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Service provider encryption

If you built your own service provider to connect to GOV.UK Verify, you are responsible for keeping its encryption and signing certificates up to date.

If your service provider does not support dual running for your encryption keys, there will be an outage when you replace the encryption key. Find out more about the process in the instructions for running service providers that cannot dual run.

If you’re using the Verify Service Provider, see how to update your Verify Service Provider keys.

Rotate your service provider encryption key and certificate

Step 1. Create a new self-signed encryption certificate

Use your preferred method to generate a new private key and self-signed certificate pair.

Make sure the private key is PKCS #8 formatted and PEM encoded.

The self-signed certificate must be:

  • valid for one year
  • in X.509 format and PEM encoded

See an example
You can use OpenSSL to generate your keys and self-signed certificates. Most Linux distributions and Mac OS versions have OpenSSL installed.

Generate your private key and self-signed certificate:

openssl req -x509 -newkey rsa:2048 -days 365 -nodes -sha256 \
   -keyout <private-key>.key -out <certificate>.crt

The terminal will prompt you for information. You must provide a Common Name. All other information is optional.

The Common Name is the part of the certificate metadata that helps you identify that certificate more easily. You can use the Common Name to check you’ve uploaded the right certificate when using the GOV.UK Verify Manage certificates service.

There is no mandatory naming convention for Common Name, but it’s useful during troubleshooting if you include the:

  • name of your service
  • name of the component the certificate is for
  • environment name you generated the certificate for
  • certificate type
  • version number for your certificate

Common Name must not contain underscores.

For example, the common name could be Universal-Credit-MSA-integration-signing-01.

Step 2. Add the new encryption key and certificate

Add your new service provider private encryption key to your service provider. Your service can now use both the new and old keys to decrypt SAML messages.

Step 3. Upload the new encryption certificate

Upload your new encryption certificate to the GOV.UK Verify Manage certificates service.

This starts a deployment process to replace your old service provider encryption certificate with the new one in the GOV.UK Verify Hub configuration. During deployment the GOV.UK Verify Hub will continue to use your old certificate. The deployment process does not cause any connection downtime.

When the deployment is complete, the GOV.UK Verify Hub will be using your new certificate to encrypt messages for your service.

The deployment process takes approximately 10 minutes. You will receive an email confirmation when the GOV.UK Verify Hub starts using your new encryption certificate. You can also check the deployment status on the GOV.UK Verify Manage certificates service dashboard.

Wait for deployment confirmation before moving to the next step.

Step 4. Delete the old encryption key

The email from the GOV.UK Verify team confirms that GOV.UK Verify Hub is now using your new certificate to encrypt messages for your service. This means you can remove the old encryption key from your service provider configuration.

Warning Wait for the deployment confirmation email from the GOV.UK Verify Team before removing the old encryption key.

Once you’ve removed the old encryption key, your service provider only uses the new encryption key to decrypt messages from GOV.UK Verify Hub.

This page was last reviewed on 27 January 2020. It needs to be reviewed again on 27 May 2020 by the page owner #verify-developers .
This page was set to be reviewed before 27 May 2020 by the page owner #verify-developers. This might mean the content is out of date.