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Wildcard Certificate Generation for ASA

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With network security today, digital certificate has become commonly deployed in an enterprise environment to secure network access as part of endpoint authentication. Many large enterprises have been building their own Public Key Infrastructure (PKI) and issuing certificates for internal use to save cost. One caveat of this approach is these certificates are not publicly trusted so they still need to obtain 3rd party signed certificates from reputable certificate providers for services that are public-facing where the enterprise does not have control over the endpoints like SSL VPN. Since the certificate providers usually charge by the number of signed certificate, the cost might quickly add up if a large number of certificates are required.

For this reason, many may try to resort to wildcard certificate so a single certificate can be shared among multiple devices. A wildcard certificate, particularly one with CN=*.domain.com, has been very popularly used on web servers. If your organization operates your own public web server infrastructure, you most likely own one already. However, if you try to install it a network device, you may discover it being rejected.

This article will provide a step-by-step guide on how to create a wildcard certificate that you can use on your network devices. Here we will use a Cisco ASA as our example but the certificate should work on other type of devices or even network servers as well. For those that are familiar with the concept of wildcard certificate on Cisco ISE 1.2, this should be nothing new to you except that we will be generating the Certificate Signing Request (CSR) separately using OpenSSL.

Explanation:
The concept is to embed the wildcard hostname under Subject Alternative Name (SAN) of type DNS instead of using it in the subject name, while the subject name can be anything you like as long as the identical name also appears under SAN as shown below. Note that the subject name does not need to match any of the URL that you will use this certificate with.

 <Subject Name> can be anything (eg. vpn.yourdomain.com)
 SAN must contain
  DNS=<Subject Name>
  DNS=*.yourdomain.com

Our Lab Setup

  • OpenSSL (Windows version)
  • Windows 2008 CA
  • Cisco ASA

Here we assume that the OpenSSL is installed under C:\ drive

Steps
1. Modify the OpenSSL Config File to include SAN attribute.

1.1 Locate [ req ] section and make sure the following is in place

[ req ]
<omitted>
x509_extensions = v3_ca # The extentions to add to the self signed cert

1.2 Locate [ v3_req ] section and add the following line

[ v3_req ]
<omitted>
subjectAltName = @alt_names

1.3 Add the following section at the bottom of the file (should not matter where) and replace them with your desired domain name

[ alt_names ]
DNS.1 = vpn.labminutes.com
DNS.2 = *.labminutes.com

2. Open Widnows CMD and execute the following command to generate a CSR. You may need to run CMD as an administrator

c:\OpenSSL-Win64\bin>openssl req -out lm.csr -new -newkey rsa:2048 -nodes -keyout lm.key
Loading 'screen' into random state - done
Generating a 2048 bit RSA private key
...........................+++
..........................+++
writing new private key to 'lm.key'
-----
You are about to be asked to enter information that will be incorporated
into your certificate request.
What you are about to enter is what is called a Distinguished Name or a DN.
There are quite a few fields but you can leave some blank
For some fields there will be a default value,
If you enter '.', the field will be left blank.
-----
Country Name (2 letter code) [US]:
State or Province Name (full name) [Some-State]:CA
Locality Name (eg, city) []:
Organization Name (eg, company) [Internet Widgits Pty Ltd]:Lab Minutes
Organizational Unit Name (eg, section) []:IT
Common Name (e.g. server FQDN or YOUR name) []:vpn.labminutes.com
Email Address []:it@labminutes.com

Please enter the following 'extra' attributes
to be sent with your certificate request
A challenge password []:Cisco123
An optional company name []:

3. Open the lm.csr and you should see a BASE64 output similar to the following. Submit the CSR to your CA.

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

4. Once you have received the signed certificate, open it and verify the Subject Name and SAN.

wildcard_cert1.png

wildcard_cert2.png

You should now have a private key and certificate files that you can import to your network device/servers. If the device does not accept the key and certificate as separate .pem files but instead combined in a pkcs12 format like the ASA, continue with the following steps.

5. Obtain the root CA certificate and any intermediate certificate from your certificate provider. Concatenate the content of these files into a single file in the following order. Some provider already made this file available known as a certificate chain.

  • Intermediate Certificate (BASE64)
  • Root Certificate (BASE64)

6. Combine the private key, signed certificate and root CA certificate (chain) into a single pkcs12 file

c:\OpenSSL-Win64\bin>openssl pkcs12 -export -out lm.pfx -inkey lm.key -in lm.cer -certfile lm_root.cer
Loading 'screen' into random state - done
Enter Export Password: Cisco123
Verifying - Enter Export Password: Cisco123

7. Convert the pkcs12 into BASE64 format to be readable by ASA

c:\OpenSSL-Win64\bin> openssl base64 -in lm.pfx -out lm_pkcs12.pem

8. Add the following to the beginning and ending of the pcks12 file

-----BEGIN PKCS12-----
<file content>
-----END PKCS12-----

9. To install the certificate on the ASA, create a CA Trustpoint and import pkcs12 file.

FW1(config)# crypto ca trustpoint CA
FW1(config)# cry ca import CA pkcs12 Cisco123

Enter the base 64 encoded pkcs12.
End with the word "quit" on a line by itself:
-----BEGIN PKCS12-----
MIIPeQIBAzCCDz8GCSqGSIb3DQEHAaCCDzAEgg8sMIIPKDCCCd8GCSqGSIb3DQEH
BqCCCdAwggnMAgEAMIIJxQYJKoZIhvcNAQcBMBwGCiqGSIb3DQEMAQYwDgQIfm6V
j6cG3qQCAggAgIIJmEwIAIbWY318x87jOSPfaMv8yTLzhSVyNIDneP9JUutbL9xL
tq3lQErJpUsGJ+EKwfh43a+FI2uxCrZP2npRRytcAgstlu6eVy0aEd74pMD/5Slv
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xdYuU3XTGd/XhQL/+/X3BAjWXPwI6NHjWwICCAA=
-----END PKCS12-----

quit
INFO: Import PKCS12 operation completed successfully

10. Verify that the identity certificate and the associated root certificate are installed

FW1(config)# show crypto ca certificate
CA Certificate
  Status: Available
  Certificate Serial Number: 6ed879a75e0ff2924a40945fe9a692cd
  Certificate Usage: Signature
  Public Key Type: RSA (2048 bits)
  Signature Algorithm: SHA1 with RSA Encryption
  Issuer Name:
    cn=LM-ROOT-CA
    dc=LABMINUTES
    dc=COM
  Subject Name:
    cn=LM-ROOT-CA
    dc=LABMINUTES
    dc=COM
  Validity Date:
    start date: 16:08:17 PST Sep 15 2012
    end   date: 16:18:16 PST Sep 15 2017
  Associated Trustpoints: CA

Certificate
  Status: Available
  Certificate Serial Number: 611ba0e00000000000af
  Certificate Usage: General Purpose
  Public Key Type: RSA (2048 bits)
  Signature Algorithm: SHA1 with RSA Encryption
  Issuer Name:
    cn=LM-ROOT-CA
    dc=LABMINUTES
    dc=COM
  Subject Name:
    e=it@labminutes.com
    cn=vpn.labminutes.com
    ou=IT
    o=Lab Minutes
    st=CA
    c=US
  CRL Distribution Points:
    [1]  ldap:///CN=LM-ROOT-CA,CN=LM-WIN2008-DC1,CN=CDP,CN=Public%20Key%20Services,CN=Services,CN=Configuration,DC=LABMINUTES,DC=COM?certificateRevocationList?base?objectClass=cRLDistributionPoint
  Validity Date:
    start date: 22:25:42 PST Jun 15 2014
    end   date: 22:25:42 PST Jun 14 2016
  Associated Trustpoints: CA

11. Test the certificate with SSL VPN. When you browse to the SSL VPN login page by name, you should not get any certificate warning, assuming that you have the root certificate trusted. Note that the URL (anything.labminutes.com) does not have to match the certificate subject name (vpn.labminutes.com)

FW1(config)# ssl trust-point CA
FW1(config)# webvpn
FW1(config)# enable OUTSIDE

wildcard_browser.png

Here are a few things to keep in mind

  • Some providers treat a certificate with wildcard in the SAN field the same as a regular wildcard certificate so it may cost more than a regular certificate but this can easily be justified when it is used for multiple network devices and services. 
  • Sharing the same certificate on multiple devices always lowers the security and increases the chance of the certificate being compromised. A compromised certificate on a single device results in certificates on all other devices having to be reinstalled.
  • Even though this method should work on most modern web browsers on majority of device types, you should always test and make sure the target platforms in your deployements are supported.

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1 comments

It's missing a line in the openssl.cnf file (at least the one included in Ubuntu 14.10):

[ req ]
<omitted>
req_extensions = v3_req