Create Your Own Certificate Authority

Sign your own certificates to use in securing your network.

SSL certificates are usually thought of as being used for secure communications over the HTTP protocol. However, they are also useful in providing both a means for authentication and a means for initiating key exchange for a myriad of other services where encryption is desired, such as POP and IMAP [Hack #47] , SMTP [Hack #48], IPSec (see Chapter 6), and, of course, SSL tunnels [Hack #76] . To make the best use of SSL, you will need to properly manage your own certificates.

If an SSL client needs to verify the authenticity of an SSL server, the cert used by the server needs to be signed by a Certificate Authority (CA) that is already trusted by the client. Well-known Certificate Authorities (such as Thawte and VeriSign) exist to serve as an authoritative, trusted third party for authentication. They are in the business of signing SSL certificates that are used on sites dealing with sensitive information (such as 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 cert’s credentials. However, for anything other than e-commerce applications, a self-signed certificate is usually sufficient for gaining all of the security advantages that SSL provides. But even a self-signed cert must be signed by an authority that the client recognizes.

OpenSSL, a free SSL implementation, ...

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