Earlier this year, Amazon Web Services (AWS) released Amazon Corretto Crypto Provider (ACCP) 2, a cryptography provider built by AWS for Java virtual machine (JVM) applications. ACCP 2 delivers comprehensive performance enhancements, with some algorithms (such as elliptic curve key generation) seeing a greater than 13-fold improvement over ACCP 1. The new release also brings official support for the AWS Graviton family of processors. In this post, I’ll discuss a use case for ACCP, then review performance benchmarks to illustrate the performance gains. Finally, I’ll show you how to get started using ACCP 2 in applications today.
This release changes the backing cryptography library for ACCP from OpenSSL (used in ACCP 1) to the AWS open source cryptography library, AWS libcrypto (AWS-LC). AWS-LC has extensive formal verification, as well as traditional testing, to assure the correctness of cryptography that it provides. While AWS-LC and OpenSSL are largely compatible, there are some behavioral differences that required the ACCP major version increment to 2.
The move to AWS-LC also allows ACCP to leverage performance optimizations in AWS-LC for modern processors. I’ll illustrate the ACCP 2 performance enhancements through the use case of establishing a secure communications channel with Transport Layer Security version 1.3 (TLS 1.3). Specifically, I’ll examine cryptographic components of the connection’s initial phase, known as the handshake. TLS handshake latency particularly matters for large web service providers, but reducing the time it takes to perform various cryptographic operations is an operational win for any cryptography-intensive workload.
TLS 1.3 requires ephemeral key agreement, which means that a new key pair is generated and exchanged for every connection. During the TLS handshake, each party generates an ephemeral elliptic curve key pair, exchanges public keys using Elliptic Curve Diffie-Hellman (ECDH), and agrees on a shared secret. Finally, the client authenticates the server by verifying the Elliptic Curve Digital Signature Algorithm (ECDSA) signature in the certificate presented by the server after key exchange. All of this needs to happen before you can send data securely over the connection, so these operations directly impact handshake latency and must be fast.
Figure 1 shows benchmarks for the three elliptic curve algorithms that implement the TLS 1.3 handshake: elliptic curve key generation (up to 1,298% latency improvement in ACCP 2.0 over ACCP 1.6), ECDH key agreement (up to 858% latency improvement), and ECDSA digital signature verification (up to 260% latency improvement). These algorithms were benchmarked over three common elliptic curves with different key sizes on both ACCP 1 and ACCP 2. The choice of elliptic curve determines the size of the key used or generated by the algorithm, and key size correlates to performance. The following benchmarks were measured under the Amazon Corretto 11 JDK on a c7g.large instance running Amazon Linux with a Graviton 3 processor.
The performance improvements due to the optimization of secp384r1 in AWS-LC are particularly noteworthy.
Whether you’re introducing ACCP to your project or upgrading from ACCP 1, start the onboarding process for ACCP 2 by updating your dependency manager configuration in your development or testing environment. The Maven and Gradle examples below assume that you’re using linux on an ARM64 processor. If you’re using an x86 processor, substitute linux-x86_64 for linux-aarch64. After you’ve performed this update, sync your application’s dependencies and install ACCP in your JVM process. ACCP can be installed either by specifying our recommended security.properties file in your JVM invocation or programmatically at runtime. The following sections provide more details about all of these steps.
After ACCP has been installed, the Java Cryptography Architecture (JCA) will look for cryptographic implementations in ACCP first before moving on to other providers. So, as long as your application and dependencies obtain algorithms supported by ACCP from the JCA, your application should gain the benefits of ACCP 2 without further configuration or code changes.
If you’re using Maven to manage dependencies, add or update the following dependency configuration in your pom.xml file.
software.amazon.cryptools AmazonCorrettoCryptoProvider [2.0,3.0) linux-aarch64
For Gradle, add or update the following dependency in your build.gradle file.
Install through security properties
After updating your dependency manager, you’ll need to install ACCP. You can install ACCP using security properties as described in our GitHub repository. This installation method is a good option for users who have control over their JVM invocation.
If you don’t have control over your JVM invocation, you can install ACCP programmatically. For Java applications, add the following code to your application’s initialization logic (optionally performing a health check).
Migrating from ACCP 1 to ACCP 2
Although the migration path to version 2 is straightforward for most ACCP 1 users, ACCP 2 ends support for some outdated algorithms: a finite field Diffie-Hellman key agreement, finite field DSA signatures, and a National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST)-specified random number generator. The removal of these algorithms is not backwards compatible, so you’ll need to check your code for their usage and, if you do find usage, either migrate to more modern algorithms provided by ACCP 2 or obtain implementations from a different provider, such as one of the default providers that ships with the JDK.
Check your code
Search for unsupported algorithms in your application code by their JCA names:
- DH: Finite-field Diffie-Hellman key agreement
- DSA: Finite-field Digital Signature Algorithm
- NIST800-90A/AES-CTR-256: NIST-specified random number generator
Use ACCP 2 supported algorithms
Where possible, use these supported algorithms in your application code:
- ECDH for key agreement instead of DH
- ECDSA or RSA for signatures instead of DSA
- Default SecureRandom instead of NIST800-90A/AES-CTR-256
If your use case requires the now-unsupported algorithms, check whether any of those algorithms are explicitly requested from ACCP.
- If ACCP is not explicitly named as the provider, then you should be able to transparently fall back to another provider without a code change.
- If ACCP is explicitly named as the provider, then remove that provider specification and register a different provider that offers the algorithm. This will allow the JCA to obtain an implementation from another registered provider without breaking backwards compatibility in your application.
Test your code
Some behavioral differences exist between ACCP 2 and other providers, including ACCP 1 (backed by OpenSSL). After onboarding or migrating, it’s important that you test your application code thoroughly to identify potential incompatibilities between cryptography providers.
Integrate ACCP 2 into your application today to benefit from AWS-LC’s security assurance and performance improvements. For a full list of changes, see the ACCP CHANGELOG on GitHub. Linux builds of ACCP 2 are now available on Maven Central for aarch64 and x86-64 processor architectures. If you encounter any issues with your integration, or have any feature suggestions, please reach out to us on GitHub by filing an issue.
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