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Cryptography in .NET

, 9 Oct 2002
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Cryptography in .NET using the Windows PKI


Windows provides a Public Key Infrastructure (PKI) that allows us to store certificates for encryption purposes. To access the this store we had two possibilities in the unmanaged past: The CryptoAPI and the CAPICOM.

The Framework Class Library (= FCL) provies a lot of function for encryption, but the current release doesn't provide any classes for accessing the the certificate store. Fortunately a the Web Services Development Kit (WSDK) Technology Preview adds this functionality; later this will be included in the FCL itself. But in the mean time you have to download the WSDK.

Enumerating The Certificate Store

The article Using WS-Security with the Web Services Development Kit Technology Preview has this nice example:
using Microsoft.WSDK.Security.Cryptography;
using Microsoft.WSDK.Security.Cryptography.X509Certificates;
private X509CertificateStore store;
private void Form1_Load( object sender, System.EventArgs e )
    store = X509CertificateStore.CurrentUserStore( X509CertificateStore.MyStore );
    foreach( X509Certificate cert in store.Certificates )
        listBox1.Items.Add( cert.GetName() );

Asymmetric Encryption/Signature Example

The following code is the funcionallity of my submitted example. It assumes that you have at least two certificates (with private key!) in your Personal Certificate Store.


   // BEGINNER-TIP: Start MMC (=Microsoft Management Console) and select "Add-in/remove Snapin"
   // from the "Console" menu. Now press "Add.." button. Select "Certificates" in the list and
   // press "Add" button. You have the choise to select "My user account" or "Computer account".
   // Then press "Finish" and "Close" and start exploring the installed certificates... 
   // Each store has a "Personal" section with is BTW represented by the letters "MY".
   // Also interessting is the "Trusted root" certificates, there you see all the Certificate
   // Issuer that you trust, there is quite a lot and sometimes it's a good idea to delete
   // all of them and only add the one you need or really trust, for security resasons.

   // Open private certificate store of current user

   X509CertificateStore store = 
               X509CertificateStore.CurrentUserStore( X509CertificateStore.MyStore );

   // Read e.g. the first two certificate
   X509Certificate sender = (X509Certificate)store.Certificates[0];
   X509Certificate receiver = (X509Certificate)store.Certificates[1];

   // Let's see who we are dealing with... - ps: not nessesary for the following code
   string sender_serial = sender.GetName();
   string receiver_serial = receiver.GetName();


   // SENDER-SIDE: Extract own private keys and receiver's public key

   RSAParameters sender_private = sender.Key.ExportParameters( true );
   RSAParameters receiver_public = receiver.Key.ExportParameters( false );

   // SENDER-SIDE: Asymmetric encryption with receivers's public key
   RSACryptoServiceProvider rsa = new RSACryptoServiceProvider();
   rsa.ImportParameters( receiver_public ); 
   byte[] cleartext = ASCIIEncoding.ASCII.GetBytes("test");
   byte[] cipher = rsa.Encrypt( cleartext, false );
   // SENDER-SIDE: Sign the cipher with own private key
   rsa = new RSACryptoServiceProvider();
   rsa.ImportParameters( sender_private );
   byte[] signature = rsa.SignData( cipher, new SHA1CryptoServiceProvider() );


   // RECEIVER-SIDE: Get own private key and sender's public key

   RSAParameters receiver_private = receiver.Key.ExportParameters( true );
   RSAParameters sender_public = sender.Key.ExportParameters( false );

   // RECEIVER-SIDE: Verify signature with sender's public key
   // Note: You are ONLY verifying the signature and NOT verifying the Certificate!
   // It's corresponding to the CAPICOM call SignedData.Verify( CAPICOM_VERIFY_SIGNATURE_ONLY )
   // I did not yet find out how we can use the .NET library to verify the Certificate
   // against the issuer-chain. If someone knows how to do this, and not using interop
   // and the SignedData.Verify( CAPICOM_VERIFY_SIGNATURE_AND_CERTIFICATE ), I would be
   // very, very, very happy - because this is a requirement in the software I'm developing
   // currently and if we can't do that I have to do CAPI-interop :-(
   // At the moment I think that there is no simple function call for this and this s***s.
   // Maybe it's possible to walk throw the chain-of-issuers and validate the fingerprint
   // this the public key of the issuer. But I don't know enough about that....

   rsa = new RSACryptoServiceProvider();
   rsa.ImportParameters( sender_public );
   if( rsa.VerifyData( cipher, new SHA1CryptoServiceProvider(), signature ) )
      // RECEIVER-SIDE: Asmymetirc decryption with own private key
      rsa.ImportParameters( receiver_private );
      byte[] cleartext_after_decription = rsa.Decrypt( cipher, false );

      // Check result
      Debug.Assert( ASCIIEncoding.ASCII.GetString( cleartext ) ==
         ASCIIEncoding.ASCII.GetString( cleartext_after_decription ),
         "Ups, the cleartext input is not equal the cleartext output..." );
      Debug.Assert( false, "Ups, check signature failed!" );
catch( Exception e )

   // NOTE: the following exception, that may occure during 'ExportParameters( true )'
   //   System.Security.Cryptography.CryptographicException
   //   "Key information could not be exported from the cryptographic service 
   //    provider (CSP) for this implementation." }"
   // Can have one of the following reasons:
   // + The certificate was NOT imported with the flag "Mark the private key as exportable"
   // + The type "SSL Server Authentication(40)" and is in a CurrentUser store and not in
   //   the LocalComputer store. See certificate details in the MMC under "NetscapeCertType".
   //   IMHO: This reason is very wicked and I don't understand it!!

   Debug.Assert( false, e.ToString() );

Note: The X509Certificate class provides the function ExportParameters and the boolean parameter defines if the private key has to be submitted as well.

A quick note

Favorite person names for encryption examples are Alice, Bob and mean Steve. If you like to see how they are doing in .NET, search your MSDN examples for the excellent example file called PublicKey.cs!


This article has no explicit license attached to it but may contain usage terms in the article text or the download files themselves. If in doubt please contact the author via the discussion board below.

A list of licenses authors might use can be found here


About the Author

Manuel Permuy
Web Developer
Switzerland Switzerland
No Biography provided

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Comments and Discussions

Questionwhat is the difference between signing and encryption in rsa? Pin
Member 151309928-Oct-09 2:45
memberMember 151309928-Oct-09 2:45 
GeneralIt is giving "Key not valid in use for specified state" Error Pin
dhanashekar28-Oct-05 1:07
memberdhanashekar28-Oct-05 1:07 
Generalusing wse 2.0 or 1.0 Pin
FPARRA812-Sep-05 13:17
memberFPARRA812-Sep-05 13:17 
GeneralCode cannot work in WSE 2.0 Pin
frustrated4-Jan-05 12:59
memberfrustrated4-Jan-05 12:59 
GeneralRe: Code cannot work in WSE 2.0 Pin
dcoolidge2-Aug-05 9:37
memberdcoolidge2-Aug-05 9:37 
QuestionCryptography into Windows Service ? Pin
Pattt9-Dec-04 7:40
memberPattt9-Dec-04 7:40 
AnswerRe: Cryptography into Windows Service ? Pin
jlandheer18-Jun-05 15:28
memberjlandheer18-Jun-05 15:28 
AnswerRe: Cryptography into Windows Service ? Pin
Anouphab8-Dec-06 1:49
memberAnouphab8-Dec-06 1:49 
Questionhow to remove a private key using CAPICOM Pin
chenkaijiang@yahoo.com7-Dec-04 2:42
memberchenkaijiang@yahoo.com7-Dec-04 2:42 
GeneralUsing more secure hash algorithm Pin
gceaser14-Oct-04 4:16
membergceaser14-Oct-04 4:16 
In the example provided, the code is using SHA1 - I need to use a more robust hashing algorithm such as SHA256 or higher. However, everytime I try to pass in anything other than an SHA1 object to the signdata function, I receive an error message stating the OID is not known. Any suggestions?
GeneralProblem signing a serilized object using CAPICOM.SignedData Pin
Escroto5-Aug-04 23:54
memberEscroto5-Aug-04 23:54 
GeneralRe: Problem signing a serilized object using CAPICOM.SignedData Pin
Manuel Permuy6-Aug-04 13:10
memberManuel Permuy6-Aug-04 13:10 
GeneralRe: Problem signing a serilized object using CAPICOM.SignedData Pin
Escroto6-Aug-04 21:28
memberEscroto6-Aug-04 21:28 
GeneralRe: Problem signing a serilized object using CAPICOM.SignedData Pin
Manuel Permuy9-Aug-04 3:26
memberManuel Permuy9-Aug-04 3:26 
Generalx509certficatestore Pin
Lucia Melotti22-Apr-04 2:33
memberLucia Melotti22-Apr-04 2:33 
rayback_29-Dec-03 7:13
memberrayback_29-Dec-03 7:13 
GeneralRe: CAPICOM+CDO Pin
rayback_223-Dec-03 23:17
memberrayback_223-Dec-03 23:17 
GeneralRe: CAPICOM+CDO Pin
goayeh21-Apr-05 16:19
sussgoayeh21-Apr-05 16:19 
GeneralRe: CAPCIOM+CDO SendSignedMail Pin
rayback_221-Apr-05 21:19
memberrayback_221-Apr-05 21:19 
GeneralRe: CAPCIOM+CDO SendSignedMail Pin
NoradYeh26-Apr-05 22:12
memberNoradYeh26-Apr-05 22:12 
GeneralRe: CAPCIOM+CDO SendSignedMail Pin
rayback_226-Apr-05 22:26
memberrayback_226-Apr-05 22:26 
GeneralRe: CAPCIOM+CDO SendSignedMail Pin
abygm2-Nov-07 2:15
memberabygm2-Nov-07 2:15 
Generaluse phone number Pin
smail belmokhtar19-Nov-03 1:51
membersmail belmokhtar19-Nov-03 1:51 
QuestionWhich page is main source? Pin
Stefan Pedersen3-Oct-03 11:07
memberStefan Pedersen3-Oct-03 11:07 
AnswerRe: Which page is main source? Pin
Manuel Permuy5-Oct-03 7:03
memberManuel Permuy5-Oct-03 7:03 
Generalyour URL to WSDK is broken Pin
norm25-Aug-03 21:29
membernorm25-Aug-03 21:29 
GeneralWSDK becomes WSE Pin
.Net wannabe6-Jun-03 14:53
suss.Net wannabe6-Jun-03 14:53 
GeneralHelp needed Pin
MBuuri22-May-03 3:07
memberMBuuri22-May-03 3:07 
GeneralRe: Help needed Pin
Marcello Drewanz18-Jun-03 7:25
memberMarcello Drewanz18-Jun-03 7:25 
GeneralYou get a 5... Pin
Chris Maunder25-Feb-03 9:00
adminChris Maunder25-Feb-03 9:00 
General"I am Emmet Smith!" Pin
rflagg24-Feb-03 17:35
memberrflagg24-Feb-03 17:35 
GeneralRe: "I am Emmet Smith!" Pin
Manuel Permuy4-Feb-04 13:48
memberManuel Permuy4-Feb-04 13:48 
GeneralCertificate issuer chain... Pin
Fred James11-Feb-03 2:13
memberFred James11-Feb-03 2:13 
GeneralVerify the Certificate Pin
Fred James11-Feb-03 2:12
memberFred James11-Feb-03 2:12 
GeneralRe: Verify the Certificate Pin
WhyIamhere30-Apr-04 9:12
memberWhyIamhere30-Apr-04 9:12 
GeneralCAPICOM Pin
poojavedi29-Jan-03 0:00
memberpoojavedi29-Jan-03 0:00 
QuestionCAPICOM Necessary? Pin
SteveC881-Oct-02 8:45
memberSteveC881-Oct-02 8:45 
AnswerRe: CAPICOM Necessary? Pin
Manuel Permuy4-Oct-02 13:01
memberManuel Permuy4-Oct-02 13:01 
GeneralThe X509Certificate class provides the function ExportParameters Pin
Anonymous28-Sep-02 7:20
sussAnonymous28-Sep-02 7:20 
GeneralRe: The X509Certificate class provides the function ExportParameters Pin
Manuel Permuy30-Sep-02 11:16
memberManuel Permuy30-Sep-02 11:16 
GeneralRe: The X509Certificate class provides the function ExportParameters Pin
Anonymous6-Oct-02 3:56
sussAnonymous6-Oct-02 3:56 
GeneralRe: The X509Certificate class provides the function ExportParameters Pin
Manuel Permuy6-Oct-02 13:38
memberManuel Permuy6-Oct-02 13:38 
GeneralRe: The X509Certificate class provides the function ExportParameters Pin
Alex Butcher22-Dec-02 22:28
sussAlex Butcher22-Dec-02 22:28 
GeneralRe: The X509Certificate class provides the function ExportParameters Pin
SteveC-A929-Jan-04 9:03
memberSteveC-A929-Jan-04 9:03 
Question"FCL"? Pin
Uwe Keim25-Sep-02 20:59
sitebuilderUwe Keim25-Sep-02 20:59 
AnswerRe: "FCL"? Pin
Anonymous25-Sep-02 21:26
sussAnonymous25-Sep-02 21:26 
AnswerRe: "FCL"? Pin
Manuel Permuy27-Sep-02 5:52
memberManuel Permuy27-Sep-02 5:52 

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