Creating an OpenSSL CSR

If you want to make a TLS certicate, you need a Certificate Signing Request (CSR). Let's make one! I've verified that this produces a CSR suitable for pasting into DigiCert to get a certificate.

Making one isn't too bad if you use a config file. The following posts were super helpful when I was googling this:

Config file

First, make the config file ( I'm callling this We'll use this config file to create a CSR and a Private Key.

[ req ]
default_bits               = 2048
distinguished_name         = req_distinguished_name
req_extensions             = req_ext
prompt                     = no
[ req_distinguished_name ]
countryName                = US  # Country Name (2 letter code)
stateOrProvinceName        = California  # State or Province Name (full name)
localityName               = Sunnyvale  # Locality Name (eg, city)
organizationName           =  # Organization Name (eg, company)
commonName                 =  # Common Name (e.g. server FQDN or YOUR name)
[ req_ext ]
subjectAltName             = @alt_names
DNS.1                      =
DNS.2                      =
IP.1                       =

A couple of things to notice here:

  • prompt = no - if we don't add this, OpenSSL won't read our config file, even though we passed it. See this issue.
  • [ req_distinguished_name ] - if you work in an organization, and you want to make a cert "like the existing one", you can use openssl to check what's on it. I work for LinkedIn, so if I was making a LinkedIn cert, I would check the main website domain.
echo | openssl s_client -connect -servername 2> /dev/null | openssl x509 -noout -subject
subject= /C=US/ST=California/L=Sunnyvale/O=LinkedIn Corporation/
  • The Common Name is repeated in the subjectAltName. Browsers don't check the Common Name field any more, just the subjectAltName. So we need to repeat it. These days, the Common Name is more of an identifier for humans to read than something that matters to computers.
  • We're adding an IP to the subjectAltName section. That's just for demonstration. For production traffic, you probably prefer to use DNS instead of IPs directly.

Create CSR and Private Key

openssl req \
    -out \
    -newkey rsa:2048 \
    -nodes \
    -keyout \
    -config ./
writing new private key to ''

Some notes here:

  • rsa:2048 is an older and slower algorithm. I'm using it because I'm used to it, but you should consider newer and better ones.
  • -nodes means "no DES" - we won't be creating a password for our private key. See this link for more info and alternative encryption algorithms.
  • Examine the request you just created with the following command
openssl req -noout -text -in ./
  • Everyone knows this, but it's worth repeating anyway - don't share your private key with anyone you don't trust with control of your website.

To test that this method and has all the information needed to create a DigiCert capable of serving live traffic, I:

  • Used my DigiCert account to create a certificate valid for 2 days for
  • Used GitHub to make an incredibly barebones site repo
  • Created a corresponding site in Netlify
  • Added the SSL certificates via the Domains Management menu. You need to paste in the Certificate, Private Key, and Intermediate Certs in the dialogue. The easiest way to get those is to click "More Options" on the DigiCert download portal and copy:
    • the certificate text into the Certificate section of Netlify's dialogue,
    • both the Intermediate Certificate and the Root Certificate from the DigiCert popup to the Netlify dialogue,
    • and the Private Key we generated (i.e., not in the DigiCert portal) into the Private key section of the Netlify dialogue
  • Headed to to load the site.

On a whim I REVOKED the certificate and headed to SSL Labs to see what happened. Yup. Things looked pretty secure, except my certificate got an "F" for being revoked. Interestingly, my browser still trusts the cert. I thought it might be a cache issue from before I revoked the cert, so I tried to load the site on my phone browser and it also worked just fine...