NSS commands and how to

I have collated some knowledge on how to use NSS and it’s tools for some general purpose usage, including mod_nss.

Much of this is just assembling the contents of the certutil documentation.

In this I have NOT documented the process of deleting certificates, changing trust settings of existing certificates or changing key3.db passwords.

Create a new certificate database if one doesn’t exist (You should see key3.db, secmod.db and cert8.db if one exists).

certutil -N -d .

List all certificates in a database

certutil -L -d .

List all private keys in a database

certutil -K -d . [-f pwdfile.txt]

I have created a password file, which consists of random data on one line in a plain text file. Something like below would suffice. Alternately you can enter a password when prompted by the certutil commands. If you wish to use this for apache start up, you need to use pin.txt

echo "soeihcoraiocrthhrcrcae aoriao htuathhhohodrrcrcgg89y99itantmnomtn" > pwdfile.txt
echo "internal:soeihcoraiocrthhrcrcae aoriao htuathhhohodrrcrcgg89y99itantmnomtn" > pin.txt

Create a self signed certificate in your database. Note the -n, which creates a “nickname” (And should be unique) and is how applications reference your certificate and key. Also note the -s line, and the CN options. Finally, note the first line has the option -g, which defines the number of bits in the created certificate.

certutil -S -f pwdfile.txt -d . -t "C,," -x -n "Server-Cert" -g 2048\
-s "CN=nss.dev.example.com,O=Testing,L=Adelaide,ST=South Australia,C=AU"
certutil -S -f pwdfile.txt -d . -t "C,," -x -n "Server-Cert2" \
-s "CN=nss2.dev.example.com,O=Testing,L=Adelaide,ST=South Australia,C=AU"

To add subject alternative names, use a comma seperated list with the option -8 IE

certutil -S -f pwdfile.txt -d . -t "C,," -x -n "Server-Cert" -g 2048\
-s "CN=nss.dev.example.com,O=Testing,L=Adelaide,ST=South Australia,C=AU" \
-8 "nss.dev.example.com,nss-alt.dev.example.com"

Create a self signed CA (In a different database from the one used by httpd.)

certutil -S -n CAissuer -t "C,C,C" -x -f pwdfile.txt -d . \
-s "CN=ca.nss.dev.example.com,O=Testing,L=Adelaide,ST=South Australia,C=AU"

Create a certificate in the same database, and sign it with the CAissuer certificate.

certutil -S -n Test-Cert -t ",," -c CAissuer -f pwdfile.txt -d . \
-s "CN=test.nss.dev.example.com,O=Testing,L=Adelaide,ST=South Australia,C=AU"

Test the new cert for validity as an SSL server.

certutil -V -d . -n Test-Cert -u V

View the new cert

certutil -L -d . -n Test-Cert

View the cert in ASCII form (This can be redirected to a file for use with openssl)

certutil -L -d . -n Test-Cert -a
certutil -L -d . -n Test-Cert -a > cert.pem

In a second, seperate database to your CA.

Create a new certificate request. Again, remember -8 for subjectAltName

certutil -d . -R -o nss.dev.example.com.csr -f pwdfile.txt \
-s "CN=nss.dev.example.com,O=Testing,L=Adelaide,ST=South Australia,C=AU"

On the CA, review the CSR you have recieved.

/usr/lib[64]/nss/unsupported-tools/derdump -i /etc/httpd/alias/nss.dev.example.com.csr
openssl req -inform DER -text -in /etc/httpd/alias/nss.dev.example.com.csr

On the CA, sign the CSR.

certutil -C -d . -f pwdfile.txt -i /etc/httpd/alias/nss.dev.example.com.csr \
-o /etc/httpd/alias/nss.dev.example.com.crt -c CAissuer

Export the CA public certificate

certutil -L -d . -n CAissuer -r > ca.crt

Import the CA public certificate into the requestors database.

certutil -A -n "CAcert" -t "C,," -i /etc/pki/CA/nss/ca.crt -d .

Import the signed certificate into the requestors database.

certutil -A -n "Server-cert" -t ",," -i nss.dev.example.com.crt -d .

Using openSSL create a server key, and make a CSR

openssl genrsa -out server.key 2048
openssl req -new -key server.key -out server.csr

On the CA, review the CSR.

openssl req -inform PEM -text -in server.csr

On the CA, sign the request. Note the use of -a that allows an ASCII formatted PEM input, and will create and ASCII PEM certificate output.

certutil -C -d . -f pwdfile.txt -i server.csr -o server.crt -a -c CAissuer

Import an openSSL generated key and certificate into an NSS database.

openssl pkcs12 -export -in server.crt -inkey server.key -out server.p12 -name Test-Server-Cert
pk12util -i server.p12 -d . -k pwdfile.txt

Export a secret key and certificate from an NSS database for use with openssl.

pk12util -o server-export.p12 -d . -k pwdfile.txt -n Test-Server-Cert
openssl pkcs12 -in server-export.p12 -out file.pem -nodes

Note that file.pem contains both the CA cert, cert and private key. You can view just the private key with:

openssl pkcs12 -in server-export.p12 -out file.pem -nocerts -nodes

Or just the cert and CAcert with

openssl pkcs12 -in server-export.p12 -out file.pem -nokeys -nodes

You can easily make ASCII formatted PEM from here.

Finally, these commands all use the old DBM formatted NSS databases. To use the new “shareable” sqlite formatting, follow the steps found from this blog post.

To configure mod_nss, you should have a configuration similar to below - Most of this is the standard nss.conf that comes with mod_nss, but note the changes to NSSNickname, and the modified NSSPassPhraseDialog and NSSRandomSeed values. There is documentation on the NSSCipherSuite that can be found by running “rpm -qd mod_nss”. Finally, make sure that apache has read access to the database files and the pin.txt file. If you leave NSSPassPhraseDialog as “builtin”, you cannot start httpd from systemctl. You must run apachectl so that you can enter the NSS database password on apache startup.

NOTE: mod_nss might support SNI. In my testing and examples, this works to create multiple sites via SNI, however, other developers claim this is not a supported feature. I have had issues with it in other instances also. For now, I would avoid it.

LoadModule nss_module modules/libmodnss.so
Listen 8443
NameVirtualHost *:8443
AddType application/x-x509-ca-cert .crt
AddType application/x-pkcs7-crl    .crl
NSSPassPhraseDialog  file:/etc/httpd/alias/pin.txt
NSSPassPhraseHelper /usr/sbin/nss_pcache
NSSSessionCacheSize 10000
NSSSessionCacheTimeout 100
NSSSession3CacheTimeout 86400
NSSEnforceValidCerts off
NSSRandomSeed startup file:/dev/urandom 512
NSSRenegotiation off
NSSRequireSafeNegotiation off
<VirtualHost *:8443>
ServerName nss.dev.example.com:8443
ServerAlias nss.dev.example.com
ErrorLog /etc/httpd/logs/nss1_error_log
TransferLog /etc/httpd/logs/nss1_access_log
LogLevel warn
NSSEngine on
NSSCipherSuite +rsa_rc4_128_md5,+rsa_rc4_128_sha,+rsa_3des_sha,+fips_3des_sha,+rsa_aes_128_sha,+rsa_aes_256_sha,\
NSSProtocol SSLv3,TLSv1
NSSNickname Server-cert
NSSCertificateDatabase /etc/httpd/alias
<Files ~ "\.(cgi|shtml|phtml|php3?)$">
    NSSOptions +StdEnvVars
<Directory "/var/www/cgi-bin">
    NSSOptions +StdEnvVars
<VirtualHost *:8443>
ServerName nss2.dev.example.com:8443
ServerAlias nss2.dev.example.com
ErrorLog /etc/httpd/logs/nss2_error_log
TransferLog /etc/httpd/logs/nss2_access_log
LogLevel warn
NSSEngine on
NSSCipherSuite +rsa_rc4_128_md5,+rsa_rc4_128_sha,+rsa_3des_sha,+fips_3des_sha,+rsa_aes_128_sha,+rsa_aes_256_sha,\
NSSProtocol SSLv3,TLSv1
NSSNickname Server-Cert2
NSSCertificateDatabase /etc/httpd/alias
<Files ~ "\.(cgi|shtml|phtml|php3?)$">
    NSSOptions +StdEnvVars
<Directory "/var/www/cgi-bin">
    NSSOptions +StdEnvVars