How To Set Up An SSL Vhost Under Apache2 On Ubuntu 9.10/Debian Lenny - Page 2

5 Creating A Certificate Signing Request (CSR)

To request a trusted certificate from a trusted CA such as Verisign, Thawte or Comodo, we must generate a certificate signing request (CSR) from our private key and send it to the CA which then creates a trusted certificate from it with which we replace our self-signed certificate.

I will create the CSR in the directory /etc/ssl/csr, so we have to create it first:

mkdir /etc/ssl/csr

Now we can create the CSR /etc/ssl/csr/ from our private key /etc/ssl/private/ as follows:

openssl req -new -key /etc/ssl/private/ -out /etc/ssl/csr/

You will be asked a few questions. Please fill in your details, they will be used for creating the trusted certificate and can be seen by your visitors when they choose to view the details of your certificate in their browsers. The most important thing is the Common Name - this must be the domain or hostname of your SSL vhost ( in this case)!

[email protected]:~# openssl req -new -key /etc/ssl/private/ -out /etc/ssl/csr/
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]:
<-- DE
State or Province Name (full name) [Some-State]: <-- Lower Saxony
Locality Name (eg, city) []: <-- Lueneburg
Organization Name (eg, company) [Internet Widgits Pty Ltd]: <-- Example Ltd
Organizational Unit Name (eg, section) []: <-- IT
Common Name (eg, YOUR name) []: <--
Email Address []: <-- [email protected]

Please enter the following 'extra' attributes
to be sent with your certificate request
A challenge password []:
An optional company name []: <-- ENTER
[email protected]:~#

Afterwards, you should have a CSR in /etc/ssl/csr/, e.g. as follows:

cat /etc/ssl/csr/



6 Getting A Trusted Certificate

To get a trusted certificate, you have to take your certificate signing request (CSR) to a certificate authority (CA) such as Verisign, Thawte, or Comodo (please note that you have to pay for a trusted certificate). Certificates issued by such a CA are trusted by all browsers which means you won't see any browser warnings anymore. allows you to get free certificates, but the downside is that such certificates are trusted by only a few browsers (which means you will get browser warnings). Anyway, I will use here to show you how to get a certificate from a CA - it should give you the idea, the procedure is the same with the trusted CAs.

Go to and open an account. Afterwards, go to Domains to add your own domain(s) (without a hostname, so if you want to get a certificate for, you just enter without www here). The service will send an email with a link to an email address that it finds in the WHOIS data of the domain - you have to click on that link to verify that you are the owner of the domain. I've verified three domains here:

To get a certificate, go to Server Certificates > New...

... and scroll down to the big text area - this is where you paste your CSR that you've created in chapter 5. Click on Submit afterwards:

Click on Submit again on the next page:

After a few moments, you will see your new certificate:

Now create a backup of your self-signed certificate...

cp /etc/ssl/certs/ /etc/ssl/certs/

... , then empty your self-signed certificate...

> /etc/ssl/certs/

... and open the empty certificate file:

vi /etc/ssl/certs/

Now copy&paste the certificate from the page into the empty file:


Restart Apache:

/etc/init.d/apache2 restart

That's it, if your CA doesn't ask you to install a certificate chain file or intermediate certificate in Apache, you're done, and you can now access your SSL vhost ( in this case) without a browser warning. (If you use a certificate, you will still see a browser warning as most browsers don't know this CA - read chapter 7 to learn how to make your browser trust certificates).

To manage your existing certificates on the web site, go to Server Certificates > View:


6.1 Certificate Chain Files Or Intermediate Certificates

Some CAs require that you install a certificate chain file or intermediate certificate in Apache (in addition to the certificate that you installed in chapter 6). (Please note that does not require this!).

These CAs usually have instructions on their web sites how to do this. Basically it works like this: you doanload this certificate chain file or intermediate certificate to your server (e.g. to the /etc/ssl/certs/ directory; I name my certificate chain file CAcert_chain.pem here, so the full path is /etc/ssl/certs/CAcert_chain.pem), then you open your SSL vhost configuration...

vi /etc/apache2/sites-available/

... and add/enable the SSLCertificateChainFile directive in it:

        SSLCertificateFile    /etc/ssl/certs/
        SSLCertificateKeyFile /etc/ssl/private/

        #   Server Certificate Chain:
        #   Point SSLCertificateChainFile at a file containing the
        #   concatenation of PEM encoded CA certificates which form the
        #   certificate chain for the server certificate. Alternatively
        #   the referenced file can be the same as SSLCertificateFile
        #   when the CA certificates are directly appended to the server
        #   certificate for convinience.
        SSLCertificateChainFile /etc/ssl/certs/CAcert_chain.pem

Restart Apache afterwards:

/etc/init.d/apache2 restart

Falko Timme

About Falko Timme

Falko Timme is an experienced Linux administrator and founder of Timme Hosting, a leading nginx business hosting company in Germany. He is one of the most active authors on HowtoForge since 2005 and one of the core developers of ISPConfig since 2000. He has also contributed to the O'Reilly book "Linux System Administration".

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By: Falko Timme