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A Certificate Signing Request (also CSR or certification request) is special  file that you provide to a Certification Authority (CA), such as GeoTrust, Symantec and Comodo. It's used by the CA to generate, sign and  issue a new digital identity certificate.

How do I Create a CSR?

CSR's are usually generated directly on the server where you plan to host a secure website or application. Most  servers come with the software libraries needed to generate SSL/TLS keys and CSRs. An example would be OpenSSL which nowadays comes pre-installed on most Linux distributions.

What's in a CSR?

The CSR contains all the necessary information needed by the CA to authenticate your organization such as your domain name, business name and location.

When generating your CSR you will be asked for input. Below are some common fields with descriptions and examples.

  • Common Name (CN): The fully-qualified-domain name for the website or application that you wish to serve over HTTPS. Examples include...
    • www.mydomain.com
    • owa.mydomain.net
    • shop.domain.ca
    • *.mydomain.com (for wildcard SSL)
  • Organization (O): The exact legal name of your business or organization. Do not abbreviate your organization's name. Example: Metro Realty, LLC
  • Organizational Unit (OU): The section or division of the organization. Example: Sales, Support, Customer Service
  • City or Locality (L): The city where your organization is legally located. Cannot be abbreviated. Example: Atlanta
  • State (S) or Province: The state or province where your organization is legally located. Cannot be abbreviated.. Example: Georgia
  • Country (C): The two-letter ISO Country Code abbreviation for your country. Example: US, CA, GB (must be two-letters)
  • Email: Any email address. This field is arbitrary but must be filled in. This email address will not be used in any way to authenticate or process your order. Example: user@example.com
  • Key Bit Length: The key bit length has to do with the initial key exchange, not the encryption strength of your certificate.  A key bit length of 2048 is currently recommended.

The following characters should not be used when typing in your CSR input: < > ~ ! @ # $ % ^ / \ ( ) ? , &

What Does a CSR Look Like?

Below is an example of what your CSR will look like.

-----BEGIN CERTIFICATE REQUEST-----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-iAv
-----END CERTIFICATE REQUEST-----

Additional Resources

How-to generate a CSR for popular web servers.
Learn more about the CSR at Wikipedia.

Mar 7, 2018
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