How To Create A Self-Signed SSL Certificate On Linux

This is a guide to creating self-signed SSL certificates using OpenSSL on Linux. It provides easy “cut and paste” code that you will need to generate your first RSA key pair. After creating your first set of keys, you should have the confidence to create certificates for a variety of situations. RSA keys are used everywhere these days and knowing how to generate them is an essential skill to posess for system admins, and an easy procedure for the hobbiest to pick up.

SSL certificates are used by many protocols and services, ranging from HTTPS to VPN. No matter what the application, being comfortable generating your own self-signed SSL certificates easily, will dramatically change the way you approach your system.

Below are the quick commands needed to get your SSL certificate and key. If you are trying to create a certificate for Web (https) you can take advantage of the free signed certificates that Cloudflare provides,. Self-signing a certificate for web use, paticularly e-commerce, is a bad idea, its best to use Cloudflare or purchase a reputable signed certificate. A signed certificate signifies a trusted authority issuued it. This provides SEO benefits in addition to security. Visitors to your site will get warnings if you try to us a self-signed certificate.

It is more than a disadvantage to try and use a self-signed certificate for a website.

Many trusted services insure their certificates against breaches. DNSRHINO, a domain registrar and webhost, provideds insurance on SSL certificates up to $100,000.

If you need an SSL certificate for anything other than https – read on.

All the commands below were run on Ubuntu 18.04 using apt-get and OpenSSL. If you don’t have Linux, or want to take advantage of free cloud time, click here to signup witht Vultr and launch an Ubuntu 18.04 instance in a few clicks. If you are on a RedHat/CentOS system use yum instead of apt-get. If you use a different Linux distro, package manager, or you want to install OpenSSL from source: clone the files using git, and view the file in the main directory called INSTALL. Clone OpenSSL using the below commands:

#Only Execute If You Aren't On Ubuntu Or Redhat/CentOS#
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install git
sudo git clone git://git.openssl.org/openssl.git

How To Generate A SSL Certificate:

sudo su -
apt-get updade
apt-get install openssl

You should see an output similar to the output below. Many systems have OpenSSL installed already, so don’t be surprised if you have nothing to install. Use yum instead of apt-get if your system requires it.

Reading package lists... Done
Building dependency tree
Reading state information... Done
Suggested packages:
  ca-certificates
The following NEW packages will be installed:
  openssl
0 upgraded, 1 newly installed, 0 to remove and 0 not upgraded.
Need to get 0 B/613 kB of archives.
After this operation, 1,251 kB of additional disk space will be used.
Selecting previously unselected package openssl.
(Reading database ... 77326 files and directories currently installed.)
Preparing to unpack .../openssl_1.1.1-1ubuntu2.1~18.04.5_amd64.deb ...
Unpacking openssl (1.1.1-1ubuntu2.1~18.04.5) ...
Setting up openssl (1.1.1-1ubuntu2.1~18.04.5) ...
Processing triggers for man-db (2.8.3-2ubuntu0.1) ...


The command below creates a certificate called ryanserver1.crt, and a private key called ryanserver1.key. The SSL certificates generate with the options below, are created without a passphrase, and are valid for 365 days. The values can be edited to match your specifications.

Change the names of the .crt and .key outputs from ryanserver1 to yourfilename in the code below and run the commmand.

openssl req -newkey rsa:4096 -x509 -sha256 -days 365 -nodes -out ryanserver1.crt -keyout ryanserver1.key

You will be asked a number of questions relating to the owner of the certificate. For most non-production applications, you can simply hit enter a few times to accept the default values. The executed command should look like this:

Generating a RSA private key
.................................++++
............................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................++++
writing new private key to 'ryanserver1.key'
-----
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) [AU]:CA
State or Province Name (full name) [Some-State]:ON
Locality Name (eg, city) []:Toronto
Organization Name (eg, company) [Internet Widgits Pty Ltd]:ryangeddes.com
Organizational Unit Name (eg, section) []:Tech
Common Name (e.g. server FQDN or YOUR name) []:ryangeddes.com
Email Address []:[email protected]

The certificate and key should now be in your current directory. Use ls to see a list of files, use pwd to determine the full path to the files. To show the contents of the certificate and key use cat. Your application will require the full path to the SSL certificates, you can move them with mv or you can link to their current position editing your applications config file.

[email protected]:~# ls
ryanserver1.crt  ryanserver1.key
[email protected]:~# pwd
/root
[email protected]:~# cat /root/ryanserver1.crt
-----BEGIN CERTIFICATE-----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jq8vssPeHyTfcnsMsK3DRENi3ey/HKqVrasvL8CjlQudYPVHdji0xzH+vWImp7pT
yFdKgczVarigjikfhG3I35CkWeu3UPv05esaauaawPHTzgtgGvBCuu/9qkTghCme
eTW3RCqpJW3V2BwksN/ENTnvq6gdKbOL4LT6cy8skDZTeFa77Mnwmi+oNz6c8ru9
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2engLobG9BkUKRs1EBSVpUhqEKk/DWyPCWVE2+oXytWlNkEMAI0gKBItmk/KEBC6
pJLSgd66+ZT5
-----END CERTIFICATE-----
[email protected]:~# cat /root/ryanserver1.key
-----BEGIN PRIVATE KEY-----
MIIJQQIBADANBgkqhkiG9w0BAQEFAASCCSswggknAgEAAoICAQCht+xbPA8mSi6F
fe64H45WSFV+9WLThF+6JHOsVx3VO2Vv13ogRNFsZJgNWvjukFL2XDkd5UK/HxRU
YftHv4YVqOI2sJ8e4Xm0dbplXo6I5Yw+bO+qYd2uzTUJRyoYbUgswydYU/c+fJE0
OhUh10/OHUpzcIaRFnj92CUAvL7g2JVpUeZZOAlZH8apCa78EYaE7g/q4+aPmUUX
ADE0rbs1dwOgpZ2cKWB8OeYMNlOrx0vxFvBHEdr+KKPT5zukE+0NNlRtINWuqC4I
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Y6Z4Bx6TGhxqNTAKJFzWluUeYeQ2qsLQbrF9e/wkMEQVN3BQgZoTnv0mZ2CSTCio
Z5ZmOW/QKfeKzY/Sk3KT4iQneMskQ6Q7tKr2+i0WFINy6D4a/JVD0q5MpkN46qAC
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7dfAlNgh3Tit5tX/O4cQr8mPSUkz
-----END PRIVATE KEY-----

You now have a working self-signed key and certificate without a passphrase. To learn more about generating SSL certificates and theadvanced options available using OpenSSL, be sure to visit the OpenSSL git repo and read through the OpenSSL docs.