Why to use char array over a string for storing passwords in Java?
1. Strings are immutable: Strings are immutable in Java and therefore if a password is stored as plain text it will be available in memory until Garbage collector clears it and as Strings are used in String pool for re-usability there are high chances that it will remain in memory for long duration, which is a security threat. Strings are immutable and there is no way that the content of Strings can be changed because any change will produce new String.
With an array, the data can be wiped explicitly data after its work is complete. The array can be overwritten and and the password won’t be present anywhere in the system, even before garbage collection.
2. Security: Any one who has access to memory dump can find the password in clear text and that’s another reason to use encrypted password than plain text. So Storing password in character array clearly mitigates security risk of stealing password.
3. Log file safety: With an array, one can explicitly wipe the data , overwrite the array and the password won’t be present anywhere in the system.
With plain String, there are much higher chances of accidentally printing the password to logs, monitors or some other insecure place. char is less vulnerable.
String password: password Character password: [C@15db9742
4. Java Recommendation: Java has methods like JPasswordField of javax.swing as the method public String getText() which returns String is Deprecated from Java 2 and is replaced by public char getPassword() which returns Char Array.
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