I have the following private key. I'd like to be able to process it into an instance of ECPrivateKey using Bouncycastle (or the builtin Java security API if bouncycastle isn't necessary).

  • This appears to be an elliptic curve private key, which you appear to have understood yourself since you added the ecc tag. What do you mean by process? If you mean use it, you're ought to be migrated to StackOverflow and you need to be more specific there as well. Mar 7, 2022 at 18:41
  • @SirMuffington I've posted details on the errors I'm getting here stackoverflow.com/questions/71385375/… I thought maybe I could get some answers on what specific format that this was in (pem, pkcs8)--I'm assuming its PEM, but that doesn't appear to be working for me Mar 7, 2022 at 18:45
  • I'm not sure but it might be ASC format and I also think you need to remove the EC part Mar 7, 2022 at 19:05
  • You can simply paste the key into a software that can read ASN.1 structures such as ASN.1 JavaScript decoder, then you will see als the internal structure. This enables you to check if the format is the same as expected by a certain class like ECPrivateKey.
    – Robert
    Mar 8, 2022 at 17:38
  • @SirMuffington: the extension .asc is commonly used for the PGP format called armored (not ASC), which has BEGIN/END boundary lines and base64 similar to PEM, but not in fact the same and not interchangeable. The file here is PEM, NOT PGP-armored. Dec 3, 2022 at 4:23

3 Answers 3


An EC private key is nothing more than a 256-bit integer. You can use openssl to extract the private key (as a 256-bit integer) from the PEM file.

Try saving the PEM file that you posted on your system as private.pem. Then, use the following openssl command to extract the private key from the PEM file:

openssl ec -noout -text -inform PEM -in private.pem

This should produce:

read EC key
Private-Key: (256 bit)
ASN1 OID: prime256v1

As you can see, the private key is displayed as a 256-bit integer in hexadecimal format. With the private key now in its raw format, it should be possible to consume in any environment.

  • Within a particular curve, the private key is just a number whose size is the curve's order; there are many curves other than P-256/prime256v1/secp256r1 and most of them have sizes other than 256-bit. Some applications, like bitcoin, support only one curve and so need (and use) only the private number (although bitcoin WIF adds one byte to specify the 'network'), but Java supports many curves and so needs both the curve 'parameters' and the number. Dec 3, 2022 at 4:12

You can use Bouncy Castle to convert the private key into an instance of ECPrivateKey using the following code:

// Create a Bouncy Castle provider
Provider bcProvider = new BouncyCastleProvider();
// Load the private key
String privateKeyString = "-----BEGIN EC PRIVATE KEY-----\nMIGTAgEAMBMGByqGSM49AgEGCCqGSM49AwEHBHkwdwIBAQQgtqnvswtIdNxKy07B\nD3Y9vvlpwvSDqWCvyWmWTNea2ImgCgYIKoZIzj0DAQehRANCAATa0LtPPOI+De/u\nRY1vSxR7gFGSoyjaDZyif/sWujLZWEj6Rc2IEl62VfWQD3GeYCEEKP9qzpOGyO+b\nHWR98kNd\n-----END EC PRIVATE KEY-----";

// Get an instance of ECPrivateKey
ECPrivateKey privateKey

Yes, this is one of the PEM formats used by OpenSSL and supported by BouncyCastle's PEMParser and JcaPEMKeyConverter classes. Like other OpenSSL 'traditional' PEM formats, this actually produces a KeyPair object from which .getPrivate() gives you the privatekey object which implements, among other things, the ECPrivateKey interface.

Without Bouncy, if you get the curve AND numeric value of the raw private key, per mti2935's answer, you can put them in an ECPrivateKeySpec and run them through the generatePrivate() method of a KeyFactory returned from getInstance("EC") -- OR you can take the SEC1-format data from that file, after removing the BEGIN/END lines and de-Base64-ing, and add a fixed-per-curve prefix to make it PKCS8 format, which you can put in PKCS8EncodedKeySpec and feed to a KeyFactory instance as above. For examples of both options (but for a different curve, secp256k1), see my answer at https://stackoverflow.com/questions/48832170/generate-ec-public-key-from-byte-array-private-key-in-native-java-7 (ignoring the parts about using the resulting private key object to compute the public key).

  • Hello, i read your linked post and the post here, but I'm not sure I can do it. I used openssl and got the info of the key (prime256v1), then used your code but keys seems to not match. I've used your header prefix even if my key is of curve secp256r1, am I right or do I have to use another header? I'm not expert in this filed, just doing a bit of code using it! Sep 4, 2023 at 15:05
  • @NDorigatti As I said here and my answer at #48832170 also says, that is for secp256k1 not any other curve, and secp256r1=prime256v1=P-256 is another curve, so no that won't work as-is. You could determine the correct value by looking at a PKCS8 that is for secp256r1, OR (corrected! I forgot pkey is inconsistent) if you have OpenSSL, you can just do openssl pkcs8 -topk8 -nocrypt -in sec1pem -out pkcs8der -outform der to get a binary file with the correct contents to use as PKCS8EncodedKeySpec. Sep 5, 2023 at 2:37
  • I think i'm messing too much in my mind: given this private key (don't worry is ok to share): MHcCAQEEID0VR/I814rQUqWIYPEhno+3kexN/jN2n1ub+mJ6ZWyhoAoGCCqGSM49AwEHoUQDQgAEwKMBv29ByaSLiGF0FctuyB+Hs2oZ1kDIYhTVllPexNGudAlm8IWOH0e+Exc97/zBdawu7Yl+XytQONszGzAK7w== and doing: openssl ec -noout -text -inform PEM -in private.pem openssl pkcs8 -topk8 -nocrypt -in private.pem -out pkcs8der -outform der OUTPUT file gives (first 64chars): 308187020100301306072a8648ce3d020106082a8648ce3d030107046d306b02 But then the code says: java.security.InvalidKeyException: Invalid EC private key Thank you Sep 5, 2023 at 8:07
  • I moved to a new question as there is too much to write and follow in comments: security.stackexchange.com/questions/272048/… Thank you if you can help, many thanks anyway for the help till now! Sep 5, 2023 at 8:41

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