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Private Key Store

Athenz servers (both ZMS and ZTS) require a unique private key to sign their respective tokens. There are 2 distinct operations that require the use of signatures:

  • NToken/ZToken signatures
  • Policy Document signatures

The private key could be unique per host (if you have multiple ZMS and/or ZTS servers in your production environment) or per data center location. By default the server ships with a file based private key store which expects to find the private key in PEM format in the configured file. The system administrator may decide to configure and use this implementation or otherwise implement a completely new one to satisfy their requirements (e.g. the private keys are to be stored in some external system rather than a file).

Private Key Store Interfaces

To provide ZMS/ZTS servers with private keys, the following two interfaces must be implemented:

The job of the PrivateKeyStoreFactory class is to implement a single create() method which returns an instance of PrivateKeyStore class implementation.

The job of the PrivateKeyStore class is to return a private key for a given host in a PEM format. The hostname is passed as the first argument to the getPrivateKey() method. Each private key in Athenz is identified by a unique key identifier. This allows each service to have multiple active private/public key pairs to support per host keys with key rotation capability. The getPrivateKey() method is passed a StringBuilder object that the implementation must update and return the corresponding key identifier for the public key returned from this method.

During server startup, Athenz servers will load the configured private key store factory class and invoke the create method. Then it will use the PrivateKeyStore object returned to retrieve the private key for the host.

If the private key store does not return a PrivateKey (returns null), then the server will continue to run. This is necessary since it's possible that an environment may choose to run only ZMS Servers for centralized authorization thus no need to sign and distribute policy documents and only supports TLS certificates for principal authentication thus no need to sign and issue NTokens.


Both ZMS and ZTS Servers expect to find the configured private key store factory class names in their respective system properties:

  • ZMS: athenz.zms.private_key_store_factory_class
  • ZTS: athenz.zts.private_key_store_factory_class

For example,

If you're installing and running Athenz services using the binary packages provided, you can configure the private key store factory class in the conf/zms_server/ or conf/zts_server/ files for ZMS and ZTS servers respectively:

Provided Implementation

Here is the list of Athenz provided private key store implementations with brief description of each one.

File Based Private Key Store


This factory class creates and returns a single private key regardless of the hostname passed to the getPrivateKey() method. The private key file and its corresponding id can be configured by using the following system properties:

  • Key File: athenz.auth.private_key_store.private_key
  • Key-Id: athenz.auth.private_key_store.private_key_id

The key file must be a PEM encoded either RSA or EC private key.