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Blackboard Help

Context Encryption Keys

Creating Context Encryption Keys

The only variable to consider when creating a context encryption key is the key length in bits. Longer keys are more secure but also perform somewhat slower.

It is possible to use only one key with Blackboard Learn at a time. If the context APIs are used to tie in more than one URL, the same key will be used to encrypt communication for all the URLs. If a key already exists, creating a new key will overwrite the existing key. Any URLs relying on the old key to decipher context passed from Blackboard Learn will not work until the new key is downloaded and made available to the URL.

How to Create Context Encryption Keys

  1. On the Administrator Panel, under Building Blocks, click Data Integration.
  2. Click Context Encryption Key.
  3. Select the Key Length from the list.
  4. Click Submit.

How to Download the Context Encryption Key

After a context encryption key has been created, it must be downloaded and then made accessible to the URL that will accept data passed from Blackboard Learn.

  1. On the Administrator Panel, under Building Blocks, click Data Integration.
  2. Click Context Encryption Key.
  3. Click Download. A download window from the browser will appear. The context key is always named blackboard.key.

Managing Context Encryption Keys

The context passing APIs allow Blackboard Learn to pass data to URLs requiring that data in a query string. To see an example of this type of URL, look at the URL for any Course. The last part of the URL is url=/bin/common/Course.pl?Course_id=unique_id where the unique_id is a variable. It is variables such as this that can be passed using the context passing APIs.

Context passing is especially useful when implementing Building Blocks that require content from Blackboard Learn to generate a URL. To protect the transfer of possibly sensitive data as part of a context passing function, context encryption using Cryptix (Blowfish) can be used to secure the data transfer instead of the standard Base64Encoding.

How to Enable the Manage Context Encryption Page

The cryptix32.jar file must be downloaded and Blackboard Learn configured before the features on the Manage Context Encryption Keys page become available.

  1. Download the cryptix32.jar file from the Cryptix Web site (http: //www.cryptix.org).
  2. Put cryptix32.jar in blackboard/systemlib.
  3. Create the directory blackboard/config/tomcat/classpath/cryptix-shared.classpath.bb. The .bb file should contain the following: @@bbconfig.basedir@@/systemlib/cryptix32.jar
  4. Run PushConfigUpdates to activate the changes. To learn more, see PushConfigUpdates.
  5. On the Administrator Panel, under Building Blocks, click Data Integration, and then click Context Encryption Key.

How to Manage Context Encryption

On the Administrator Panel, under Building Blocks, click Data Integration, and then click Context Encryption Key. The following table describes the available tasks.

Context Encryption Commands
Action Description
Create a new key Create New Context Encryption Key. A new key will be created and used by Blackboard Learn. For outside URLs to decipher context-passed data the key must be downloaded and made accessible to the outside URL. Creating a new key will remove the existing key. Any existing context-passing Building Blocks that rely on the key will not work until the new key is made available.
Download an existing key Download Existing Context Encryption Key. A key must be created before it can be downloaded and shared.