Generate Certificate Signing Request on Linux

You create a CSR and have it signed by a CA before you can use a certificate. This tutorial is a continuation from my tutorial on creating a CA. However, you do not need to create a CA to generate a CSR.

Install Prerequisites

I wrote this tutorial using Fedora 18. The only prerequisite I needed was OpenSSL.

su -c 'yum install openssl'

Create Directory Structure

mkdir /home/cg/mycert

cd /home/cg/mycert/

mkdir private conf csr

We will run all commands by default in the /home/cg/mycert directory, unless stated otherwise.

Config File

vim /home/cg/mycert/conf/serverconfig.cnf

This file would serve as the config file if you wish to use it. An example file is below.

[ ca ]
default_ca = CA_default

[ CA_default ]
dir = /home/cg/mycert/
certs = $dir/certs
crl_dir = $dir/crl
database = $dir/index.txt
new_certs_dir = $dir/newcerts
certificate = $dir/certs/cacert.pem
serial = $dir/serial
#crl = $dir/crl.pem
private_key = $dir/private/cakey.pem
#RANDFILE = $dir/private/.rand
x509_extensions = usr_cert
#crl_extensions = crl_ext
default_days = 3650
#default_startdate = YYMMDDHHMMSSZ
#default_enddate = YYMMDDHHMMSSZ
#default_crl_days= 30
#default_crl_hours = 24
default_md = sha1
preserve = no
policy = policy_match

[ policy_match ]
countryName = match
stateOrProvinceName = match
localityName = match
organizationName = match
organizationalUnitName = optional
commonName = supplied
emailAddress = optional

[ req ]
default_bits = 4096 # Size of keys
default_keyfile = key.pem # name of generated keys
distinguished_name = req_distinguished_name
attributes = req_attributes
x509_extensions = v3_ca
string_mask = nombstr # permitted characters
req_extensions = v3_req

[ req_distinguished_name ]
countryName = Country Name (2 letter code)
countryName_default = US
countryName_min = 2
countryName_max = 2
stateOrProvinceName = State or Province Name (full name)
stateOrProvinceName_default = New York
localityName = Locality Name (city, district)
localityName_default = New York
organizationName = Organization Name (company)
organizationName_default = Code Ghar
organizationalUnitName = Organizational Unit Name (department, division)
organizationalUnitName_default = IT
commonName = Common Name (hostname, FQDN, IP, or your name)
commonName_max = 64
commonName_default = CGIT
emailAddress = Email Address
emailAddress_max = 40
emailAddress_default =

[ req_attributes ]
#challengePassword = A challenege password
#challengePassword_min = 4
#challengePassword_max = 20
#unstructuredName = An optional company name

[ usr_cert ]
basicConstraints= CA:FALSE
#nsComment = ''OpenSSL Generated Certificate''
#nsCertType = client, email, objsign for ''everything including object signing''
#nsCaRevocationUrl = http://www.domain.dom/ca-crl.pem
#nsBaseUrl = 
#nsRenewalUrl =
#nsCaPolicyUrl = 
#nsSslServerName =

[ v3_req ]
basicConstraints = CA:FALSE
keyUsage = nonRepudiation, digitalSignature, keyEncipherment

[ v3_ca ]
subjectKeyIdentifier = hash
authorityKeyIdentifier = keyid:always,issuer:always
basicConstraints = CA:TRUE
#keyUsage = cRLSign, keyCertSign
#nsCertType = sslCA, emailCA

[ crl_ext ]

Generate CSR

You can use the config file (serverconfig.cnf) we created in the previous step to answer a lot of the questions asked during certificate generation. Just run the following command and answer the questions. Most questions will have the default values provided in serverconfig.cnf.

openssl req -new -config conf/serverconfig.cnf -keyform PEM -keyout private/key.csr.server1.pem -outform PEM -out csr/csr.server1.pem -nodes

If you want to provide your own custom values you may run the following command instead.

openssl req -new -newkey rsa:4096 -keyform PEM -keyout private/key.csr.server1.pem -outform PEM -out csr/csr.server1.pem -nodes

You will be asked relevant questions. Following is an example output of the process.

Generating a 4096 bit RSA private key
writing new private key to 'private/key.csr.server1.pem'
You are about to be asked to enter information that will be incorporated
into your certificate request.
What you are about to enter is what is called a Distinguished Name or a DN.
There are quite a few fields but you can leave some blank
For some fields there will be a default value,
If you enter '.', the field will be left blank.
Country Name (2 letter code) [US]:
State or Province Name (full name) [New York]:
Locality Name (city, district) [New York]:
Organization Name (company) [Code Ghar]:
Organizational Unit Name (department, division) [IT]:
Common Name (hostname, FQDN, IP, or your name) [CGIT]:
Email Address []

Two files, key.csr.server1.pem and csr.server1.pem, will be created in $dir/private and $dir/csr directories respectively. Keep these files in a safe location and back them up.

You will submit csr.server1.pem to the CA who will sign it. The CA will sign the file and return the resulting file to you. That will be the certificate you will finally use.


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