Configuring Red Hat build of OpenJDK 21 on RHEL with FIPS

Red Hat build of OpenJDK 21

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Red Hat build of OpenJDK is a Red Hat offering on the Red Hat Enterprise Linux platform. The Configuring Red Hat build of OpenJDK 21 on RHEL with FIPS guide provides an overview of FIPS and explains how to enable and configure Red Hat build of OpenJDK with FIPS.

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Chapter 1. Introduction to Federal Information Processing Standards (FIPS)

The Federal Information Processing Standards (FIPS) provides guidelines and requirements for improving security and interoperability across computer systems and networks. The FIPS 140-2 and 140-3 series apply to cryptographic modules at both the hardware and software levels. The National Institute of Standards and Technology in the United States implements a cryptographic module validation program with searchable lists of both in-process and approved cryptographic modules.

Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) brings an integrated framework to enable FIPS 140-2 compliance system-wide. When operating under FIPS mode, software packages using cryptographic libraries are self-configured according to the global policy. Most of the packages provide a way to change the default alignment behavior for compatibility or other needs.

Red Hat build of OpenJDK 21 is a FIPS policy-aware package.

Additional resources

Chapter 2. Configure OpenJDK 17 in FIPS mode

Red Hat build of OpenJDK 21 checks if the FIPS mode is enabled in the system at startup. If yes, it self-configures FIPS according to the global policy. This is the default behavior since RHEL 8.3. Previous RHEL 8 releases require the com.redhat.fips system property set to true as a JVM argument. For example, -Dcom.redhat.fips=true.


If FIPS mode is enabled in the system while a JVM instance is running, the instance needs to be restarted for changes to take effect.

You can configure Red Hat build of OpenJDK 21 to bypass the global FIPS alignment. For example, you might want to enable FIPS compliance through a Hardware Security Module (HSM) instead of the scheme provided by Red Hat build of OpenJDK.

Following are the FIPS properties for Red Hat build of OpenJDK 21:

  • security.useSystemPropertiesFile

    • Security property located at $JAVA_HOME/conf/security/ or in the file directed to
    • Privileged access is required to modify the value in the default file.
    • Persistent configuration.
    • When set to false, both the global FIPS and the crypto-policies alignment are disabled. By default, it is set to true.

    • System property passed to the JVM as an argument. For example,
    • Non-privileged access is enough.
    • Non-persistent configuration.
    • When set to true, both the global FIPS and the crypto-policies alignment are disabled; generating the same effect than a security.useSystemPropertiesFile=false security property. If both properties are set to different behaviors, overrides. By default, it is set to false.
  • com.redhat.fips

    • System property passed to a JVM as an argument. For example, -Dcom.redhat.fips=false.
    • Non-privileged access is enough.
    • Non-persistent configuration.
    • When set to false, disables the FIPS alignment while still applying the global crypto-policies. If any of the previous properties is set to disable the crypto-policies alignment, this property has no effect. In other words, crypto-policies is a prerequisite for FIPS alignment. By default, it is set to true.

Additional resources

Chapter 3. Default FIPS configurations in OpenJDK 17

Red Hat build of OpenJDK 21 includes Introduction to Federal Information Processing Standards (FIPS) configurations that default to FIPS-complaint settings.

Review the following Red Hat build of OpenJDK 21 default FIPS configurations before you consider making any changes to these default configurations:

3.1. Security providers

The global java security policy file controls the Red Hat build of OpenJDK security policy. You can locate the java security policy file at $JRE_HOME/lib/security/

With FIPS mode enabled, Red Hat build of OpenJDK replaces the installed security providers with the following ones, which are listed in descending priority order:


  • Initialized with a Network Security Services (NSS) Software Token (PKCS#11 backend). The NSS Software Token contains the following configuration:

    • name = NSS-FIPS
    • nssLibraryDirectory = /usr/lib64
    • nssSecmodDirectory = /etc/pki/nssdb
    • nssDbMode = readOnly
    • nssModule = fips
  • The NSS library implements a FIPS-compliant Software Token. Also, FIPS policy-aware in RHEL.


  • For X.509 certificates support only. Check that your application is not using other cryptographic algorithms from this provider. Otherwise, the security provider throws a message.


  • For SunPKCS11 auxiliary helpers only. Check that your application is not explicitly using this provider.


  • For TLS support, SunJSSE uses the SUN provider for X.509 certificates and the SunPKCS11-NSS-FIPS provider for all cryptographic primitives.

3.2. Crypto-policies

With FIPS mode enabled, Red Hat build of OpenJDK takes configuration values of cryptographic algorithms from global crypto-policies. You can find these values at /etc/crypto-policies/back-ends/java.config. You can use the update-crypto-policies tooling from RHEL to manage crypto-policies in a consistent way.


A crypto-policies approved algorithm might not be usable in Red Hat build of OpenJDK’s FIPS mode. This occurs when a FIPS-compliant implementation is not available in the NSS library or when it is not supported in Red Hat build of OpenJDK’s SunPKCS11 security provider.

3.3. Trust Anchor certificates

Red Hat build of OpenJDK uses the global Trust Anchor certificates repository when in FIPS mode. You can locate this repository at /etc/pki/java/cacerts. Use the update-ca-trust tooling from RHEL to manage certificates in a consistent way.

3.4. Key store

With FIPS mode, Red Hat build of OpenJDK uses the NSS DB as a read-only PKCS#11 store for keys. As a result, the keystore.type security property is set to PKCS11. You can locate the NSS DB repository at /etc/pki/nssdb. Use the modutil tooling in RHEL to manage NSS DB keys.

Revised on 2023-11-14 21:10:56 UTC

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