I have a project where I'd like to use public-key cryptography in both typical sign/verify situations and encrypt/decrypt situations. For example, I'd like to create a self-signed X.509 certificate for Bob (certificate request containing PubK.bob, signed by PrivK.bob to form Certificate.bob), and I'd also like to conduct transactions like:

  • Alice selects document key DocK, encrypts document DocK[document], computes PubK.bob[DocK], and sends PubK.bob[DocK] to Bob.

  • Bob uses PrivK.bob to recover DocK from PubK.bob[DocK], then decrypts DocK[document] to receive document from Alice.

However, the RSA keys that can be generated by crypto.subtle.generateKey (RSASSA-PKCS1-v1_5, RSA-PSS and RSA-OAEP) can only be used for either ['sign','verify'] or ['encrypt','decrypt'] -- if you try to generate a key with all four usages, you get Cannot create a key using the specified key usages.

Is there a subtle crypto reason not to use a single RSA keypair for both sign/verify and encrypt/decrypt operations?

Is there a standard way of dealing with this? A good way of doing it using WebCrypto? (I can imagine putting an encrypt-capable public key into Bob's certificate, along with the verify-capable one, but that seems redundant, and also makes my certificates a little different from what other certificate-management tools are used to dealing with.)

  • $\begingroup$ This comment: crypto.stackexchange.com/questions/32907/… suggests that encrypt and sign can't be treated as equivalent, which I think is what I'm proposing to do (letting Bob sign his certificate with PubK.bob and letting Alice encrypt DocK as PubK.bob[DocK].) So maybe the answer really is "put Bob's public key for encrypting purposes into his certificate." $\endgroup$
    – Dave M.
    Jan 26, 2020 at 20:20
  • $\begingroup$ RSA is not for encryption. we prefer hybrid encryption. You can use RSA for Key Encapsulation Mechanism named RSA-KEM. $\endgroup$
    – kelalaka
    Jan 26, 2020 at 20:21
  • $\begingroup$ Thanks for that link -- that's exactly what I want to do (transfer AES keys from Alice to Bob using asymmetric crypto). $\endgroup$
    – Dave M.
    Jan 26, 2020 at 20:24
  • $\begingroup$ For using one key, see Using the same RSA keypair to sign and encrypt $\endgroup$
    – kelalaka
    Jan 26, 2020 at 20:25
  • $\begingroup$ While there may be very good reasons to simply use two certificates / private keys for authentication and for encryption, I don't think it is the responsibility of an API to not allow you such use cases. There certainly have been certs / keys that would be able to be used to implement both - so I don't think you'll find anything in standards to that effect. $\endgroup$
    – Maarten Bodewes
    Jan 26, 2020 at 21:54


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