Tink for Java HOW-TO

This document contains instructions and Java code snippets for common tasks in Tink.

Setup instructions

See https://developers.google.com/tink/tink-setup#java for setup instructions.

API documentation

Important warnings

Do not use APIs which have fields or methods marked with the @Alpha annotation. They can be modified in any way, or even removed, at any time. They are in the package, but not for official, production release, but only for testing.

Do not use APIs in com.google.crypto.tink.subtle. While they‘re generally safe to use, they’re not meant for public consumption and can be modified in any way, or even removed, at any time.

Initializing Tink

Tink provides customizable initialization, which allows you to choose specific implementations (identified by key types) of desired primitives. This initialization happens via registration of the implementations.

For example, if you want to use all implementations of all primitives in Tink, the initialization would be:

    import com.google.crypto.tink.config.TinkConfig;


To use only implementations of the AEAD primitive:

    import com.google.crypto.tink.aead.AeadConfig;


For custom initialization the registration proceeds directly via the Registry class:

    import com.google.crypto.tink.Registry;
    import my.custom.package.aead.MyAeadKeyManager;

    // Register a custom implementation of AEAD.
    Registry.registerKeyManager(new MyAeadKeyManager());

Generating new keys and keysets

Each KeyManager-implementation provides newKey(..)-methods that generate new keys of the corresponding key type. However, to avoid accidental leakage of sensitive key material, you should avoid mixing key(set) generation with key(set) usage in code. To support the separation between these activities, Tink provides a command-line tool called Tinkey, which can be used for common key management tasks.

Still, if there is a need to generate a KeysetHandle with fresh key material directly in Java code, you can use KeysetHandle. For example, you can generate a keyset containing a randomly generated AES128-GCM key as follows.

    import com.google.crypto.tink.KeysetHandle;
    import com.google.crypto.tink.aead.PredefinedAeadParameters;

    KeysetHandle keysetHandle = KeysetHandle.generateNew(

Serializing keysets

After generating key material, you might want to serialize it in order to persist it to a storage system, e.g., writing to a file.

    import com.google.crypto.tink.InsecureSecretKeyAccess;
    import com.google.crypto.tink.KeysetHandle;
    import com.google.crypto.tink.TinkJsonProtoKeysetFormat;
    import com.google.crypto.tink.aead.PredefinedAeadParameters;

    // Generate the key material...
    KeysetHandle keysetHandle = KeysetHandle.generateNew(

    // and serialize it to a string.
    String keysetFilename = "my_keyset.json";
    String serializedKeyset =
        TinkJsonProtoKeysetFormat.serializeKeyset(handle, InsecureSecretKeyAccess.get());

Parsing can be done with TinkJsonProtoKeysetFormat.parseKeyset. If the keyset has no secret key material, the method serializeKeysetWithoutSecret can be used (which does not require InsecureSecretKeyAccess).

Storing keysets unencrypted on disk is not recommended. Tink supports encrypting keysets with master keys stored in remote key management systems, see for example https://developers.google.com/tink/client-side-encryption#java.

Obtaining and using primitives

Primitives represent cryptographic operations offered by Tink, hence they form the core of the Tink API. A primitive is an interface which specifies what operations are offered by the primitive. A primitive can have multiple implementations, and you choose a desired implementation by using a key of a corresponding type (see this document for further details).

A list of primitives and the implementations currently supported by Tink in Java can be found here.

You obtain a primitive by calling the method getPrimitive(classObject) of a KeysetHandle, where the classObject is the class object corresponding to the primitive (for example Aead.class for AEAD).

Symmetric Key Encryption

You can obtain and use an AEAD (Authenticated Encryption with Associated Data) primitive to encrypt or decrypt data:

    import com.google.crypto.tink.Aead;
    import com.google.crypto.tink.aead.PredefinedAeadParameters;

    // 1. Generate the key material.
    KeysetHandle keysetHandle = KeysetHandle.generateNew(

    // 2. Get the primitive.
    Aead aead = keysetHandle.getPrimitive(Aead.class);

    // 3. Use the primitive to encrypt a plaintext,
    byte[] ciphertext = aead.encrypt(plaintext, aad);

    // ... or to decrypt a ciphertext.
    byte[] decrypted = aead.decrypt(ciphertext, aad);

Deterministic symmetric key encryption

You can obtain and use a DeterministicAEAD (Deterministic Authenticated Encryption with Associated Data primitive to encrypt or decrypt data:

    import com.google.crypto.tink.daead.PredefinedDeterministicAeadParameters;
    import com.google.crypto.tink.KeysetHandle;

    // 1. Generate the key material.
    KeysetHandle keysetHandle = KeysetHandle.generateNew(

    // 2. Get the primitive.
    DeterministicAead daead =

    // 3. Use the primitive to deterministically encrypt a plaintext,
    byte[] ciphertext = daead.encryptDeterministically(plaintext, aad);

    // ... or to deterministically decrypt a ciphertext.
    byte[] decrypted = daead.decryptDeterministically(ciphertext, aad);

Symmetric key encryption of streaming data

See https://developers.google.com/tink/encrypt-large-files-or-data-streams#java

Message Authentication Code

See https://developers.google.com/tink/protect-data-from-tampering#java

Digital signatures

See https://developers.google.com/tink/digitally-sign-data

Hybrid encryption

See https://developers.google.com/tink/exchange-data#java

Envelope encryption

Via the AEAD interface, Tink supports envelope encryption.

For example, you can perform envelope encryption with a Google Cloud KMS key at gcp-kms://projects/tink-examples/locations/global/keyRings/foo/cryptoKeys/bar using the credentials in credentials.json as follows:

    import com.google.crypto.tink.Aead;
    import com.google.crypto.tink.KeyTemplates;
    import com.google.crypto.tink.KeysetHandle;
    import com.google.crypto.tink.KmsClients;
    import com.google.crypto.tink.aead.KmsEnvelopeAeadKeyManager;
    import com.google.crypto.tink.integration.gcpkms.GcpKmsClient;

    // 1. Generate the key material.
    String kmsKeyUri =
    KeysetHandle handle =
                kmsKeyUri, KeyTemplates.get("AES128_GCM")));

    // 2. Register the KMS client.
    KmsClients.add(new GcpKmsClient()

    // 3. Get the primitive.
    Aead aead = handle.getPrimitive(Aead.class);

    // 4. Use the primitive.
    byte[] ciphertext = aead.encrypt(plaintext, aad);

Key rotation

Support for key rotation in Tink is provided via the KeysetHandle.Builder class.

You have to provide a KeysetHandle-object that contains the keyset that should be rotated, and a specification of the new key via a Parameters object.

    import com.google.crypto.tink.KeysetHandle;
    import com.google.crypto.tink.KeysetManager;

    KeysetHandle keysetHandle = ...;   // existing keyset
    KeysetHandle.Builder builder = KeysetHandle.newBuilder(keysetHandle);
    KeysetHandle keysetHandleWithAdditionalEntry = builder.build();

After a successful rotation, the resulting keyset contains a new key generated according to the specification in the parameters object. For the rotation to succeed the Registry must contain a key manager for the key type specified in keyTemplate.

Alternatively, you can use Tinkey to rotate or manage a keyset.

Custom implementation of a primitive

NOTE: The usage of custom key managers should be enjoyed responsibly. We (i.e. Tink developers) have no way of checking or enforcing that a custom implementation satisfies security properties of the corresponding primitive interface, so it is up to the implementer and the user of the custom implementation ensure the required properties are met.

The main cryptographic operations offered by Tink are accessible via so-called primitives, which are interfaces that represent corresponding cryptographic functionalities. While Tink comes with several standard implementations of common primitives, it also allows for adding custom implementations of primitives. Such implementations allow for seamless integration of Tink with custom third-party cryptographic schemes or hardware modules, and in combination with key rotation features, enables the painless migration between cryptographic schemes.

To create a custom implementation of a primitive proceed as follows:

  1. Determine for which primitive a custom implementation is needed.
  2. Define protocol buffers that hold key material and parameters for the custom cryptographic scheme; the name of the key protocol buffer (a.k.a. type URL) determines the key type for the custom implementation.
  3. Implement a KeyManager interface for the primitive from step #1 and the key type from step #2.

To use a custom implementation of a primitive in an application, register with the Registry the custom KeyManager implementation (from step #3 above) for the custom key type (from step #2 above):


Afterwards the implementation will be accessed automatically by the keysetHandle.getPrimitive corresponding to the primitive (when keys of the specific key type are in use). It can also be retrieved directly via Registry.getKeyManager(keyType).

When defining the protocol buffers for the key material and parameters (step #2 above), you should provide definitions of three messages:

  • ...Params: parameters of an instantiation of the primitive, needed when a key is being used.
  • ...Key: the actual key proto, contains the key material and the corresponding ...Params proto.
  • ...KeyFormat: parameters needed to generate a new key.

Here are a few conventions/recommendations when defining these messages (see tink.proto and definitions of existing key types for details):

  • ...Key should contain a version field (a monotonic counter, uint32 version;), which identifies the version of implementation that can work with this key.
  • ...Params should be a field of ...Key, as by definition ...Params contains parameters needed when the key is being used.
  • ...Params should be also a field of ...KeyFormat, so that given ...KeyFormat one has all information it needs to generate a new ...Key message.

Alternatively, depending on the use case requirements, you can skip step #2 entirely and re-use an existing protocol buffer messages for the key material. In such a case, you should not configure the Registry via the Config-class, but rather register the needed KeyManager-instances manually.

For a concrete example, let‘s assume that we’d like a custom implementation of the Aead primitive (step #1). We define then three protocol buffer messages (step #2):

  • MyCustomAeadParams: holds parameters needed for the use of the key material.
  • MyCustomAeadKey: holds the actual key material and parameters needed for its use.
  • MyCustomAeadKeyFormat: holds parameters needed for generation of a new MyCustomAeadKey-key.
    syntax = "proto3";
    package mycompany.mypackage;

    message MyCustomAeadParams {
      uint32 iv_size = 1;     // size of initialization vector in bytes

    message MyCustomAeadKeyFormat {
      MyCustomAeadParams params = 1;
      uint32 key_size = 2;    // key size in bytes

    // key_type: type.googleapis.com/mycompany.mypackage.MyCustomAeadKey
    message MyCustomAeadKey {
        uint32 version = 1;
        MyCustomAeadParams params = 2;
        bytes key_value = 3;  // the actual key material

The corresponding key type in Java is defined as

    String keyType = "type.googleapis.com/mycompany.mypackage.MyCustomAeadKey";`

and the corresponding key manager implements (step #3) the interface KeyManager<Aead>

    class MyCustomAeadKeyManager implements KeyManager<Aead> {
      // ...

After registering MyCustomAeadKeyManager with the Registry, it will be used when you call keysetHandle.getPrimitive(Aead.class).