Get free SSL certificates from startssl

SSL certificates can be a pain, especially if you have to pay for them. It turs out you can get free SSL certificates from startssl.com, though, so at least your wallet doesn’t have to suffer!

In order to create an account with them, head over to https://www.startssl.com/ Their account creation process is a little strange. Follow their instructions for generating a certificate for authentication (they don’t use passwords.)

Note: if you are getting frustrated because you follow their certificate login process only to have your browser tell you there is no cert it’s likely due to some caching of the certificate error page in your browser. Clear cache and cookies (or open a browser in incognito / privacy mode) and try again to log in.

First, validate your domain using their validation wizard. Once your domain is validated, head over to the Certificates wizard to generate a certificate.

I don’t trust any website that generates private SSL keys for you, so I recommend you create your own with the openssl command (steps copied from my sophos SSL certificate tutorial) and skip the creation step on their website.

  1. Generate a Certificate Signing Request (CSR) by creating a key and using it to generate the CSR
  2. openssl genrsa -aes256 -out <keyname>.key 2048
    openssl req -new -key keyname.key -out csrname.csr

2. Copy the content of the csr file into the CSR form box and click Next

3. If you’re lucky, you’ll be provided the key files immediately. Sometimes it takes a few hours for them to approve the certificate creation first.

4. Once the certificate is created, head over to Toolbox / Retrieve certificate. After selecting the appropriate certificate, copy everything in the box and paste it into a crt file.

5. Obtain Startcom’s intermediate and root CA files by going to Toolbox / Startcom CA Certificates. Download the “Server Certificate Bundle with CRLs” file.

6. Combine the generated certificate and Startcom certificate bundle into a single file:

cat ca-bundle.pem generated_crt_file.crt  > combined.crt

Sometimes you will need to wait 6-12 hours after getting key before installing it. This allows for OCSP to propagate as explained here. If you get certificate errors after installing, this may be the cause.

7. Profit.

 

 

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