gamma gamma - 1 year ago 159
Java Question

How to sign (dynamic) JNLP files for OSX and Gatekeeper

My company produces Java Applications for Servers and delivers JNLP files to start local Applications. Since OSX 10.8.4 it is required to sign JNLP files with a Developer ID to keep Gatekeeper happy (it's actually in the release notes at the very bottom).

The question is: how to accomplish this? AFAIK you can sign Apps (we have some Java Apps signed with Developer IDs) - but JNLP - Files are just that: files.

Next: how to do this with generated JNLP files. We have to modify them as they come from a server - e.g. properties, base URL and so forth.

AFAIK Java has a certain mechanism to say JNLP files are signed via their respective JAR file (the one that holds the main class) - but: Jar files are signed with a different certificate they will not satisfy Gatekeeper as well.

I did find one reference on how to sign tools and stuff, but it does not apply the scenario of dynamic files.

What I do not want as answers: Right-Click and Open to override the Gatekeeper or change the System- or Java settings. This is not an option.

Since OSX 10.9.5 you also have to sign using OSX 10.9+ and have valid version 2 signatures. How will this be done?

Answer Source

I think I found a solution. The only one I can currently think up. We basically need to wrap the JNLP with a custom app launcher, sign the app, make sure we can modify the JNLP on the fly on a server and then have it run.

As you may be aware, there is an app bundler project which can wrap up any JAR files into an OSX executable. This can be signed, delivered and will not fail Gatekeeper. I made a custom fork (which is up for a pull int o the main fork) that can take an JNLP file, wrap it up and you have a custom application doing just all the stuff a JNLP should do.

A Requirement is, however, that you do have a valid "Developer ID Application" certificate

  1. Head over to and download the current version
  2. Run the ant task and build the appbundler package.
  3. Have a look at the documentation for an example build script that will create the app container.
    • The example does not include the JNLP into the application right now.
    • The applications signature is created in a way so that the JNLP file can be modified later.
    • The application is being put into a zip file. This is important for downloading an application since they are only directories
  4. Create your server code. Load the ZIP file, put the JNLP File into the directory <yourapp>.app/Contents/Java/
  5. Deliver the zip file.

Now, if everything went fine, the zip file should automatically be unpacked in the Download folder and you should see your application icon. If you really made no mistake, you can execute the application as if it was a normal one.

I hope this will help a lot of developers fixing the broken JNLP behavior with OSX.

[UPDATE for modifiable JNLPs] Since OSX 10.9.5 it is required to have valid version 2 signatures on your app. This means that it the trick that was previously used by the app bundler (set a resource list file) does not work anymore. Everything and anything has to be signed now and it is virtually impossible to change the signed app afterwards.

I did however find a way: Use the app bundler. Set the JNLP to a file inside the Contents/_CodeSignature directory. Do not yet copy your modifiable JNLP in there but do this e.g. using Java later on when patching the zip (you'll need some code here anyway).

Please note: this should really only be needed if you have to put another JNLP file dynamically into the app container (thats is what the questions was about)

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