Sign Server and Client Certificates¶
We will be signing certificates using our intermediate CA. You can use these signed certificates in a variety of situations, such as to secure connections to a web server or to authenticate clients connecting to a service.
The steps below are from your perspective as the certificate authority.
A third-party, however, can instead create their own private key and certificate signing request (CSR) without revealing their private key to you.
They give you their CSR, and you give back a signed certificate. In that scenario, skip the
Create a key¶
Our root and intermediate pairs are 4096 bits. Server and client certificates normally expire after one year, so we can safely use 2048 bits instead.
Although 4096 bits is slightly more secure than 2048 bits, it slows down TLS handshakes and significantly increases processor load during handshakes. For this reason, most websites use 2048-bit pairs.
If you’re creating a cryptographic pair for use with a web server (eg, Apache), you’ll need to enter this password every time you restart the web server.
You may want to omit the
-aes256 option to create a key without a password.
# cd /root/ca # openssl genrsa -aes256 \ -out intermediate/private/www.example.com.key.pem 2048 # chmod 400 intermediate/private/www.example.com.key.pem
Create a certificate¶
Use the private key to create a certificate signing request (CSR).
The CSR details don’t need to match the intermediate CA.
For server certificates, the Common Name must be a fully qualified domain name (eg,
www.example.com), whereas for client certificates it can be any unique identifier (eg, an e-mail address).
Note that the Common Name cannot be the same as either your root or intermediate certificate.
# cd /root/ca # openssl req -config intermediate/openssl.cnf \ -key intermediate/private/www.example.com.key.pem \ -new -sha256 -out intermediate/csr/www.example.com.csr.pem Enter pass phrase for www.example.com.key.pem: secretpassword You are about to be asked to enter information that will be incorporated into your certificate request. ------------------------------ Country Name (2 letter code) [XX]:US State or Province Name :California Locality Name :Mountain View Organization Name :Alice Ltd Organizational Unit Name :Alice Ltd Web Services Common Name :www.example.com Email Address :
To create a certificate, use the intermediate CA to sign the CSR.
If the certificate is going to be used on a server, use the
If the certificate is going to be used for user authentication, use the
Certificates are usually given a validity of one year, though a CA will typically give a few days extra for convenience.
# cd /root/ca # openssl ca -config intermediate/openssl.cnf \ -extensions server_cert -days 375 -notext -md sha256 \ -in intermediate/csr/www.example.com.csr.pem \ -out intermediate/certs/www.example.com.cert.pem # chmod 444 intermediate/certs/www.example.com.cert.pem
intermediate/index. file should contain a line referring to this new certificate.
V 160420124233Z 1000 unknown ... /CN=www.example.com
Verify the certificate¶
# openssl x509 -noout -text \ -in intermediate/certs/www.example.com.cert.pem
The Issuer is the intermediate CA. The Subject refers to the certificate itself.
Signature Algorithm: sha256WithRSAEncryption Issuer: C=GB, ST=England, O=Alice Ltd, OU=Alice Ltd Certificate Authority, CN=Alice Ltd Intermediate CA Validity Not Before: Apr 11 12:42:33 2015 GMT Not After : Apr 20 12:42:33 2016 GMT Subject: C=US, ST=California, L=Mountain View, O=Alice Ltd, OU=Alice Ltd Web Services, CN=www.example.com Subject Public Key Info: Public Key Algorithm: rsaEncryption Public-Key: (2048 bit)
The output will also show the X509v3 extensions.
When creating the certificate, you used either the
The options from the corresponding configuration section will be reflected in the output.
X509v3 extensions: X509v3 Basic Constraints: CA:FALSE Netscape Cert Type: SSL Server Netscape Comment: OpenSSL Generated Server Certificate X509v3 Subject Key Identifier: B1:B8:88:48:64:B7:45:52:21:CC:35:37:9E:24:50:EE:AD:58:02:B5 X509v3 Authority Key Identifier: keyid:69:E8:EC:54:7F:25:23:60:E5:B6:E7:72:61:F1:D4:B9:21:D4:45:E9 DirName:/C=GB/ST=England/O=Alice Ltd/OU=Alice Ltd Certificate Authority/CN=Alice Ltd Root CA serial:10:00 X509v3 Key Usage: critical Digital Signature, Key Encipherment X509v3 Extended Key Usage: TLS Web Server Authentication
Use the CA certificate chain file we created earlier (
ca-chain.cert.pem) to verify that the new certificate has a valid chain of trust.
# openssl verify -CAfile intermediate/certs/ca-chain.cert.pem \ intermediate/certs/www.example.com.cert.pem www.example.com.cert.pem: OK
Deploy the certificate¶
You can now either deploy your new certificate to a server, or distribute the certificate to a client. When deploying to a server application (eg, Apache), you need to make the following files available:
If you’re signing a CSR from a third-party, you don’t have access to their private key so you only need to give them back the chain file (
ca-chain.cert.pem) and the certificate (