What significance does the dash "-" holds along with the line -----BEGIN CERTIFICATE----- or -----END CERTIFICATE-----.

I checked multiple docs and linked RFC's as well but could not find the significance, one thing I got it "The number of dashs ("-----") is meaningful, and must be correct."

  • 2
    They're just part of the magic value to recognize a certificate format. If they're not exactly as expected then they're considered incorrectly formatted.
    – RoraΖ
    Mar 13, 2015 at 13:47

1 Answer 1


This is defined in IETF RFC4945, section 6.1 (page 36).

It is basically a standardised format for protecting important identifying start and ending sequences of encoded data in plain-text files, known as an encapsulation boundary, that has been around for a long time (since at least RFC934, published in 1984).

  • 1
    Note that for a long time, the use of encapsulation boundary for certificates was not standardized anywhere; it was best defined as "whatever OpenSSL does and can process". Not including exactly five dashes incurs the risk of being rejected by OpenSSL or one of the other implementations that can understand that format (including the certificate support code in Windows).
    – Tom Leek
    Mar 13, 2015 at 15:20

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