How do I generate a certificate request for VeriSign?

Applying for a certificate signed by a recognized certificate authority like VeriSign is a complex bureaucratic process. You’ve got to perform all the requisite paperwork before creating a certificate request.

As in the recipe for creating a self-signed certificate, you’ll have to decide whether or not you want a passphrase on your private key. The recipe below assumes you don’t. You’ll end up with two files: a new private key called mykey.pem and a certificate request called myreq.pem.

openssl req \
  -new -sha256 -newkey rsa:2048 -nodes \
  -keyout mykey.pem -out myreq.pem

If you’ve already got a key and would like to use it for generating the request, the syntax is a bit simpler.

openssl req -new -key mykey.pem -out myreq.pem

Similarly, you can also provide subject information on the command line.

openssl req \
  -new -sha256 -newkey rsa:2048 -nodes \
  -subj '/ Dom, Inc./C=US/ST=Oregon/L=Portland' \
  -keyout mykey.pem -out myreq.pem

When dealing with an institution like VeriSign, you need to take special care to make sure that the information you provide during the creation of the certificate request is exactly correct. I know from personal experience that even a difference as trivial as substituting “and” for “&” in the Organization Name will stall the process.

If you’d like, you can double check the signature and information provided in the certificate request.

# verify signature
openssl req -in myreq.pem -noout -verify -key mykey.pem

# check info
openssl req -in myreq.pem -noout -text

Save the key file in a secure location. You’ll need it in order to use the certificate VeriSign sends you. The certificate request will typically be pasted into VeriSign’s online application form.