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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