Creating Your Own CA

Tuesday, 18 February 2003, 1:28 PM EST

Well-known Certificate Authorities (such as Thawte and VeriSign) exist to serve as authoritative, trusted third-parties for authentication. They are in the business of signing SSL certificates that are used on sites that deal with sensitive information (like account numbers or passwords). If a site's SSL certificate is signed by a trusted authority, then presumably it is possible to verify the identity of a server supplying that certificate's credentials. In order to receive a certificate "blessed" by a well-known CA, you have to prove to them beyond a shadow of doubt that not only are you who you claim to be, but that you have the right to use the certificate in the way you intend to.

For example, I may be able to prove to a CA that I am really Rob Flickenger, but they probably won't issue me a signed certificate for Microsoft Corporation, as I have no rights to use that name. (Yes, they probably wouldn't do that. Not again.)

In this article, I'll show how OpenSSL is perfectly capable of generating everything you need to run your own Certificate Authority. The utility makes the process very simple.

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