Self signed wildcard security certificate for apache or nginx

This tutorial is done on a debian 11 system… it should work for wildcard (For all subdomains under a domain), but also for subdomains or the primary domain, obviously, all you need to do is replace the * which denotes wildcard with the subdomain of your choice, so * is wildcard, is a subdomain 😉 so let us get started

Let’s encrypt has certainly revolutionized the world of SSL certificates (By making them free), but when it comes to wildcard certificates, let’s encrypt will require more than just generating the certificate, it will require a system that automatically alters DNS at your registrar, and differs from registrar to registrar.

So while I am developing, and need a wildcard SSL, I can simply generate a self signed wildcard security certificate, and teach my browser to accept it, and that is that, so here is how to generate that certificate !

So let us get started, first let us create a public and private key in one go, and a folder to store them !

cd /etc/ssl
sudo mkdir
sudo openssl req -x509 -nodes -days 365 -newkey rsa:2048 -keyout /etc/ssl/ -out /etc/ssl/

Now that we have the public and private key, we also need a strong Diffie-Hellman group… this file though goes somewhere else in the nginx directory

sudo openssl dhparam -out /etc/nginx/dhparam.pem 4096

Now you are done with creating everything you need, the next step is to install them into your nginx configuration

this can be done directly in the website’s configuration files, since this is a wildcard certificate that is expected to be installed in multiple nginx files, it is a good idea to group then so that you can add one line to all the config files, this will serve you when the certificates expire and you need to renew them !

Creating a self signed security certificate

This post is very outdated, you might want to check a more recent version of it at (Self signed wildcard security certificate for apache or nginx), even though it says WILDCARD in the title, it clearly shows how to make one that is not a wildcard certificate

It may be true that tutorials teaching you how to create and install a self signed security certificvate are everywhere, this one here i put for my own purposes, because i use this one that i wrote as copy and paste instructions for speed. I added things to explain why we are doing everything

Here we will discuss installing a self signed certificate (Acting as your own certificate authorite) …

If you are not sure if what you need is a self signed certificate or a proper secure certificate signed by a certificate authority, you can see the difference here

In this tutorial, we will install a self signed certificate on a debian squeeze machine. Please keep in mind that 1 certificate can be installed per IP address. If you need to install more certificates for more hosts, please have a look here.

We are sssuming you have apache installed, other web servers have different installation instructions, but the generation procedure remains the same

The steps we will take are

A- get the system ready
B- Create a private key
C- Create a certificate signing request from the private key
D- Create a certificate from the certificate signinig request
E- Install the certificate and the private key
F- Decrypt the private key (Optional)

A- get the system ready

1- Install openssl

On my debian system, this is done with the following command, on other systems, the installer may be different

apt-get install openssl ssl-cert

2- Create a directory we can work in

mkdir /etc/apache2/ssl

B- Create a private key

Creating a private key is as simple as

1- Go to our working directory

cd /etc/apache2/ssl

2- To create a private key, Issue the command

openssl genrsa -des3 -out myprivate.key 4096

A password of your choice is requiered (You must enter it twice).

You will then have a private key in the file myprivate.key

This is the encryption key for your private key, and even though this is an encrypted private key file, this key should never be shared with anyone. Since if you do decrypt it in the optional step below, and if it is ever shared with anyone after it is decrypted, they can create a certificate just like the one we are creating and fool a visitor into thinking they are on the correct website (in case of a man in the middle attack for example).

C- Create a certificate signing request from the private key

The certificate signing request is the file we normally give to a certificate authority so that they can create a certificate for us, but in this case, we are the certificate authority (Self signed certificate), we will therefore create a Certificate Signing request and sign it ourselves

1- To create a file containing the Certificate signing request data, all we need to do is issue the following command

openssl req -new -key myprivate.key -out signingrequest.csr

You will now be asked for (Keep your eyes open for the common name since it is the most important)

* Your Pass Phrase, the one you chose for the private key (To create a request from a private key, we need the decrypt and read the private key)
* Country Code (US), State…, CITY, Organisation Name, Organisation Unit
* Common name, and this is the most important, this is either your domain or sub domain, if it is your domain, do not add WWW and enter if it is a sub domain enter
* A Challenge password of your choice

* Enter anything into the optional company name.

We will now have 2 files in the directory, our private key (myprivate.key) and a certificate signing request (signingrequest.csr), we have 2 passwords, the private key’s encryption password and the signing request’s challenge password

D- Create a certificate from the certificate signinig request

openssl x509 -req -days 3650 -in signingrequest.csr -signkey myprivate.key -out mypublic.crt

Now, you will be asked the the Private Key’s pass phrase, the first password, Again to decrypt the private key so we can create a certificate.

We will now have 3 files in the directory, our private key (myprivate.key) and a certificate signing request (signingrequest.csr), and out certificate file (mypublic.crt)

E- Install the certificate and the private key

At this point, we have a public key (mypublic.crt), and a private key (myprivate.key), we can now install those on apache, and start using our certificate.

To install certificate on apache, we must

1- Enable mod ssl on apache, this is done with the command

a2enmod ssl

2- Make sure Apache is listening on the SSL port (443 by default)

On a debian system, you will need to verify the file ….

3- Fix the host’s config file to use the certificates

How this is done depends on how your system defines websites in apache, The easiest way to do this on a debian system is to copy the file mysite from the /etc/apache2/sites_available folder into a file called mysite_ssl (The mysite file could be called anything like, then open the new file for editing, change the Virtual Host Line at the top to <VirtualHost *:443> (You may also change the 8 with your IP address) then scroll down to the end of the new file, and right before the end of the Virtual Host, add the following lines

<VirtualHost *:443>
SSLEngine on
SSLCertificateFile /etc/apache2/ssl/mypublic.crt
SSLCertificateKeyFile /etc/apache2/ssl/myprivate.key

4- Restart apache server

On a debian system, the apache server is restarted with the command

/etc/init.d/apache2 restart

IMPORTANT: Now, when you restart the apache server, you will be asked for the password you chose when you created your private key, the next step below will make apache not ask for a password, but will also create a risk if your unencrypted key should fall into a malicious user’s hands. Worth mentioning that most websites do decrypt the private key, then make sure it is in a directory only root user can access, again, by default your private key is encrypted, decrypting it means you need to take very good care of it.

F- Decrypt the private key (Optional)

openssl rsa -in myprivate.key -out myprivate.key.insecure
mv myprivate.key
mv myprivate.key.insecure myprivate.key

Now, restarting Apache should not ask you for a password

G- Working with browsers

Firefox will allow you to add this certificate to it’s memory, whenever this certificate is presented for this hostname, Your modified Firefox will consider it a valid certificate

Common name is already present in a current certificate

Four days of godaddy SSL hell (starfield technologies certificate)

So, i am not writing this to mock godaddy or godaddy resellers or support, this is just a problem that you need to understand before you call godaddy (or any of their resellers) simply to save time and not to have to wait for 4 days like i did

When i submit my security signing request (csr file) to godaddy or wild west domains, the error i get reads

Common name is already present in a current certificate.

The reason to this is that someone (probably you or a previous owner) already issued a certificate for that domain from another account.

SOLUTION: Certificate, or even expired certificate must be REVOKED, cancelled is not good enough, the magic word is REVOKED, when the certificate expires, you can not revoke it, you must contact support and tell them that you need to revoke it by email.

So, i have not taken the time to organize the text below this line yet, if you are arguing about something in an effort to reduce your wait time, see below for whatever you need, but again, i did not refine any text below this line or organized it or even checked that it is correct.


UPDATE: Godaddy wrong again, when i get the time i will listen to the recorded conversation (because my phone auto records all conversations) and tell you exactly what you need to do to not rely on the faulty godaddy manuals, in short this is what happened (as i remember it is close to this)

So, here is what my conversations with godaddy comes down to, not accurately, but in short, what it comes down to (for my reference, the file is godaddy ssl Voice-0003.amr)

But as i start to get skeptical about this resolving itself in a few hours, i will call jet (the very helpful customer care representative) again and see if anything can be done.

Godaddy (Jet): After canceling the certificate, you need to wait for three days
Me: No, i am sure we have to revoke it, and since it is expired, i can not revoke it
Godaddy (Jet): No you are mistaken, after cancelling, we wait for three days then put in a new request
Me: Ok i will wait
I wait for 2 days, then call again as my website is down
Me: are you sure that within 3 days the system will do cleanup, if the job runs once every three days, 2 days increases the odds of what i was saying being right, can you please double check ? my website has been down for two days
Godaddy: no need to check, there is nothing we can do
And after 3 days of still no luck, i call again
Me: hi, i have waited for 3 days
Godaddy (denis): yes sir, for a certificate to get cleared from the system it needs to be revoked, i will have them send you an email so we can revoke it by email.
me: Seriously, that’s what i said 3 days ago
Godaddy (denis): I wonder why they did not do that on the first day
Me: thanx anyways