FIPS 140 Compliant Mode for SunJSSE

In the Java™ 6 Security Enhancements, it says that "The SunJSSE provider now supports an experimental FIPS 140 compliant mode.  When enabled and used in combination with the SunPKCS11 provider and an appropriate FIPS 140 certified PKCS#11 token, SunJSSE is FIPS 140 compliant."  Except that, we cannot find any more document on how to enable FIPS mode and how the FIPS mode works with SunJSSE. Normally, developers could a few hints from Andreas blog,. The Java PKCS#11 Provider and NSS, althought it is far from enough to understand the FIPS mode of SunJSSE. The following is a unpublished document, hope it helps.

FIPS 140 Compliant Mode for SunJSSE

In Sun's Java SE implementation version 6 or later, the SunJSSE provider, which contains the SSL/TLS implementation, can be configured to operate in a FIPS 140 compliant mode instead of its default mode. This document describes the FIPS 140 compliant mode (subsequently called "FIPS mode").

Configuring SunJSSE for FIPS Mode

SunJSSE is configured in FIPS mode by associating it with an appropriate FIPS 140 certified cryptographic provider that supplies the implementations for all cryptographic algorithms required by SunJSSE. This can be done in one of the following ways:
  1. edit the file ${java.home}/lib/security/ and modify the line that lists to list the provider name of the FIPS 140 certified cryptographic provider. For example if the name of the cryptographic provider is SunPKCS11-NSS, change the line from
    to SunPKCS11-NSS
    The class for the provider of the given name must also be listed as a security provider in the file.
  2. at runtime, call the constructor of the SunJSSE provider that takes a object as a parameter. For example, if the variablecryptoProvider is a reference to the cryptographic provider, call new
  3. at runtime, call the constructor of the SunJSSE provider that takes a String object as a parameter. For example if the cryptographic provider is calledSunPKCS11-NSS call new"SunPKCS11-NSS"). A provider with the specified name must be one of the configured security providers.
Within a given Java process, SunJSSE can be used either in FIPS mode or in default mode, but not both at the same time. Once SunJSSE has been initialized, it is not possible to change the mode. This means that if one of the runtime configuration options is used (option 2 or 3), the configuration must take place before any SSL/TLS operation.
Note that only the specified configured provider will be used by the SunJSSE for any and all cryptographic operations. All other cryptographic providers including those included with the Java SE implementation will be ignored and not used.

Difference Between FIPS Mode and Default Mode

In FIPS mode, SunJSSE behaves in a way identical to default mode, except for the following differences.
In FIPS mode:
  • SunJSSE will perform all cryptographic operations using the cryptographic provider that was configured as described above. This includes symmetric and asymmetric encryption, signature generation and verification, message digests and message authentication codes, key generation and key derivation, random number generation, etc.
  • If the configured cryptographic provider reports any error by throwing an exception, SunJSSE will abort the current operation and propagate the exception to the application.
  • If the configured cryptographic provider believes it had a critical error such as a self test failure per FIPS guidelines, it needs to remain in an error state until it is re-initialized. The application using the SunJSSE configured with the FIPS cryptographic module will have to be restarted. This ensures that the FIPS module will not allow critical errors to compromise security.
  • Only TLS 1.0 and later can be used. SSL 2.0 and SSL 3.0 are not available. Any attempt to enable SSL 2.0 or 3.0 will fail with an exception.
  • The list of ciphersuites is limited to those that utilize appropriate algorithms. The current list of possible ciphersuites is given below. Any attempt to enable a ciphersuite not on the list will fail with an exception. 

Ciphersuites Usable in FIPS Mode

The following is the current list of ciphersuites which can be used by SunJSSE in FIPS mode with their names and the id as assigned in the TLS protocol provided that the configured cryptographic FIPS module supports the necessary algorithms. Note that although SunJSSE uses the prefix SSL_ in the name of some of these ciphersuites, this is for compatibility with earlier versions of the specification only. In FIPS mode, SunJSSE will always use TLS 1.0 or later and implement the ciphersuites as required by those specifications.


When SunJSSE is configured in FIPS 140 compliant mode together with an appropriate FIPS 140 certified cryptographic provider, for example Network Security Services (NSS) in its FIPS mode, SunJSSE is FIPS 140 compliant. 

Linkage to the blog entry at

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