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Mini tutorial for configuring client-side SSL certificates.

View gist:952344

Client-side SSL

For excessively paranoid client authentication.

Using self-signed certificate.

Create a Certificate Authority root (which represents this server)

Organization & Common Name: Some human identifier for this server CA.

openssl genrsa -des3 -out ca.key 4096
openssl req -new -x509 -days 365 -key ca.key -out ca.crt

Create the Client Key and CSR

Organization & Common Name = Person name

openssl genrsa -des3 -out client.key 4096
openssl req -new -key client.key -out client.csr
# self-signed
openssl x509 -req -days 365 -in client.csr -CA ca.crt -CAkey ca.key -set_serial 01 -out client.crt

Convert Client Key to PKCS

So that it may be installed in most browsers.

openssl pkcs12 -export -clcerts -in client.crt -inkey client.key -out client.p12

Convert Client Key to (combined) PEM

Combines client.crt and client.key into a single PEM file for programs using openssl.

openssl pkcs12 -in client.p12 -out client.pem -clcerts

Install Client Key on client device (OS or browser)

Use client.p12. Actual instructions vary.

Install CA cert on nginx

So that the Web server knows to ask for (and validate) a user's Client Key against the internal CA certificate.

ssl_client_certificate /path/to/ca.crt;
ssl_verify_client optional; # or `on` if you require client key

Configure nginx to pass the authentication data to the backend application:

Using CACert Keys

Top tip for those signing client certs with an intermediary CA, you must cat rootca.pem >> intermediaryca.pem else nginx will return a very unhelpful 400 error.

Thank you, this helped me after a lot of searching.

Hello, I use Nginx as reverse http proxy to more than one web servers. I need to configure the client certificate-based authentication only for some locations, not all the locations configured in nginx.

How can I do?
Can I put the lines:

ssl_client_certificate /path/to/ca.crt;
ssl_verify_client optional;

inside the "location" definition?

Thnks a lot, regards
Luca

@lucdig, those lines belong to the server block along wih another SSL directives: https://gist.github.com/konklone/6532544

@lucdig SSL handshaking occurs prior to the server knowing any details about the request, so it will be a global rather than specific to a particular location.

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