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Web services are here to stay, but if you are like most software developers, you worry about the plaintext SOAP (Simple Object Access Protocol) messages being exchanged over the Web. Web services security is a hot topic today because the success of this exciting technology hinges directly upon how secure we can make it. To that end, the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) has defined the XML Signature and XML Encryption specifications for digitally signing and encrypting XML-based communication messages, such as the SOAP messages used in Web services. Furthermore, companies such as IBM, Microsoft, and VeriSign have partnered to provide additional specifications, such as WS-Security (Web Services Security), that build upon these W3C specifications. And who hasn't heard of the Liberty Alliance Project, a consortium of companies led by Sun Microsystems to provide a standards-based single sign-on solution to Web services? In the midst of all these initiatives lies the Apache XML Security project, an open source project that currently implements the W3C XML Signature specification and will soon support the XML Encryption specification. This article serves as a tutorial to get you up to speed with this outstanding implementation.
The Institute for Data Communications Systems at the University of Siegen in Germany donated the XML Security project to the
Apache Foundation in September 2001. As of this writing, the latest version is 1.0.4, which is the version I discuss in this
article—version 1.0.5 is currently in testing and available for download from Apache. Once you download the zipped binary
distribution from Apache, unzip it in your root directory (for example, C:) in a directory called
xml-security-1_0_4. (yes, these instructions have a Windows slant). The Apache XML Security project requires the Java Cryptography Extensions
(JCE) library, which is not included with the distribution due to US export restrictions on cryptography. I obtained my copy,
jce_1_2_2.jar, from Sun's Website and placed it in the
ext directory under my Java runtime (that is, the directory
C:\jdk1.3\jre\lib\ext). You will also need a stable version of Xalan (2.2.0 or later), which you can also download from Apache. Ensure
xalan.jar is either in your classpath or in the
ext directory along with the JCE JAR. You are now ready to start signing your XML!
Note: I use J2SE (Java 2 Platform, Standard Edition) 1.3, since my client originally required that. For those of you using J2SE
1.4, which comes bundled with a beta version of Xalan, you have one more installation step: You must put the
xalan.jar into a special directory in your
JDK—j2sdk1.4.0/jre/lib/endorsed/xalan.jar. If you installed an out-of-the-box J2SE 1.4 (for example, on Windows 2000), the endorsed directory does not exist; you'll
have to create it by hand. Putting this JAR in another location like lib/ext will not work. For more on that issue, check the Unofficial JAXP (Java API for XML Processing) FAQ. Why did Sun include a beta version of Xalan in J2SE 1.4? I have no idea.