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What Are Certificate Signing Requests?

What Are Certificate Signing Requests?

certificate signing requests
August 21, 2018 | David Bisson

A certificate signing request (CSR) is an important step in the process of a user obtaining a digital certificate. Organizations need to submit a (CSR) during the certificate enrollment process to a Certificate Authority (CA). That certificate issuing entity then uses the information included in the CSR to build a complete certificate.

For those who use the Public Key Cryptography Standards 10 (PKCS10) Certification Request Standard, one of the most common standards for certificate signing requests, users must provide an unsigned copy of their digital certificate to the CA. They can initiate this process by generating a CSR using cPanel, Exchange, IIS, Java Keytool, or OpenSSL. These methods generally create CSRs in the Base-64 based PEM format, which means there is a X.509 certificate encodedin text using the Base-64 encoding scheme.

At the time of creation, most server software suites ask the user to provide several pieces of information for validation purposes. Those details include the requester's fully qualified domain name (FDQN), legal name of the company, contact email address, physical address, and name of the division that would be handling the certificate. Additionally, users will need to send over their public key as well as its type and length. As explained by GlobalSign, the CA needs these bits of data to create an SSL certificate, which uses asymmetric cryptography based on a corresponding private and public key pair.

Clearly, organizations must complete multiple steps and track many different pieces of information to properly submit a CSR. To make this process easier, companies should consider generating key pairs and CSRs as well as managing and enforcing trust stores from a central location. Such an approach would simplify administration and ensure that all policies governing certificate content during the certificate request process are enforced automatically.

Venafi's solution makes CSR generation easier, as it enables organizations to create their requests from a central enrollment portal. The solution also has the ability to define default values, which decreases the time needed to complete a CSR. Lastly, companies can use the enrollment portal to integrate with any CA. This further simplifies the generation and storage of CSRs and key pairs.

Make your organization's CSR process a cinch.

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About the author

David Bisson
David Bisson

David Bisson writes for Venafi's blog and is an expert in machine identity protection.

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