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    NSS tools : modutil


       modutil — Manage PKCS #11 module information within the security module


       modutil [options] arguments


       The Security Module Database Tool, modutil, is a command-line utility for
       managing PKCS #11 module information both within secmod.db files and
       within hardware tokens. modutil can add and delete PKCS #11 modules,
       change passwords on security databases, set defaults, list module
       contents, enable or disable slots, enable or disable FIPS 140-2
       compliance, and assign default providers for cryptographic operations.
       This tool can also create certificate, key, and module security database

       The tasks associated with security module database management are part of
       a process that typically also involves managing key databases and
       certificate databases.


       Running modutil always requires one (and only one) option to specify the
       type of module operation. Each option may take arguments, anywhere from
       none to multiple arguments.


       -add modulename

               Add the named PKCS #11 module to the database. Use this option
               with the -libfile, -ciphers, and -mechanisms arguments.

       -changepw tokenname

               Change the password on the named token. If the token has not been
               initialized, this option initializes the password. Use this option
               with the -pwfile and -newpwfile arguments. A password is
               equivalent to a personal identification number (PIN).


               Verify whether the module is in the given FIPS mode. true means to
               verify that the module is in FIPS mode, while false means to
               verify that the module is not in FIPS mode.


               Create new certificate, key, and module databases. Use the -dbdir
               directory argument to specify a directory. If any of these
               databases already exist in a specified directory, modutil returns
               an error message.

       -default modulename

               Specify the security mechanisms for which the named module will be
               a default provider. The security mechanisms are specified with the
               -mechanisms argument.

       -delete modulename

               Delete the named module. The default NSS PKCS #11 module cannot be

       -disable modulename

               Disable all slots on the named module. Use the -slot argument to
               disable a specific slot.

       -enable modulename

               Enable all slots on the named module. Use the -slot argument to
               enable a specific slot.

       -fips [true | false]

               Enable (true) or disable (false) FIPS 140-2 compliance for the
               default NSS module.


               Disable modutil's interactive prompts so it can be run from a
               script. Use this option only after manually testing each planned
               operation to check for warnings and to ensure that bypassing the
               prompts will cause no security lapses or loss of database

       -jar JAR-file

               Add a new PKCS #11 module to the database using the named JAR
               file. Use this command with the -installdir and -tempdir
               arguments. The JAR file uses the NSS PKCS #11 JAR format to
               identify all the files to be installed, the module's name, the
               mechanism flags, and the cipher flags, as well as any files to be
               installed on the target machine, including the PKCS #11 module
               library file and other files such as documentation. This is
               covered in the JAR installation file section in the man page,
               which details the special script needed to perform an installation
               through a server or with modutil.

       -list [modulename]

               Display basic information about the contents of the secmod.db
               file. Specifying a modulename displays detailed information about
               a particular module and its slots and tokens.


               Add the module spec string to the secmod.db database.


               Display the module specs for a specified module or for all
               loadable modules.

       -undefault modulename

               Specify the security mechanisms for which the named module will
               not be a default provider. The security mechanisms are specified
               with the -mechanisms argument.



               Give the security module to access.


               Give the security module spec to load into the security database.

       -ciphers cipher-enable-list

               Enable specific ciphers in a module that is being added to the
               database. The cipher-enable-list is a colon-delimited list of
               cipher names. Enclose this list in quotation marks if it contains

       -dbdir [sql:]directory

               Specify the database directory in which to access or create
               security module database files.

               modutil supports two types of databases: the legacy security
               databases (cert8.db, key3.db, and secmod.db) and new SQLite
               databases (cert9.db, key4.db, and pkcs11.txt). If the prefix sql:
               is not used, then the tool assumes that the given databases are in
               the old format.

       --dbprefix prefix

               Specify the prefix used on the database files, such as my_ for
               my_cert8.db. This option is provided as a special case. Changing
               the names of the certificate and key databases is not recommended.

       -installdir root-installation-directory

               Specify the root installation directory relative to which files
               will be installed by the -jar option. This directory should be one
               below which it is appropriate to store dynamic library files, such
               as a server's root directory.

       -libfile library-file

               Specify a path to a library file containing the implementation of
               the PKCS #11 interface module that is being added to the database.

       -mechanisms mechanism-list

               Specify the security mechanisms for which a particular module will
               be flagged as a default provider. The mechanism-list is a
               colon-delimited list of mechanism names. Enclose this list in
               quotation marks if it contains spaces.

               The module becomes a default provider for the listed mechanisms
               when those mechanisms are enabled. If more than one module claims
               to be a particular mechanism's default provider, that mechanism's
               default provider is undefined.

               modutil supports several mechanisms: RSA, DSA, RC2, RC4, RC5, AES,
               DES, DH, SHA1, SHA256, SHA512, SSL, TLS, MD5, MD2, RANDOM (for
               random number generation), and FRIENDLY (meaning certificates are
               publicly readable).

       -newpwfile new-password-file

               Specify a text file containing a token's new or replacement
               password so that a password can be entered automatically with the
               -changepw option.


               Do not open the certificate or key databases. This has several

                  o With the -create command, only a module security file is
                    created; certificate and key databases are not created.

                  o With the -jar command, signatures on the JAR file are not

                  o With the -changepw command, the password on the NSS internal
                    module cannot be set or changed, since this password is
                    stored in the key database.

       -pwfile old-password-file

               Specify a text file containing a token's existing password so that
               a password can be entered automatically when the -changepw option
               is used to change passwords.

       -secmod secmodname

               Give the name of the security module database (like secmod.db) to

       -slot slotname

               Specify a particular slot to be enabled or disabled with the
               -enable or -disable options.

       -string CONFIG_STRING

               Pass a configuration string for the module being added to the

       -tempdir temporary-directory

               Give a directory location where temporary files are created during
               the installation by the -jar option. If no temporary directory is
               specified, the current directory is used.

    Usage and Examples

       Creating Database Files

       Before any operations can be performed, there must be a set of security
       databases available. modutil can be used to create these files. The only
       required argument is the database that where the databases will be

     modutil -create -dbdir [sql:]directory

       Adding a Cryptographic Module

       Adding a PKCS #11 module means submitting a supporting library file,
       enabling its ciphers, and setting default provider status for various
       security mechanisms. This can be done by supplying all of the information
       through modutil directly or by running a JAR file and install script. For
       the most basic case, simply upload the library:

     modutil -add modulename -libfile library-file [-ciphers cipher-enable-list] [-mechanisms mechanism-list]

       For example:

     modutil -dbdir sql:/home/my/sharednssdb -add "Example PKCS #11 Module" -libfile "/tmp/" -mechanisms RSA:DSA:RC2:RANDOM

     Using database directory ...
     Module "Example PKCS #11 Module" added to database.

       Installing a Cryptographic Module from a JAR File

       PKCS #11 modules can also be loaded using a JAR file, which contains all
       of the required libraries and an installation script that describes how to
       install the module. The JAR install script is described in more detail in
       [1]the section called “JAR Installation File Format”.

       The JAR installation script defines the setup information for each
       platform that the module can be installed on. For example:

     Platforms {
        Linux:5.4.08:x86 {
           ModuleName { "Example PKCS #11 Module" }
           ModuleFile { }
           Files {
                 Path{ /tmp/ }
                 Path{ /tmp/ }
        Linux:6.0.0:x86 {
           EquivalentPlatform { Linux:5.4.08:x86 }

       Both the install script and the required libraries must be bundled in a
       JAR file, which is specified with the -jar argument.

     modutil -dbdir sql:/home/mt"jar-install-filey/sharednssdb -jar install.jar -installdir sql:/home/my/sharednssdb

     This installation JAR file was signed by:


     C=US, ST=California, L=Mountain View, CN=Cryptorific Inc., OU=Digital ID
     Class 3 - Netscape Object Signing, OU="
     Incorp. by Ref.,LIAB.LTD(c)9 6", Ref
     . LIABILITY LTD.(c)97 VeriSign, OU=VeriSign Object Signing CA - Class 3
     Organization, OU="VeriSign, Inc.", O=VeriSign Trust Network **ISSUER
     NAME**, Ref. LIABILITY LTD.(c)97
     VeriSign, OU=VeriSign Object Signing CA - Class 3 Organization,
     OU="VeriSign, Inc.", O=VeriSign Trust Network

     Do you wish to continue this installation? (y/n) y
     Using installer script "installer_script"
     Successfully parsed installation script
     Current platform is Linux:5.4.08:x86
     Using installation parameters for platform Linux:5.4.08:x86
     Installed file to /tmp/
     Installed file to ./pk11inst.dir/
     Executing "./pk11inst.dir/"...
     "./pk11inst.dir/" executed successfully
     Installed module "Example PKCS #11 Module" into module database

     Installation completed successfully

       Adding Module Spec

       Each module has information stored in the security database about its
       configuration and parameters. These can be added or edited using the
       -rawadd command. For the current settings or to see the format of the
       module spec in the database, use the -rawlist option.

     modutil -rawadd modulespec

       Deleting a Module

       A specific PKCS #11 module can be deleted from the secmod.db database:

     modutil -delete modulename -dbdir [sql:]directory

       Displaying Module Information

       The secmod.db database contains information about the PKCS #11 modules
       that are available to an application or server to use. The list of all
       modules, information about specific modules, and database configuration
       specs for modules can all be viewed.

       To simply get a list of modules in the database, use the -list command.

     modutil -list [modulename] -dbdir [sql:]directory

       Listing the modules shows the module name, their status, and other
       associated security databases for certificates and keys. For example:

     modutil -list -dbdir sql:/home/my/sharednssdb

     Listing of PKCS #11 Modules
       1. NSS Internal PKCS #11 Module
              slots: 2 slots attached
             status: loaded

              slot: NSS Internal Cryptographic Services
             token: NSS Generic Crypto Services

              slot: NSS User Private Key and Certificate Services
             token: NSS Certificate DB

       Passing a specific module name with the -list returns details information
       about the module itself, like supported cipher mechanisms, version
       numbers, serial numbers, and other information about the module and the
       token it is loaded on. For example:

      modutil -list "NSS Internal PKCS #11 Module" -dbdir sql:/home/my/sharednssdb

     Name: NSS Internal PKCS #11 Module
     Library file: **Internal ONLY module**
     Manufacturer: Mozilla Foundation
     Description: NSS Internal Crypto Services
     PKCS #11 Version 2.20
     Library Version: 3.11
     Cipher Enable Flags: None
     Default Mechanism Flags: RSA:RC2:RC4:DES:DH:SHA1:MD5:MD2:SSL:TLS:AES

       Slot: NSS Internal Cryptographic Services
       Slot Mechanism Flags: RSA:RC2:RC4:DES:DH:SHA1:MD5:MD2:SSL:TLS:AES
       Manufacturer: Mozilla Foundation
       Type: Software
       Version Number: 3.11
       Firmware Version: 0.0
       Status: Enabled
       Token Name: NSS Generic Crypto Services
       Token Manufacturer: Mozilla Foundation
       Token Model: NSS 3
       Token Serial Number: 0000000000000000
       Token Version: 4.0
       Token Firmware Version: 0.0
       Access: Write Protected
       Login Type: Public (no login required)
       User Pin: NOT Initialized

       Slot: NSS User Private Key and Certificate Services
       Slot Mechanism Flags: None
       Manufacturer: Mozilla Foundation
       Type: Software
       Version Number: 3.11
       Firmware Version: 0.0
       Status: Enabled
       Token Name: NSS Certificate DB
       Token Manufacturer: Mozilla Foundation
       Token Model: NSS 3
       Token Serial Number: 0000000000000000
       Token Version: 8.3
       Token Firmware Version: 0.0
       Access: NOT Write Protected
       Login Type: Login required
       User Pin: Initialized

       A related command, -rawlist returns information about the database
       configuration for the modules. (This information can be edited by loading
       new specs using the -rawadd command.)

      modutil -rawlist -dbdir sql:/home/my/sharednssdb
      name="NSS Internal PKCS #11 Module" parameters="configdir=. certPrefix= keyPrefix= secmod=secmod.db flags=readOnly " NSS="trustOrder=75 cipherOrder=100 slotParams={0x00000001=[slotFlags=RSA,RC4,RC2,DES,DH,SHA1,MD5,MD2,SSL,TLS,AES,RANDOM askpw=any timeout=30 ] }  Flags=internal,critical"

       Setting a Default Provider for Security Mechanisms

       Multiple security modules may provide support for the same security
       mechanisms. It is possible to set a specific security module as the
       default provider for a specific security mechanism (or, conversely, to
       prohibit a provider from supplying those mechanisms).

     modutil -default modulename -mechanisms mechanism-list

       To set a module as the default provider for mechanisms, use the -default
       command with a colon-separated list of mechanisms. The available
       mechanisms depend on the module; NSS supplies almost all common
       mechanisms. For example:

     modutil -default "NSS Internal PKCS #11 Module" -dbdir -mechanisms RSA:DSA:RC2

     Using database directory c:\databases...

     Successfully changed defaults.

       Clearing the default provider has the same format:

     modutil -undefault "NSS Internal PKCS #11 Module" -dbdir -mechanisms MD2:MD5

       Enabling and Disabling Modules and Slots

       Modules, and specific slots on modules, can be selectively enabled or
       disabled using modutil. Both commands have the same format:

     modutil -enable|-disable modulename [-slot slotname]

       For example:

     modutil -enable "NSS Internal PKCS #11 Module" -slot "NSS Internal Cryptographic Services                            " -dbdir .

     Slot "NSS Internal Cryptographic Services                            " enabled.

       Be sure that the appropriate amount of trailing whitespace is after the
       slot name. Some slot names have a significant amount of whitespace that
       must be included, or the operation will fail.

       Enabling and Verifying FIPS Compliance

       The NSS modules can have FIPS 140-2 compliance enabled or disabled using
       modutil with the -fips option. For example:

     modutil -fips true -dbdir sql:/home/my/sharednssdb/

     FIPS mode enabled.

       To verify that status of FIPS mode, run the -chkfips command with either a
       true or false flag (it doesn't matter which). The tool returns the current
       FIPS setting.

     modutil -chkfips false -dbdir sql:/home/my/sharednssdb/

     FIPS mode enabled.

       Changing the Password on a Token

       Initializing or changing a token's password:

     modutil -changepw tokenname [-pwfile old-password-file] [-newpwfile new-password-file]

     modutil -dbdir sql:/home/my/sharednssdb -changepw "NSS Certificate DB"

     Enter old password:
     Incorrect password, try again...
     Enter old password:
     Enter new password:
     Re-enter new password:
     Token "Communicator Certificate DB" password changed successfully.

    JAR Installation File Format

       When a JAR file is run by a server, by modutil, or by any program that
       does not interpret JavaScript, a special information file must be included
       to install the libraries. There are several things to keep in mind with
       this file:

         o It must be declared in the JAR archive's manifest file.

         o The script can have any name.

         o The metainfo tag for this is Pkcs11_install_script. To declare
           meta-information in the manifest file, put it in a file that is passed
           to signtool.

       Sample Script

       For example, the PKCS #11 installer script could be in the file
       pk11install. If so, the metainfo file for signtool includes a line such as

     + Pkcs11_install_script: pk11install

       The script must define the platform and version number, the module name
       and file, and any optional information like supported ciphers and
       mechanisms. Multiple platforms can be defined in a single install file.

     ForwardCompatible { IRIX:6.2:mips SUNOS:5.5.1:sparc }
     Platforms {
        WINNT::x86 {
           ModuleName { "Example Module" }
           ModuleFile { win32/fort32.dll }
           Files {
              win32/setup.exe {
                 RelativePath { %temp%/setup.exe }
              win32/setup.hlp {
                 RelativePath { %temp%/setup.hlp }
              win32/ {
                 RelativePath { %temp%/ }
        WIN95::x86 {
           EquivalentPlatform {WINNT::x86}
        SUNOS:5.5.1:sparc {
           ModuleName { "Example UNIX Module" }
           ModuleFile { unix/ }
           Files {
              unix/ {
              xplat/instr.html {
        IRIX:6.2:mips {
           EquivalentPlatform { SUNOS:5.5.1:sparc }

       Script Grammar

       The script is basic Java, allowing lists, key-value pairs, strings, and
       combinations of all of them.

     --> valuelist

     valuelist --> value valuelist

     value ---> key_value_pair

     key_value_pair --> key { valuelist }

     key --> string

     string --> simple_string

     simple_string --> [^ \t\n\""{""}"]+

     complex_string --> ([^\"\\\r\n]|(\\\")|(\\\\))+

       Quotes and backslashes must be escaped with a backslash. A complex string
       must not include newlines or carriage returns.Outside of complex strings,
       all white space (for example, spaces, tabs, and carriage returns) is
       considered equal and is used only to delimit tokens.


       The Java install file uses keys to define the platform and module

       ForwardCompatible gives a list of platforms that are forward compatible.
       If the current platform cannot be found in the list of supported
       platforms, then the ForwardCompatible list is checked for any platforms
       that have the same OS and architecture in an earlier version. If one is
       found, its attributes are used for the current platform.

       Platforms (required) Gives a list of platforms. Each entry in the list is
       itself a key-value pair: the key is the name of the platform and the value
       list contains various attributes of the platform. The platform string is
       in the format system name:OS release:architecture. The installer obtains
       these values from NSPR. OS release is an empty string on non-Unix
       operating systems. NSPR supports these platforms:

         o AIX (rs6000)

         o BSDI (x86)

         o FREEBSD (x86)

         o HPUX (hppa1.1)

         o IRIX (mips)

         o LINUX (ppc, alpha, x86)

         o MacOS (PowerPC)

         o NCR (x86)

         o NEC (mips)

         o OS2 (x86)

         o OSF (alpha)

         o ReliantUNIX (mips)

         o SCO (x86)

         o SOLARIS (sparc)

         o SONY (mips)

         o SUNOS (sparc)

         o UnixWare (x86)

         o WIN16 (x86)

         o WIN95 (x86)

         o WINNT (x86)

       For example:


       The module information is defined independently for each platform in the
       ModuleName, ModuleFile, and Files attributes. These attributes must be
       given unless an EquivalentPlatform attribute is specified.

       Per-Platform Keys

       Per-platform keys have meaning only within the value list of an entry in
       the Platforms list.

       ModuleName (required) gives the common name for the module. This name is
       used to reference the module by servers and by the modutil tool.

       ModuleFile (required) names the PKCS #11 module file for this platform.
       The name is given as the relative path of the file within the JAR archive.

       Files (required) lists the files that need to be installed for this
       module. Each entry in the file list is a key-value pair. The key is the
       path of the file in the JAR archive, and the value list contains
       attributes of the file. At least RelativePath or AbsolutePath must be
       specified for each file.

       DefaultMechanismFlags specifies mechanisms for which this module is the
       default provider; this is equivalent to the -mechanism option with the
       -add command. This key-value pair is a bitstring specified in hexadecimal
       (0x) format. It is constructed as a bitwise OR. If the
       DefaultMechanismFlags entry is omitted, the value defaults to 0x0.

     RSA:                   0x00000001
     DSA:                   0x00000002
     RC2:                   0x00000004
     RC4:                   0x00000008
     DES:                   0x00000010
     DH:                    0x00000020
     FORTEZZA:              0x00000040
     RC5:                   0x00000080
     SHA1:                  0x00000100
     MD5:                   0x00000200
     MD2:                   0x00000400
     RANDOM:                0x08000000
     FRIENDLY:              0x10000000
     OWN_PW_DEFAULTS:       0x20000000
     DISABLE:               0x40000000

       CipherEnableFlags specifies ciphers that this module provides that NSS
       does not provide (so that the module enables those ciphers for NSS). This
       is equivalent to the -cipher argument with the -add command. This key is a
       bitstring specified in hexadecimal (0x) format. It is constructed as a
       bitwise OR. If the CipherEnableFlags entry is omitted, the value defaults
       to 0x0.

       EquivalentPlatform specifies that the attributes of the named platform
       should also be used for the current platform. This makes it easier when
       more than one platform uses the same settings.

       Per-File Keys

       Some keys have meaning only within the value list of an entry in a Files

       Each file requires a path key the identifies where the file is. Either
       RelativePath or AbsolutePath must be specified. If both are specified, the
       relative path is tried first, and the absolute path is used only if no
       relative root directory is provided by the installer program.

       RelativePath specifies the destination directory of the file, relative to
       some directory decided at install time. Two variables can be used in the
       relative path: %root% and %temp%. %root% is replaced at run time with the
       directory relative to which files should be installed; for example, it may
       be the server's root directory. The %temp% directory is created at the
       beginning of the installation and destroyed at the end. The purpose of
       %temp% is to hold executable files (such as setup programs) or files that
       are used by these programs. Files destined for the temporary directory are
       guaranteed to be in place before any executable file is run; they are not
       deleted until all executable files have finished.

       AbsolutePath specifies the destination directory of the file as an
       absolute path.

       Executable specifies that the file is to be executed during the course of
       the installation. Typically, this string is used for a setup program
       provided by a module vendor, such as a self-extracting setup executable.
       More than one file can be specified as executable, in which case the files
       are run in the order in which they are specified in the script file.

       FilePermissions sets permissions on any referenced files in a string of
       octal digits, according to the standard Unix format. This string is a
       bitwise OR.

     user read:                0400
     user write:               0200
     user execute:             0100
     group read:               0040
     group write:              0020
     group execute:            0010
     other read:               0004
     other write:              0002
     other execute:       0001

       Some platforms may not understand these permissions. They are applied only
       insofar as they make sense for the current platform. If this attribute is
       omitted, a default of 777 is assumed.

    NSS Database Types

       NSS originally used BerkeleyDB databases to store security information.
       The last versions of these legacy databases are:

         o cert8.db for certificates

         o key3.db for keys

         o secmod.db for PKCS #11 module information

       BerkeleyDB has performance limitations, though, which prevent it from
       being easily used by multiple applications simultaneously. NSS has some
       flexibility that allows applications to use their own, independent
       database engine while keeping a shared database and working around the
       access issues. Still, NSS requires more flexibility to provide a truly
       shared security database.

       In 2009, NSS introduced a new set of databases that are SQLite databases
       rather than BerkleyDB. These new databases provide more accessibility and

         o cert9.db for certificates

         o key4.db for keys

         o pkcs11.txt, which is listing of all of the PKCS #11 modules contained
           in a new subdirectory in the security databases directory

       Because the SQLite databases are designed to be shared, these are the
       shared database type. The shared database type is preferred; the legacy
       format is included for backward compatibility.

       By default, the tools (certutil, pk12util, modutil) assume that the given
       security databases follow the more common legacy type. Using the SQLite
       databases must be manually specified by using the sql: prefix with the
       given security directory. For example:

     modutil -create -dbdir sql:/home/my/sharednssdb

       To set the shared database type as the default type for the tools, set the
       NSS_DEFAULT_DB_TYPE environment variable to sql:

     export NSS_DEFAULT_DB_TYPE="sql"

       This line can be set added to the ~/.bashrc file to make the change

       Most applications do not use the shared database by default, but they can
       be configured to use them. For example, this how-to article covers how to
       configure Firefox and Thunderbird to use the new shared NSS databases:


       For an engineering draft on the changes in the shared NSS databases, see
       the NSS project wiki:


    See Also

       certutil (1)

       pk12util (1)

       signtool (1)

       The NSS wiki has information on the new database design and how to
       configure applications to use it.



    Additional Resources

       For information about NSS and other tools related to NSS (like JSS), check
       out the NSS project wiki at
       [2] The NSS site relates
       directly to NSS code changes and releases.

       Mailing lists:

       IRC: Freenode at #dogtag-pki


       The NSS tools were written and maintained by developers with Netscape, Red
       Hat, and Sun.

       Authors: Elio Maldonado <>, Deon Lackey


       (c) 2010, Red Hat, Inc. Licensed under the GNU Public License version 2.


       Visible links
       1. JAR Installation File Format

    Document Tags and Contributors

    Contributors to this page: fscholz,
    Last updated by: fscholz,