High-performance Ed25519 and X25519 cryptography comes to Nimbus JOSE+JWT

Asymmetric RSA and EC cryptography comes at a cost. Its overhead can be a limiting factor in how quickly an OpenID Connect / OAuth 2.0 server can mint tokens, and client applications and protected resources can validate them. This new 6.0 release of the Nimbus JOSE+JWT library introduces support for high-performance public key cryptography based on the Ed25519 and X25519 algorithms. The benchmarks showed signatures with Ed25519 receiving a 62x boost over 2048-bit RSA, with verification remaining roughly on par.

Operation Ed25519 RSA 2048 ECDSA P-256
Sign 14635 ops/s 236 ops/s 1083 ops/s
Verify 5065 ops/s 8598 ops/s 687 ops/s

Edwards-curve cryptography was defined for JOSE in RFC 8037, the last specification to come out of the working group. The standard Java Cryptography Architecture (JCA) still lacks Edwards-curve cryptography support, which meant we had to find a suitable external Ed25519 / X25519 implementation and integrate it directly, without the help of JCA abstractions. For that we chose Google's Tink, which is written entirely in Java and is already mature enough to be used in production.

To use Ed25515 and X25519 for JOSE you need to include the Tink dependency, which is marked as optional, in your Maven project. For Nimbus JOSE+JWT 6.0 that is


Edwards-curve cryptography in JOSE requires a new type of key called octet key pair (OKP). To generate such a JWK of type OKP just specify the curve name and any key metadata required by your application:

import java.util.*;

import com.nimbusds.jose.jwk.*;
import com.nimbusds.jose.jwk.gen.*;

// Generate Ed25519 Octet key pair (OKP) in JWK format, attach some metadata
OctetKeyPair jwk = new OctetKeyPairGenerator(Curve.Ed25519)
    .keyUse(KeyUse.SIGNATURE) // indicate the intended use of the key
    .keyID(UUID.randomUUID().toString()) // give the key a unique ID

// Output OKP

// Output public key only

Example Ed25519 key in JWK format with public x parameter, private d parameter and metadata:

  "kty" : "OKP",
  "crv" : "Ed25519",
  "x"   : "11qYAYKxCrfVS_7TyWQHOg7hcvPapiMlrwIaaPcHURo",
  "d"   : "nWGxne_9WmC6hEr0kuwsxERJxWl7MmkZcDusAxyuf2A"
  "use" : "sig",
  "kid" : "FdFYFzERwC2uCBB46pZQi4GG85LujR8obt-KWRBICVQ"

Here is a code snippet showing signing and validation of a JSON Web Token (JWT) secured with Ed25519:

import java.util.Date;

import com.nimbusds.jose.*;
import com.nimbusds.jose.crypto.*;
import com.nimbusds.jose.jwk.*;
import com.nimbusds.jose.jwk.gen.*;
import com.nimbusds.jwt.*;

// Create the EdDSA signer with the generated OKP
JWSSigner signer = new Ed25519Signer(jwk);

// Prepare JWT with claims set
JWTClaimsSet claimsSet = new JWTClaimsSet.Builder()
    .expirationTime(new Date(new Date().getTime() + 60 * 1000))

SignedJWT signedJWT = new SignedJWT(
    new JWSHeader.Builder(JWSAlgorithm.Ed25519).keyID(jwk.getKeyID()).build(),

// Compute the EC signature

// Serialize the JWS to compact form
String s = signedJWT.serialize();

// On the consumer side, parse the JWS and verify its EdDSA signature with the
// public OKP
signedJWT = SignedJWT.parse(s);

JWSVerifier verifier = new Ed25519Verifier(publicJWK);

// Retrieve / verify the JWT claims according to the application requirements
assertEquals("alice", signedJWT.getJWTClaimsSet().getSubject());
assertEquals("https://c2id.com", signedJWT.getJWTClaimsSet().getIssuer());
assertTrue(new Date().before(signedJWT.getJWTClaimsSet().getExpirationTime()));

Release notes

version 6.0 (2018-08-07)

  • Adds an Ed25519Signer and Ed25519Verifier for EdDSA with an Ed25519 curve (RFC 8037, section 3.1). Requires the optional com.google.crypto.tink:tink:1.2.0-rc2 dependency.
  • Adds an X25519Encrypter and X25519Decrypter for ECDH-ES key agreement with an X25519 curve (RFC 8037, section 3.2). Requires the optional com.google.crypto.tink:tink:1.2.0-rc2 dependency.
  • Adds an OctetKeyPairGenerator for generating JSON Web Keys (JWT) of type "OKP" with Ed25519 and X25519 curves.
  • Breaking change: The ephemeral public key (epk) in JWEHeader is now represented by the more general JWK class instead of ECKey which only allowed EC JWKs. The change was necessary to implement ECDH-ES key agreement with an Octet Key Pair (OKP) JWK.
  • Refactors the Base64 and Base64URL codec utilities to prevent potential cache timing attacks due to use of table lookups. The Base64URL utility is used to decode the encrypted key portion in a JWE object (iss #270).
  • Fixes Maven build so that the output JDK 1.7 JAR has 1.7 classes and not 1.6 (iss #271).