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The correct title of this article is PKCS #11. The substitution or omission of the # is because of technical restrictions.

In cryptography, PKCS #11[1] is one of the family of standards called Public-Key Cryptography Standards (PKCS), originally published by RSA Laboratories, that defines a platform-independent API to cryptographic tokens, such as hardware security modules (HSM) and smart cards. (The PKCS #11 standard names the API "Cryptoki" which is an amalgamation of "cryptographic token interface" and is pronounced as "crypto-key", but "PKCS #11" is often used to refer to the API as well as the standard that defines it.)

Since there isn't a single standard for cryptographic tokens, this API has been developed to be an abstraction layer for the generic cryptographic token. The PKCS #11 API defines most commonly used cryptographic object types (RSA keys, X.509 Certificates, DES/Triple DES keys, etc.) and all the functions needed to use, create/generate, modify and delete those objects.

PKCS #11 is largely adopted to access smart cards and HSMs. Most commercial certificate authority software uses PKCS #11 to access the CA signing key or to enroll user certificates. Cross-platform software that needs to use smart cards uses PKCS #11, such as Mozilla Firefox and OpenSSL (using an extension). Software written for Microsoft Windows may use the platform specific MS-CAPI API instead.


  • 01/1994: project launched
  • 04/1995: v1.0 published
  • 12/1997: v2.01 published
  • 12/1999: v2.10 published
  • 01/2001: v2.11 published
  • 06/2004: v2.20 published[1]
  • 12/2005: amendments 1 & 2 (one-time password tokens, CT-KIP [2])
  • 01/2007: amendment 3 (additional mechanisms)
  • 09/2009: v2.30 draft published for review, but final version never published
  • 12/2012: RSA announce that PKCS #11 management is being transitioned to OASIS [3]
  • 03/2013: OASIS PKCS #11 Technical Committee Inaugural meetings, works starts on v2.40 [4]
  • 09/2014: OASIS PKCS #11 v2.40 now Committee Specification (complete)

Applications using PKCS #11[edit]

PKCS #11 wrappers[edit]

Since PKCS #11 is a complex C API many wrappers exist that let the developer use the API from various languages.

Other Implementations[edit]


  • JCE - Oracle's Java has included an implementation of PKCS #11 consisting of both native and Java code available as part of the Java Cryptography Architecture (JCA) and the Java Cryptography Extension (JCE) since version 5 (JDK 1.5). This only supports 32 bit Java on Windows. Oracle Java 7 includes 64 bit Java Mac support. It is not a full PKCS #11 implementation, but rather allows JCA/JCE to access smartcards through PKCS #11. It does not, for instance, support the change PIN function.

External links[edit]