Sunday, August 21, 2011

Using Https URL connection in Java

It’s neither a new technology nor something which has not been explored yet. I happened to come across a requirement where https call required to be invoked using Java code. So the requirement was, given an URL which happens to be https I require to collect a sever certificate, do an initial handshake (in SSL) or do a later secure connection (in TLS), finally access the resource on https site.
Step 1: https server setup
This is simplest step, you can do any web server https setup, just require to extract the server certificate. We will require it to be included in our Java client trust store. What I did was started IIS 7 on my box, extracted server certificate to a file (servercert.pfx).
Step 2: Create jks keystore having server certificate
In case you have jks file you can export and import certificate using keytool. Since, I had .pfx file, following requires to be done using openssl,
  • Extract key and certificate from PFX certificate to PEM format
    • Extracted key as: openssl pkcs12 -nocerts –in <pfx-file> –out <any-pem-extn-key-filename> -passin pass:<pfx-password> -passout pass:<pem-password>
    • Extracted cert as: openssl pkcs12 -clcerts -nokeys –in <pfx-file> –out <any-pem-extn-cert-filename> -passin pass:<pfx-password>
  • Convert PEM key and certificate to DER
    • openssl pkcs8 -topk8 -nocrypt –in <pem-extn-key-file> -inform PEM –out <any-der-extn-key-filename> -outform DER -passin pass:<pem-password>
    • openssl x509 –in <pem-extn-cert-file> -inform PEM –out <any-der-extn-cert-filename> -outform DER
  • Use DER key and certificate to make jks keystore
    • You have to create an instance of keystore, load the bytes from der files and call setKeyEntry and setCertificate method. There is piece of code available at agentbob named as Use this program (modify keystore file name, alias, key store password you may want to set)
Though for SSL establishment, we require just server certificate to be verified with client’s copy when the initial establishment happens. If the client trusts the copy of the SSL certificate server has sent during SSL establishment, client sends a message, in turn server sends a digitally signed acknowledgement to start SSL encrypted session. You may send client certificate, but it’s on the SSL server side, whether it is configured to accept/ignore/require client certificates.
Step 3: Write some Java client code to establish SSL socket connection
We require to set SSLSocketFactory and HostVerifier on HttpsURLConnection
HttpsURLConnection httpsConnection = (HttpsURLConnection)url.openConnection();
InputStreamReader content = new InputStreamReader(httpsConnection.getInputStream());
for (int i=0;i != -1;i =
    System.out.print((char) i);

Host Verifier is an optional code component, which helps you to verify whether your session peer is same you are assuming to connect, can be written as,

private HostnameVerifier getHostVerifier(){
HostnameVerifier hostnameVerifier = new HostnameVerifier() 
    public boolean verify(String urlHostName, SSLSession session)
        System.out.println("Warning: URL Host: " + urlHostName + " v/s " + session.getPeerHost());
        return true;
return hostnameVerifier;

Most importantly, we require to set SSL socket factory with right keystore and truststore, we can use TLS instance too, you can get name of SSL/TLS algorithms here

private SSLSocketFactory getSocketFactory() throws ...{
    SSLContext sctx = SSLContext.getInstance("SSLv3");
    SecureRandom secureRandom = new SecureRandom();
    sctx.init(getKeyManagers(), getTrustManagers(), secureRandom);
    return sctx.getSocketFactory();

Key Managers and Trust Managers can be created as,

private KeyManager[] getKeyManagers() throws ...{
    KeyManagerFactory kmf = KeyManagerFactory.getInstance("SunX509");
    kmf.init(keystore, password.toCharArray());
    return kmf.getKeyManagers();

private TrustManager[] getTrustManagers() throws ...{
    TrustManagerFactory tmf = TrustManagerFactory.getInstance("SunX509");
    return tmf.getTrustManagers();

Finally the keystore instance used above in the key manager and trust manager, you have to load the server certificate keystore.

File file = new File("servercert.jks");
FileInputStream is = new FileInputStream(file); 
keystore = KeyStore.getInstance("jks"); 
keystore.load(is, keystorePassword.toCharArray());    

Once I had this piece of code knitted together, I received following error, HelloRequest followed by an unexpected  handshake message. I learned we required to set a system property,

System.setProperty("", "true");

Once this has been done, I was able to make https call to my IIS hosted site as,

maker.makeHttpsCall(new URL(;

I hope this will help you establish SSL connection from Java code.

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