Chapter 3. Supported Standards and Protocols

Red Hat Certificate System is based on many public and standard protocols and RFCs, to ensure the best possible performance and interoperability. The major standards and protocols used or supported by Certificate System 9 are outlined in this chapter, to help administrators plan their client services effectively.

3.1. PKCS #11

Public-Key Cryptography Standard (PKCS) #11 specifies an API used to communicate with devices that hold cryptographic information and perform cryptographic operations. Because it supports PKCS #11, Certificate System is compatible with a wide range of hardware and software devices.
At least one PKCS #11 module must be available to any Certificate System subsystem instance. A PKCS #11 module (also called a cryptographic module or cryptographic service provider) manages cryptographic services such as encryption and decryption. PKCS #11 modules are analogous to drivers for cryptographic devices that can be implemented in either hardware or software. Certificate System contains a built-in PKCS #11 module and can support third-party modules.
A PKCS #11 module always has one or more slots which can be implemented as physical hardware slots in a physical reader such as smart cards or as conceptual slots in software. Each slot for a PKCS #11 module can in turn contain a token, which is a hardware or software device that actually provides cryptographic services and optionally stores certificates and keys.
Two cryptographic modules are included in the Certificate System:
  • The default internal PKCS #11 module, which comes with two tokens:
    • The internal crypto services token, which performs all cryptographic operations such as encryption, decryption, and hashing.
    • The internal key storage token ("Certificate DB token"), which handles all communication with the certificate and key database files that store certificates and keys.
  • The FIPS 140 module. This module complies with the FIPS 140 government standard for cryptographic module implementations. The FIPS 140 module includes a single, built-in FIPS 140 certificate database token, which handles both cryptographic operations and communication with the certificate and key database files.
Any PKCS #11 module can be used with the Certificate System. To use an external hardware token with a subsystem, load its PKCS #11 module before the subsystem is configured, and the new token is available to the subsystem.
Available PKCS #11 modules are tracked in the secmod.db database for the subsystem. The modutil utility is used to modify this file when there are changes to the system, such as installing a hardware accelerator to use for signing operations. For more information on modutil, see
PKCS #11 hardware devices also provide key backup and recovery features for the information stored on hardware tokens. Refer to the PKCS #11 vendor documentation for information on retrieving keys from the tokens.