This documentation is for WSO2 Identity Server 5.6.0 . View documentation for the latest release.

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How it works

In contrast to the usual one-way SSL authentication where a client verifies the identity of the server, in mutual SSL the server validates the identity of the client so that both parties trust each other. This builds a system that has a very tight security and avoids any requests made to the client to provide the username/password, as long as the server is aware of the certificates that belong to the client.

Before the process begins the client and servers certificates are stored in there relevant keystores. In the case of JAVA they are jks files. Let's take a look at where the JKS files are saved:

  • WSO2 product certificates are stored in the wso2carbon.jks file.
  • Server side certificates are stored in the clienttruststore.jks file. 

These certificates are signed and issued by a certificate authority that allows both the client and server to communicate freely. Now let's look at how it works:

  1. The Client attempts to access a protected resource and the SSL/TSL handshake process begins.
  2. The Server presents its certificate, which is the server.crt according to our example as shown above. 
  3. The Client takes this certificate and asks the certificate issued authority for the authenticity and validity of the certificate.
  4. If the certificate is valid, the client will also provide its certificate to the server.
  5. The Server takes this certificate and asks the certificate issued authority for the authenticity and validity of the certificate.
  6. The Client is granted access to the resource it was trying to access earlier. 

Enabling Mutual SSL in the WSO2 IS

  1. Open the <IS_HOME>/repository/conf/tomcat/catalina-server.xml file and ensure that the clientAuth attribute in the Connector tag is set to “want” as shown below. This is done to disable the certificate authentication on certain occasions (like when working on mobile apps). This makes two-way SSL authentication optional.


    The .jar file enabling usage of Mutual SSL is shipped with IS by default from IS versions 5.1.0 and upwards. The org.wso2.carbon.identity.authenticator.mutualssl_X.X.X.jar file can be found in the <IS_HOME>/repository/components/plugins directory.

  2. Open the <IS_HOME>/repository/conf/security/authenticators.xml file and add the disabled="false" attribute within the <Authenticator> tag of the MutualSSLAuthenticator to enable the Mutual SSL Authenticator. 

    <!-- Authenticator Configurations for MutualSSLAuthenticator-->
    <Authenticator name="MutualSSLAuthenticator" disabled="false">
            <Parameter name="UsernameHeader">UserName</Parameter>
            <Parameter name="WhiteListEnabled">false</Parameter>
            <Parameter name="WhiteList"/>
  3. For mutual SSL authentication, the public certificate of the WSO2 Identity Server has to be imported to the truststore of the client and the public certificate of the client has to be imported to the client-truststore of Identity Server.

    Sample commands

    The following two commands are examples if you are using the keystore and client-truststore of the Identity Server itself for the client. This is executed from the <IS_HOME>/repository/resources/security directory.

    keytool -export -alias wso2carbon -file carbon_public2.crt -keystore wso2carbon.jks -storepass wso2carbon
    keytool -import -trustcacerts -alias carbon -file carbon_public2.crt -keystore client-truststore.jks -storepass wso2carbon
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