How to Use OpenSSL to Sign Certificate

In this tutorial, let’s continue to learn how to use OpenSSL to sign a certificate.

Steps of Signing Certificate with OpenSSL

  1. We can use the command line to quickly generate ca certificate.

     openssl genrsa -out cakey.pem 2048
     openssl req -new -days 365 -x509 -key cakey.pem -out cacert.pem -nodes -subj /C=CA/ST=BC/L=Vancouver/O=Dynamsoft/OU=Dynamsoft/CN=Dynamsoft/
     openssl rsa -in cakey.pem -pubout -out ca_pub.key
  2. Load ca certificate, ca private key and X.509 certificate request.
  3. Set version, serial number, issuer name, time, subject, the public key to X.509 certificate, and sign it with the private key.

OpenSSL Example Code

#include <stdio.h>
#include <iostream>

#include <openssl/rsa.h>
#include <openssl/pem.h>
#include <openssl/bio.h>
#include <openssl/bn.h>
#include <openssl/evp.h>
#include <openssl/x509.h>
#include <openssl/x509v3.h>
#include <openssl/objects.h>
#include <openssl/ocsp.h>

// load ca
bool loadCA(const char *f, X509 ** px509)
	bool ret;
	BIO	*in = NULL;

	in = BIO_new_file(f,"r");

	ret = (PEM_read_bio_X509(in, px509, NULL, NULL) != NULL);

	return ret;

// load ca private key
bool loadCAPrivateKey(const char *f, EVP_PKEY **ppkey)
	bool ret;
	BIO	*in = NULL;
	RSA *r = NULL;
	EVP_PKEY *pkey = NULL;

	in = BIO_new_file(f,"r");
	ret = (PEM_read_bio_RSAPrivateKey(in, &r, NULL, NULL) != NULL);
		goto free_;

	pkey = EVP_PKEY_new();
	EVP_PKEY_assign_RSA(pkey, r);
	*ppkey = pkey;
	r = NULL;

	return ret;

// load X509 Req
bool loadX509Req(const char *f, X509_REQ **ppReq)
	bool ret;
	BIO	*in = NULL;

	in = BIO_new_file(f,"r");
	ret = (PEM_read_bio_X509_REQ(in, ppReq, NULL, NULL) != NULL);

	return ret;

// sign cert
int do_X509_sign(X509 *cert, EVP_PKEY *pkey, const EVP_MD *md)
	int rv;
	EVP_MD_CTX mctx;
	EVP_PKEY_CTX *pkctx = NULL;

	rv = EVP_DigestSignInit(&mctx, &pkctx, md, NULL, pkey);

	if (rv > 0)
		rv = X509_sign_ctx(cert, &mctx);
	return rv > 0 ? 1 : 0;

bool sign_X509_withCA()
	int				ret = 0;

	const char		*caFile = "cacert.pem";
	const char		*caPrivateKeyFile = "cakey.pem";
	const char		*x509ReqFile = "x509Req.pem";

	const char		*szUserCert = "cert.pem";

	int serial = 1;
	long days = 3650 * 24 * 3600; // 10 years
	char *md = NULL;

	X509 * ca = NULL;
	X509_REQ * req = NULL;
	EVP_PKEY *pkey = NULL, *pktmp = NULL;

	X509_NAME *subject = NULL, *tmpname = NULL;
	X509 * cert = NULL;
	BIO	*out = NULL;

	if(!loadCA(caFile, &ca))
		goto free_all;

	if(!loadCAPrivateKey(caPrivateKeyFile, &pkey))
		goto free_all;

	if(!loadX509Req(x509ReqFile, &req))
		goto free_all;

	cert = X509_new();
	// set version to X509 v3 certificate
	if (!X509_set_version(cert,2)) 
		goto free_all;

	// set serial
	ASN1_INTEGER_set(X509_get_serialNumber(cert), serial);

	// set issuer name frome ca
	if (!X509_set_issuer_name(cert, X509_get_subject_name(ca)))
		goto free_all;

	// set time
	X509_gmtime_adj(X509_get_notBefore(cert), 0);
	X509_gmtime_adj(X509_get_notAfter(cert), days);

	// set subject from req
	tmpname = X509_REQ_get_subject_name(req);
	subject = X509_NAME_dup(tmpname);
	if (!X509_set_subject_name(cert, subject)) 
		goto free_all;

	// set pubkey from req
	pktmp = X509_REQ_get_pubkey(req);
	ret = X509_set_pubkey(cert, pktmp);
	if (!ret) goto free_all;

	// sign cert
	if (!do_X509_sign(cert, pkey, EVP_sha1()))
		goto free_all;

	out = BIO_new_file(szUserCert,"w");
	ret = PEM_write_bio_X509(out, cert);




	return (ret == 1);

int main(int argc, char* argv[]) 
	return 0;

You can feel free to download the sample code, and run it in Visual Studio.

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