Many websites face cyberattacks like man-in-the-middle attacks, cross-site scripting, and malicious code injections. There are two critical aspects of website security: browser and server. Modern browsers have security features, but SSL certificates are essential for servers to secure data access.
Red Hat Linux (RHL) server is a leading enterprise-grade operating system that you can deploy on physical, cloud, or other systems. Though RHL servers have many security features, they have faced many cyber threats. For example, the recent CVE-2023-3390 flaw enables random read and write activities for local admin on kernel memory.
An effective security measure to counter such issues is an SSL certificate, which secures the browser and server communication. In this article, we will focus on what is an SSL certificate, how it works, and the installation process on the Red Hat Linux server.
Table of Contents
- What is an SSL Certificate?
- How Do SSL Certificates Work?
- Process of SSL Handshake
- Step by Step How to Install SSL Certificate on Red Hat Linux Server?
- Key Takeaways
What is an SSL Certificate?
SSL certificate uses data encryption to secure the communication between a website server and a browser. You can install an SSL certificate and protect sensitive information. Certificate Authorities (CAs) issue SSL certificates to website owners and publishers after thorough verification.
This ensures that when a user tries to access the website, it is secure for browsing. The user’s browser has a list of valid SSL certificates, and if a website’s certificate fails to match the list, it will show a warning message.
Many types of SSL certificates depend on the type of validations, the number of domains to be secured, and more. For example, DV (Domain Validation) certificates verify the ownership of a domain name, while EV (Extended Validation) certificates verify the organization’s identity.
Here are a few of the benefits of using SSL certificates:
- Protects sensitive financial information of users such as credit card number
- Authenticates data access
- Improves user trust and security of the website
- Helps boost search engine rankings through optimized SEO
- Increases traction to the website due to higher trustworthiness
How Do SSL Certificates Work?
SSL certificates secure data exchanged between a server and browser whenever a user visits the website.
SSL certificates use cryptographic encryption that scrambles the information exchanged between two systems into a string of random values. These values are unreadable for attackers and only visible to the intended recipient through decryption.
Every SSL certificate uses asymmetric encryptions where two security key pairs are used — “Private” and “Public”. Both keys have specific uses. For example, if an SSL certificate uses a public key to encrypt the information, the recipient will need a private key to decrypt it.
Process of SSL Handshake
A crucial part of SSL certificate work is establishing a secure connection between two systems, also known as SSL handshake. A handshake ensures security between a browser and a Red Hat Linux server for a website.
Here is how a handshake for an SSL certificate works,
- The browser (client) sends a message to the server for a secure connection.
- Red Hat Linux server sends an SSL certificate to the browser with the server’s public key.
- The browser ensures its source of certificate is valid through the vetting process.
- It generates a session key encrypted with the public key.
- The browser then sends the encrypted session key to the Red Hat Linux server.
- RHL server decrypts the session key with its private key.
This process of session key exchange is the SSL handshake, which ensures that the connection between two systems is secure. Now that we know the entire process, let us understand how it helps secure your data.
SSL certificates help create a secure connection through an encryption-decryption approach. Therefore, only the intended users can access data by decrypting the information through a security key.
If you want to install an SSL certificate on your website, the process begins by finding a suitable certificate authority (CA). Many leading CAs like Comodo, DigiCert, and others offer SSL certificates of different types. You can buy SSL certificate from a trustworthy CA based on your requirements.
Getting an SSL certificate from CA begins with a certificate signing request or CSR. It will have all the details related to your organization, which CA vets, and certificate is issued.
Step by Step How to Install SSL Certificate on Red Hat Linux Server?
Once you receive the certificate bundle in your email, installing the SSL certificate on the Red Hat Linux server begins.
Step 1: Download and Extract the SSL Certificate Files
After receiving the CA-issued certificate as a zip file, extract the contents to a directory on the server.
Step 2: Install the Intermediate Certificate (CA)
- Find the intermediate certificate file from the bundle and open it in the text editor.
- Convert the certificate file to .crt extension.
- Save the .crt file to “/etc/httpd/conf/ssl.crt/intermediatecert.crt.”
- Navigate to “etc/httpd/conf/httpd.conf” and open the CNF file.
Add the following within the virtual host tag:
The Intermediate Certificate is now installed on the Red Hat Linux server.
Step 3: Install the SSL Certificate on Red Hat Linux
- Open the SSL certificate file using a text editor
- Save the SSL certificate file with a new name- “server-cert.crt.”
- Store the file in “/etc/httpd/conf/ssl.crt/server-cert.crt”
- Place the server.key file in “/etc/httpd/conf/ssl.key/server.key”
Add the following command to your httpd.cnf file within the virtual host tag:
In addition, your SSL certificate is successfully installed on the Red Hat Linux server.
Cybersecurity threats have no end because attackers keep innovating new ways to execute attacks. Therefore, installing an SSL certificate on a Red Hat Linux server becomes essential for small businesses and enterprises to ensure secure data access.
This is also important to ensure compliance with critical data regulations and security standards. However, the type of SSL certificate you must install will vary based on your system requirements.