Friday, July 24, 2009


I have been working on an Application Express 4.0 feature to support consuming REST Web services. REST Web services use a simpler architecture than the popular SOAP style Web services. Instead of posting some big XML document wrapped in a SOAP Envelope, REST requests are typically done by passing name/value pairs in the query string of a URL.

To prove that the support for REST I am building in Application Express is useful, I have been working with popular public REST Web services offered by Yahoo, Google and Amazon. I built a similar application to the Amazon Store sample application using the REST APIs. Everything was going great until I received the following email from Amazon.

"Dear Product Advertising API Developer,

We wanted to remind you that all Product Advertising API developers will be required to authenticate all calls to the Product Advertising API by August 15, 2009. We noticed that requests with your AWS Access Key ID are not being signed and, while you have more than 60 days until the date on which authentication is required, we are, as a courtesy, sending you this email to remind you of the new authentication requirement. Please remember that calls to the Product Advertising API that are not signed will not be processed after August 15, 2009."

What do they mean I need to sign my requests? Luckily they provided some links for developer resources on how to construct signed requests. In a nutshell, you must byte order all of your parameters, add a Timestamp parameter and then you create a base64-encoded HMAC_SHA256 signature using your AWS secret key. Should not be a problem. I recently added support for parameters in REST requests to be populated by the result of a function and I am somewhat familiar with the DBMS_CRYPTO package. Unfortunately I quickly found out that DBMS_CYRPTO only supports HMAC_SHA1 and I not so quickly found out that HMAC_SHA1 is not the same as HMAC_SHA256. Am I stuck?

I binged (Google gets enough love and Microsoft can use the help after their most recent earnings results) for HMAC_SHA256 and PL/SQL and found this forum post. This guy wanted to do exactly what I need to do. Someone suggested that he create a Java stored procedure and then he responded with some Java code example with and hmacSHA256 function. Unfortunately no-one could give him an example of exactly how to create that Java stored procedure and then use it in PL/SQL. That's when I remembered that my good friend and colleague Joel Kallman wrote about creating a Java stored procedure to create a zip file of BLOB's.

Well, surely I can follow Joel's example as a cookbook and do the same thing with this hmacSHA256 function, right? The answer is yes, after spending more time than I probably should have (don't tell Joel if you see him), but hey, I had to prove that this REST stuff would actually be useful to customers. If they can't sign their requests, they won't be able to use Application Express to build cool applications that interact with Amazon Web Services. (At least that is my attempt at invoking what another colleague calls The Oracle Justification Server.)

First, start by compiling the following Java source.

Code listing 1, java source hmacSHA256

create or replace and compile java source named hmacSHA256 as

import java.util.*;

public class hmacSHA256 {
public static String encrypt(
String message,
String keyStr) {

//get the bytes of the keyStr
byte[] key = keyStr.getBytes();
// Start by getting an object to generate SHA-256 hashes with.
MessageDigest sha256 = null;
try {
sha256 = MessageDigest.getInstance("SHA-256");
} catch (NoSuchAlgorithmException e) {
throw new java.lang.AssertionError(".hmacSHA256(): SHA-256 algorithm not found!");
// Hash the key if necessary to make it fit in a block (see RFC 2104).
if (key.length > 64) {
key = sha256.digest();

// Pad the key bytes to a block (see RFC 2104).
byte block[] = new byte[64];
for (int i = 0; i < key.length; ++i) block[i] = key[i];
for (int i = key.length; i < block.length; ++i) block[i] = 0;

// Calculate the inner hash, defined in RFC 2104 as
// SHA-256(KEY ^ IPAD + MESSAGE)), where IPAD is 64 bytes of 0x36.
for (int i = 0; i < 64; ++i) block[i] ^= 0x36;
try {
} catch (UnsupportedEncodingException e) {
throw new java.lang.AssertionError(
"ITunesU.hmacSH256(): UTF-8 encoding not supported!");
byte[] hash = sha256.digest();

// Calculate the outer hash, defined in RFC 2104 as
// SHA-256(KEY ^ OPAD + INNER_HASH), where OPAD is 64 bytes of 0x5c.
for (int i = 0; i < 64; ++i) block[i] ^= (0x36 ^ 0x5c);
hash = sha256.digest();

// The outer hash is the message signature...
// convert its bytes to hexadecimals.
char[] hexadecimals = new char[hash.length * 2];
for (int i = 0; i < hash.length; ++i) {
for (int j = 0; j < 2; ++j) {
int value = (hash[i] >> (4 - 4 * j)) & 0xf;
char base = (value < 10) ? ('0') : ('a' - 10);
hexadecimals[i * 2 + j] = (char)(base + value);

// Return a hexadecimal string representation of the message signature.
return new String(hexadecimals);

Next you create a standard PL/SQL function that uses the java source as in the following code listing.

Code listing 2, PL/SQL hmacSHA256 function

create or replace function hmacSHA256(
p_string in varchar2,
p_key in varchar2) return varchar2
as language java
name 'hmacSHA256.encrypt(
java.lang.String) return String';

Finally, you create a function that takes in the string to sign, your AWS Secret Key, and then creates the HMAC_SHA256 signature.

Code listing 3, amazon_signature function

create or replace function amazon_signature(
p_string in varchar2,
p_key in varchar2) return varchar2
encrypted_raw raw(2000);
output_string varchar2(32000);

encrypted_raw := hmacSHA256(p_string,p_key);
output_string := UTL_I18N.RAW_TO_CHAR (utl_encode.base64_encode(encrypted_raw), 'AL32UTF8');

return output_string;

end amazon_signature;
show errors

Now let's test all this out. Amazon provides a nice self contained Web page utility that uses Javascript to help you create signed requests. I will use 123456 as my AWS Access Key ID and abcdefg as my AWS Secret Access Key. Plug in the following URL in the Unsigned URL text area:,Images&Keywords=liberty+and+tryanny&SearchIndex=Books&AWSAccessKeyId=123456&AssociateTag=apex30-20

This will come up with the following string to sign:




And will produce the following Signature parameter:


If I take the same string to sign and AWS Secret Key of abcdefg and run it through amazon_signature, I get the following results:

Code listing 4, result of amazon_signature function

jason@APX11W> declare
2 l_token varchar2(4000);
3 begin
4 l_token := amazon_signature('GET
6 /onca/xml
7 AWSAccessKeyId=123456&AssociateTag=apex30-20&Keywords=liberty%20and%20tryanny&Operation=ItemSearch&ResponseGroup=It
8 dbms_output.put_line(l_token);
9 end;
10 /

PL/SQL procedure successfully completed.

The only difference in the result is the very end. Prior to using the signature, it must be URL encoded. If you run the string uMJX4cN6EXHyTUrC03Ae9hAcGdTnAHI0KqtovwQUHP8= through wwv_flow_utilities.url_encode2, you will get uMJX4cN6EXHyTUrC03Ae9hAcGdTnAHI0KqtovwQUHP8%3D.