Difference between revisions of "ASN.1"

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# Complexity
# Complexity
Some formats do not seem to be defined anywhere but used anyway.  For example this
Some formats do not seem to be defined anywhere but used anyway.  For example the double brackets in this
       ECPrivateKey ::= SEQUENCE {  -- RFC 5915  https://crypto.stackexchange.com/questions/48707/ecdsa-private-key-format
       ECPrivateKey ::= SEQUENCE {  -- RFC 5915  https://crypto.stackexchange.com/questions/48707/ecdsa-private-key-format

Revision as of 08:39, 18 August 2021

Full Title

Abstract Syntax Notation version 1 = ASN.1. Since there is no version 2, ASN is the typical abbreviation here.


In the time before internet there was the 7 layer ISO model and a bunch of PTOs (mostly government postal and telegraphy organizations) worried by this new technology that wanted to dominate the identity layer of the internet. The result was a series of CCITT (now ITU-T) committees establish to translate the telephone industry white pages into the identity of every entity on the internet. This expanded to include X.400 series standards on electronic mail which went beyond that to create a security system base on ASN.1 X.500 series standards. The only legacy of that is the use of Distinguished Names in email directories, like Microsoft Outlook.

Abstract Syntax Notation One (ASN.1), which is defined in CCITT Recommendation X.208, is a way to specify abstract objects that will be serially transmitted. The set of ASN.1 rules for representing such objects as strings of ones and zeros is called the Distinguished Encoding Rules (DER), and is defined in CCITT Recommendation X.509, Section 8.7. These encoding methods are currently used to create the TLS certificates that are used to establish secure interchanges using HTTPS.


  1. Bureaucracy
  2. Complexity

Some formats do not seem to be defined anywhere but used anyway. For example the double brackets in this

       ECPrivateKey ::= SEQUENCE {   -- RFC 5915  https://crypto.stackexchange.com/questions/48707/ecdsa-private-key-format
 version        INTEGER { ecPrivkeyVer1(1) } (ecPrivkeyVer1),
 privateKey     OCTET STRING,
 parameters [0] ECParameters {{ NamedCurve }} OPTIONAL,


  • Convert it all to json format so we don't need to spend so much effort understanding an syntax that was unnecessarily complex.
  • Visual studio editing tool
Data Types
Tag	Tag	
(dec) (hex)	Type
5	05	NULL
9	09	REAL
12	0C	UTF8String
16,48	10 & 30 *	SEQUENCE and SEQUENCE OF
17,49	11 & 31 *	SET and SET OF
18	12	NumericString
19	13	PrintableString (Upper and lower case letters, digits, space, apostrophe, left/right parenthesis, plus sign, comma, hyphen, full stop, slash, colon, equal sign, question mark)
20	14	Telex String (T61 - obsolete)
21	15	VideotexString
22	16	IA5String (internation ASCII)
23	17	UTCTime
24	18	GeneralizedTime
25	19	GraphicString
26	1A	VisibleString, ISO64String (printable ASCII + space)
27	1B	GeneralString
28	1C	UniversalString
30	1E	BMPString
ss	Ax	This is a class of type used for extensions in certificates (ie a hack)

Type BOOLEAN takes values TRUE and FALSE. Usually, the type reference for BOOLEAN describes the true state. For example: Female ::= BOOLEAN is preferable to Gender ::= BOOLEAN.

Type INTEGER takes any of the infinite set of integer values. Its syntax is similar to programming languages such as C or Pascal. It has an additional notation that names some of the possible values of the integer. For example,

  ColorType ::= INTEGER
         red      (0)
         white    (1)
         blue     (2)

indicates that the ``ColorType" is an INTEGER and its values 0, 1, and 2 are named ``red", ``white", and ``blue", respectively. The ColorType could also have any of the other valid integer values, such as 4 or -62.

Type BIT STRING takes values that are an ordered sequence of zero or more bits. The bit sequence is either a binary or hexadecimal string delimited by single quotes followed by B or H, respectively. For example, `11010001'B or `82DA6'H are valid values of BIT STRING. The length of the string of bits must be a multiple of four when hexadecimal is used. BIT STRING also has a form similar to INTEGER, but the numbers in parentheses indicate location in the string of bits. For example, the type notation

   Occupation  ::=  BIT STRING
             clerk      (0)
             editor     (1)
             artist     (2)
             publisher  (3)

names the first bit ``clerk", the second bit ``editor", and so on. Strings of bits can then be written by listing the named bits that are set to 1. For example, (editor, artist) and '0110'B are two representations for the same value of ``Occupation".

Type OCTET STRING takes values that are an ordered sequence of zero or more eight-bit octets. The sequence is written in the same form as a BIT STRING sequence. Thus, `1101000100011010'B and `82DA'H are valid values of OCTET STRING.

Type NULL takes only one value, NULL. It can be used as a place marker, but other alternatives are more common.

Subject Name

The subject field of a PKCS #10 certificate request contains the distinguished name of the entity requesting the certificate.

CertificationRequestInfo ::= SEQUENCE 
  version                 CertificationRequestInfoVersion,
  subject                 Name,
  subjectPublicKeyInfo    SubjectPublicKeyInfo,
  attributes              [0] IMPLICIT Attributes

The distinguished name consists of a sequence of relative distinguished names (RDNs). Each RDN consists of a set of attributes, and each attribute consists of an object identifier and a value. The data type of the value is identified by the DirectoryString structure.

Name ::= SEQUENCE OF RelativeDistinguishedName
RelativeDistinguishedName ::= SET OF AttributeTypeValue
AttributeTypeValue ::= SEQUENCE 
  type       EncodedObjectID,
  value      ANY 
DirectoryString ::= CHOICE  
  teletexString           TeletexString (SIZE (1..MAX)),
  printableString         PrintableString (SIZE (1..MAX)),
  universalString         UniversalString (SIZE (1..MAX)),
  utf8String              UTF8String (SIZE (1..MAX)),
  bmpString               BMPString (SIZE (1..MAX)) 

For more information, see https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/windows/win32/seccertenroll/subject-names