Daily Archives: Tue, 11 Nov 2008 19:54:22 +0000

Configuring ssl requests with SubjectAltName with openssl

Subject Alternative Names are a X509 Version 3 (RFC 2459) extension to allow an SSL certificate to specify multiple names that the certificate should match. SubjectAltName can contain email addresses, IP addresses, regular DNS host names, etc. There’s a clean enough list of browser compatibility here.

Changing /etc/ssl/openssl.cnf isn’t too hard. Although most the documentation is hard to grasp, especially if you’re only trying to make requests. From this, I developed these changes to a standard config provided by debian/ubuntu. Edit openssl.cnf and uncomment “x509_extensions = v3_ca” in the [ req ] section.

Annoyingly, nobody appears to have figured out how to get openssl to ask you for this value.

I thought I was clever putting ‘subjectAltName=email:move’ in the v3_req section, which would put the email address you type in the subjectAltName field. I’d put in “foo@example.org, DNS:www1.example.org, DNS:www2.example.org” in the email field when ‘openssl req’ asked for it. Visually it worked, but the browsers didn’t like it. This appears to be functionality to deal with part of the RFC, moving email address into subjectAltName.

I thought about writing a script that would copy openssl.cnf, ask me for the value of SubjectAltName, run sed against it, then start openssl. It would appear seamless, but of course be a hack.

A better answer lies here, you can configure openssl to use environment variables. At the top of openssl.cnf under where it set’s HOME=”…” I added


And in [ v3_req ] I added:


So if you run openssl like this:

SAN="DNS:www.1example.org, DNS:www2.example.org" \
  openssl req -new -key www.example.org.key -out www.example.org.csr

It will fill in subjectAltName with the contents of the SAN variable, otherwise will fill it with the contents specified at the top of the file. There’s no way to use conditionals (I assume).If you just leave it blank, or leave it out altogether, you get these errors:

Unable to load config info from /usr/lib/ssl/openssl.cnf

and respectively,

Error Loading request extension section v3_req
27687:error:2206D06C:X509 V3 routines:X509V3_PARSE_LIST:invalid null name:v3_utl.c:327:
27687:error:22097069:X509 V3 routines:DO_EXT_NCONF:invalid extension string:v3_conf.c:139:name=subjectAltName,section=
27687:error:22098080:X509 V3 routines:X509V3_EXT_nconf:error in extension:v3_conf.c:93:name=subjectAltName, value=