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I believe I understand how OpenSSL works, and I believe I have a good game plan for setting up an SSL server on my private network, but before I go through the process of downloading and configuring all the necessary software, I wanted to post this question as a sanity check.

Please correct me if any of the following are not true:

  • OpenSSL is a compiled (probably C/C++) library that I can download onto my linux server; it will then give me command-line tools that I can call from external applications or directly at the terminal
  • The Java keytool can be used to generate CSRs and private keys that will be needed by OpenSSL
  • To obtain an SSL certificate through OpenSSL, I start by using keytool to generate the CSR, and then, somehow (probably as an argument?), pass that CSR on to OpenSSL through the command-line interface

Again, if any of these are false, please begin by correcting me!

Now then, assuming I am on the right track, I have one major concern with this method:

Although a free option, wouldn't this mean that any web browser attempting to connect to my server over HTTPS would not recognize my CA cert and throw a nasty warning message my end users?

If not, please explain why. If so, then one solution I was hoping to explore was a situation where I buy my primary SSL certificate from a commercial provider (Verisign, Trustwave, GeoTrust, whoever) and then somehow use OpenSSL to "branch off" from that cert for all of my sub-domains.

The goal here is to get several SSL certs on the cheap, but still have them be authentic and thus trusted by my end user's browsers.

Any chance this is a possibility or will I have to go through a commercial vendor?

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You are correct in assummptions and concerns. Search for self-signed certificate and you will find troves of information. Bottom line is PKI certs are about trust and strangers don't have a simple way to trust your self-signed certificate thus they will be warned... –  zedman9991 Jul 2 '12 at 13:01

1 Answer 1

Your assumption are slightly incorrect, and I'll tell why: to generate a csr, you can use either openssl or keytool.

  • if you have a Linux-based sserver like Apache, use openssl to generate the csr/private key, the certificate is then installed referencing the certificate (public key), the private key and the intermediates in the configuration file.
  • if you have a Java-based server like Tomcat, Glassfish, etc., use keytool to generate the keystore and the csr/private key, then install the certificate in the correct format.

I reckon browsing the knowledgebase of one of the CA authorities you mentioned above will give you all the details that you need.

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