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Apache Quick Tip

Removing a passphrase from an SSL Key

The typical process for creating an SSL certificate is as follows:

 # openssl genrsa -des3 -out www.key 2048

Note: When creating the key, you can avoid entering the initial passphrase altogether using:

# openssl genrsa -out www.key 2048

At this point it is asking for a PASS PHRASE (which I will describe how to remove):

 Enter pass phrase for www.key:
 # openssl req -new -key www.key -out www.csr

Next, you will typically send the www.csr file to your registrar. In turn, your registrar will provide you with the .crt (certificate) file.

From a security standpoint utilizing a passphrase, is a good thing, but from a practical standpoint not very useful.
For instance, what happens when your server reboots/crashes at 3am? Or better, what happens in 6 months when you reboot your machine, and you don’t remember the password? Well, one thing is for sure, your web server will not be online.
I suggest removal of the passphrase, you can follow the process below:
Always backup the original key first (just in case)!

 # cp www.key www.key.orig

Then unencrypt the key with openssl. You’ll need the passphrase for the decryption process:

 # openssl rsa -in www.key -out new.key

Now copy the new.key to the www.key file and you’re done. Next time you restart the web server, it should not prompt you for the passphrase.

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28 thoughts on “Removing a passphrase from an SSL Key”

  1. Thank you for sharing this. This is exactly what I needed, and you are dead-on correct about passphrases in ssl keys not being very practical.

  2. Thanks! I accidentally (out of habit from working with a single site over the past few years) added the requirement for a passphrase to a client’s web server. They weren’t too happy. Using your advice I was able to remove the passphrase and now everyone is back on track! Thanks a ton!

  3. hi,
    unable to start httpd service bcz i dont know the passpharse..pls say how to change or remove.

  4. thank you for sharing this information. because each time on system reboot i had to start server manually and provide ssl pass phrase but now it is working well without pass phrase. thank you once again

  5. This was perfect for me as well. I have several sites hosted on the same box and it makes no sense to have to type in a passphrase for any single site when restarting apache. Thanks for the solution!

  6. Thank you as well. I have to able to restart the webserver via webinterface – and there i can’t provide a password. So this was exactly what i needed!

  7. Thank you! I have spent days figuring out how to correctly install a proper certificate on our email server.
    Thanks again!

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