Installing an SSL certificate on Linux / Tomcat7 Server

You would be using Keytool to accomplish most of the tasks. Keytool is a Java utility to manage a keystore (database) of private keys, certificate chains and trusted certificates. It is included in the Java distribution.

  1. Generating a keystore

    A keystore is a password protected file that stores the server’s private key and the certificate chain. A single keystore can contain multiple private keys and their corresponding certificate chains.

        ubuntu@ip-112-31-13-157:~$ keytool -genkey -alias abc -keyalg RSA -keysize 2048 -keystore /home/ubuntu/abc-keystore
        Enter keystore password:  abcdefghij12
        Re-enter new password: abcdefghij12
        What is your first and last name?
        What is the name of your organizational unit?
          [Unknown]:  mycompany
        What is the name of your organization?
          [Unknown]:  gecko
        What is the name of your City or Locality?
          [Unknown]:  Boston
        What is the name of your State or Province?
          [Unknown]:  Massachussets
        What is the two-letter country code for this unit?
          [Unknown]:  US
        Is, OU=mycompany, O=gecko, L=Boston, ST=Massachussets, C=US correct?
          [no]:  yes
        Enter key password for <abc>
            (RETURN if same as keystore password): RETURN

    Note: It is important to hit RETURN when Keytool asks you set the key password. This will cause Keytool to set the key password to a value equivalent to the keystore password. Matching passwords are REQUIRED for Tomcat to access the certificate. If you choose two different passwords, any attempts to access the keystore will result in a crash (so don’t do it). Original Source.

  2. Generating a CSR
    ubuntu@ip-112-31-13-157:~$ keytool -certreq -keyalg RSA -keysize 2048 -alias abc -file mycompany.csr -keystore /home/ubuntu/abc-keystore
  3. Getting an SSL Certificate from a Certificate Authority using the generated CSR

    You will need to submit the CSR to a Certificate Authority so that they can generate your SSL certificate. Depending on the kind of certificate purchased and the level of trust sought, a domain name verification, business entity vertification etc. would be required. For our purpose, we settled for a domain name verification by creating a TXT record with the details provided by the CA. The TXT record creation was achieved by logging into our account with our domain name registrar.

  4. Downloading the SSL Certificates including the Root, Intermediate Certificates of your Certificate Authority (in our case Go Daddy).

    If everything goes smoothly, the SSL certificate should be available for download. Log into your account with the CA and download the SSL certificate. Along with the SSL certificate, you will need to download the Root certificate and all the intermediate certificates that establish the trust chain from your SSL certificate right up to your CA’s Root certificate.

  5. Importing Certificates into the Keystore

    The certificates need to be imported in an order to establish the trust chain starting with the Root certificate of your CA and then the next intermediate certificate and so on and so forth. Lastly your SSL certificate should be imported. Certificates should be imported into keystore in this order: root -> intermed -> purchased

        ubuntu@ip-112-31-13-157:~$ keytool -import -alias root -keystore abc-keystore -trustcacerts -file gdroot-g2.crt
        ubuntu@ip-112-31-13-157:~$ keytool -import -alias intermed -keystore abc-keystore -trustcacerts -file gdig2.crt 
        ubuntu@ip-112-31-13-157:~$ keytool -import -alias abc -keystore abc-keystore -trustcacerts -file 4af931ac9e4c59.crt 

    Note: The last import i.e. your SSL certificate import should have the same alias as the private key. Only then will it be mapped with the private key which is REQUIRED.

    If the import goes correctly, you can use the following command to check your SSL certificate’s trust chain

            ubuntu@ip-112-31-13-157:~$ openssl s_client -connect -showcerts 
            depth=2 C = US, ST = Arizona, L = Scottsdale, O = ", Inc.", CN = Go Daddy Root Certificate Authority - G2
            verify error:num=19:self signed certificate in certificate chain
            verify return:0
            Certificate chain
            0 s:/OU=Domain Control Validated/
              i:/C=US/ST=Arizona/L=Scottsdale/, Inc./OU= Daddy Secure Certificate
              Authority - G2
            -----BEGIN CERTIFICATE-----
            Certificate data goes here
            -----END CERTIFICATE-----
            1 s:/C=US/ST=Arizona/L=Scottsdale/, Inc./OU= Daddy Secure Certificate Authority - G2
              i:/C=US/ST=Arizona/L=Scottsdale/, Inc./CN=Go Daddy Root Certificate Authority - G2
            -----BEGIN CERTIFICATE-----
            Certificate data goes here
            -----END CERTIFICATE-----
            2 s:/C=US/ST=Arizona/L=Scottsdale/, Inc./CN=Go Daddy Root Certificate Authority - G2
              i:/C=US/ST=Arizona/L=Scottsdale/, Inc./CN=Go Daddy Root Certificate Authority - G2
            -----BEGIN CERTIFICATE-----
            Certificate data goes here
            -----END CERTIFICATE-----
            Server certificate
            subject=/OU=Domain Control Validated/
            issuer=/C=US/ST=Arizona/L=Scottsdale/, Inc./OU= Daddy Secure Certificate
            Authority - G2
            No client certificate CA names sent
            SSL handshake has read 4270 bytes and written 391 bytes
            New, TLSv1/SSLv3, Cipher is DHE-RSA-AES256-SHA
            Server public key is 2048 bit
            Secure Renegotiation IS supported
            Compression: NONE
            Expansion: NONE
                Protocol  : TLSv1
                Cipher    : DHE-RSA-AES256-SHA
                Session-ID: 539DF3DF95C4770DD748F2BEEDA7676E245E0E11DFAF11AC86F2530A9B32304A
                Master-Key: 3B213B5D1D28299A6C6F35CA38185185F189E0873D2D5496FCF04FD17A30AD395DDA214E5B9587F24DCA73F011E83BDF
                Key-Arg   : None
                PSK identity: None
                PSK identity hint: None
                SRP username: None
                Start Time: 1402860511
                Timeout   : 300 (sec)
                Verify return code: 19 (self signed certificate in certificate chain)

    Verify return code: 19 (self signed certificate in certificate chain) is seen because the Root certificate is always self-signed. Root certificates are only issued by a handful of trusted Certificate Authorities and are trusted by browsers by default.

  6. Setting up Tomcat7 to use https

    You will need to edit the $CATALINA_BASE/conf/server.xml file. Locate the bit that looks like

            <!-- Define a SSL HTTP/1.1 Connector on port 8443
                This connector uses the JSSE configuration, when using APR, the
                connector should be using the OpenSSL style configuration
                described in the APR documentation 
                <Connector port="8443" protocol="HTTP/1.1" SSLEnabled="true"
                maxThreads="150" scheme="https" secure="true"
                clientAuth="false" sslProtocol="TLS"/>

    and change it to

          <Connector port="443" protocol="org.apache.coyote.http11.Http11NioProtocol" SSLEnabled="true"
              maxThreads="150" scheme="https" secure="true" keystoreFile="/home/ubuntu/abc-keystore" keyAlias="abc"
              keystorePass="abcdefghij12" keyPass="abcdefghij12" clientAuth="false" sslProtocol="TLS" />


    • You can choose between JSSE and APR which are two different implementations of SSL. When Tomcat is used as a standalone server, APR is recommended but it requires some additional libraries to be installed. Tomcat uses JSSE by default.
    • You can also choose to limit the usage of SSL on a webapp or url-scheme basis.
  7. Verification in the browser

    If things have gone smoothly, you should able to load your website using To examine the certificate chain, click on the lock icon in your browser’s address bar and dig around, you should able to see your SSL certificate details as well as the entire trust chain that you set up while while importing the Root, intermediate, SSL certificates into your keystore.

Related Readings:
Certificate Chaining, Java Keytool and SSL


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