Encrypt Password in Configuration Files?

A simple way of doing this is to use Password Based Encryption in Java. This allows you to encrypt and decrypt a text by using a password.

This basically means initializing a javax.crypto.Cipher with algorithm "AES/CBC/PKCS5Padding" and getting a key from javax.crypto.SecretKeyFactory with the "PBKDF2WithHmacSHA512" algorithm.

Here is a code example (updated to replace the less secure MD5-based variant):

import java.io.IOException;
import java.io.UnsupportedEncodingException;
import java.security.AlgorithmParameters;
import java.security.GeneralSecurityException;
import java.security.NoSuchAlgorithmException;
import java.security.spec.InvalidKeySpecException;
import java.util.Base64;
import javax.crypto.Cipher;
import javax.crypto.SecretKey;
import javax.crypto.SecretKeyFactory;
import javax.crypto.spec.IvParameterSpec;
import javax.crypto.spec.PBEKeySpec;
import javax.crypto.spec.SecretKeySpec;

public class ProtectedConfigFile {

    public static void main(String[] args) throws Exception {
        String password = System.getProperty("password");
        if (password == null) {
            throw new IllegalArgumentException("Run with -Dpassword=<password>");

        // The salt (probably) can be stored along with the encrypted data
        byte[] salt = new String("12345678").getBytes();

        // Decreasing this speeds down startup time and can be useful during testing, but it also makes it easier for brute force attackers
        int iterationCount = 40000;
        // Other values give me java.security.InvalidKeyException: Illegal key size or default parameters
        int keyLength = 128;
        SecretKeySpec key = createSecretKey(password.toCharArray(),
                salt, iterationCount, keyLength);

        String originalPassword = "secret";
        System.out.println("Original password: " + originalPassword);
        String encryptedPassword = encrypt(originalPassword, key);
        System.out.println("Encrypted password: " + encryptedPassword);
        String decryptedPassword = decrypt(encryptedPassword, key);
        System.out.println("Decrypted password: " + decryptedPassword);

    private static SecretKeySpec createSecretKey(char[] password, byte[] salt, int iterationCount, int keyLength) throws NoSuchAlgorithmException, InvalidKeySpecException {
        SecretKeyFactory keyFactory = SecretKeyFactory.getInstance("PBKDF2WithHmacSHA512");
        PBEKeySpec keySpec = new PBEKeySpec(password, salt, iterationCount, keyLength);
        SecretKey keyTmp = keyFactory.generateSecret(keySpec);
        return new SecretKeySpec(keyTmp.getEncoded(), "AES");

    private static String encrypt(String property, SecretKeySpec key) throws GeneralSecurityException, UnsupportedEncodingException {
        Cipher pbeCipher = Cipher.getInstance("AES/CBC/PKCS5Padding");
        pbeCipher.init(Cipher.ENCRYPT_MODE, key);
        AlgorithmParameters parameters = pbeCipher.getParameters();
        IvParameterSpec ivParameterSpec = parameters.getParameterSpec(IvParameterSpec.class);
        byte[] cryptoText = pbeCipher.doFinal(property.getBytes("UTF-8"));
        byte[] iv = ivParameterSpec.getIV();
        return base64Encode(iv) + ":" + base64Encode(cryptoText);

    private static String base64Encode(byte[] bytes) {
        return Base64.getEncoder().encodeToString(bytes);

    private static String decrypt(String string, SecretKeySpec key) throws GeneralSecurityException, IOException {
        String iv = string.split(":")[0];
        String property = string.split(":")[1];
        Cipher pbeCipher = Cipher.getInstance("AES/CBC/PKCS5Padding");
        pbeCipher.init(Cipher.DECRYPT_MODE, key, new IvParameterSpec(base64Decode(iv)));
        return new String(pbeCipher.doFinal(base64Decode(property)), "UTF-8");

    private static byte[] base64Decode(String property) throws IOException {
        return Base64.getDecoder().decode(property);

One problem remains: Where should you store the password that you use to encrypt the passwords? You can store it in the source file and obfuscate it, but it’s not too hard to find it again. Alternatively, you can give it as a system property when you start the Java process (-DpropertyProtectionPassword=...).

The same issue remains if you use the KeyStore, which also is protected by a password. Basically, you will need to have one master password somewhere, and it’s pretty hard to protect.

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