.
  3. Data Integrity: A Java SSL certificate makes sure that the encrypted data can only be unlocked using the private key of the SSL certificate, which is stored on the web server. This way, no one else can tamper with the data.

How a Java SSL Certificate Works

A Java SSL certificate works on the technology regarded as “public key infrastructure” (PKI). PKI involves a trusted and recognized certificate authority (CA) that issues the certificate. However, the certificate is only issued when it has verified the identity of the party requesting it. The CA has its root SSL certificates stored on its servers but doesn’t issue the root certificate. Instead, the CA signs another certificate that’s linked to its root certificate. This is called the “chain of trust.”

The browsers carry a list of trusted root certificates in their certificate store and verify the Java SSL certificate with that list. It establishes the connection with the server only when the verification is done successfully.

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Java TrustStore, KeyStore & KeyTool

As we saw, the root certificates are what form the foundation of trust when it comes to PKI that Java SSL certificates work on. The Java TrustStore contains these root certificates of trusted certificate authorities (CAs).

The TrustStore comes bundled with the JDK/JRE and is located in $JAVA_HOME/lib/security/cacerts.

The Java KeyStore, on the other hand, is a file used by an application server to store its private key and site certificate. Whenever a client (browser) connects with a web server, it accesses certificates stored in the KeyStore.

Java KeyTool is a utility that comes bundled with the JRE for managing key pairs and certificates. You can add or modify certificates using this utility.

Final Word

If you’re a Java developer, by now, you’d have realized how vital of a weapon a Java SSL certificate could be in your security arsenal. Therefore, you should always insist on protecting your websites/applications by installing a trusted Java SSL certificate.

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