Monthly Archives: September 2015

Creating Your Own CA that issues Extended Validation SSL Certificates

If you have your own FreeIPA install, you may try the marketing thing to get the green bar for some of your SSL certificates. Sadly, issuing your own Extended Validation (EV) certificates and getting the green bar on all browsers is not simple (without special recompiled code, its not possible). The exact reason is described in this article. In way, this is a good thing as it is intended to have stronger security by the the browsers.

We verified 3 browers: Firefox 40, Chrome 45, IE 11.

Why internally issued EV certs & Green bar is not allowed

The answer simply boils down to trust. For EV certs, browsers don’t trust anyone but a hardcoded list in their code. For example in Firefox’s code here :

This is to ensure there is no accidentally inserted root certificates into the store that can verify EV certs.

Questionable ‘Higher’ Security/Trust model for hard coded EV Issuer Certificate Stores

Our opinion is this isn’t any real security or trust, it seems to be based in the notion that somehow hiding the EV Issuer Certificates in the browser executable is secure. We find this is slightly worse security than letting OS manage the certificate store. The our argument is, hard coding EV issuer certificates places ‘highly trusted’ certificates in the same trust zone as the browser process space. So a malware does not have mount a privilege escalation attack to mislead the user that a website is ‘highly trusted’. This leads to an inverse security where EV Issuer certificates are  arguably less trusted than the ones in the OS store. Here the assumption we are making is hacking OS cert stores takes a lot more sophistication and escalation into ring 3 (compared to no escalation) to trick the user into believing a fake EV certificate.

This security only limits user naive mistakes and not sophisticated or above average malware.

We evaluated the source code of Firefox and you can see one of the starting functions for checking if the certificate is EV is: nsNSSCertificate::hasValidEVOidTag

This function checks if the certifcate’s EV OID (Extended Policy Object ID values) matches OID from a hard coded EV issuer certs in getRootsForOid(SECOidTag oid_tag) which accesses a static array static struct nsMyTrustedEVInfo myTrustedEVInfos[] . This hardcoding of root certs precludes adding your EV issuing CA certificate to the trusted root in Mozilla certificate store. So no green bar even if your certificate has all the requirements of an EV certificate and have added a trusted CA to Mozilla.

Edit – Mozilla’s security team was nice enough to comment on our analysis – Their take was they take this position to influence CA standards and EV expectations. Our analysis still remains unchanged

Chrome follows a similar policy. IE is different, if you can get to GPO on your CA system, you can set the external OIDs that will allow a green bar. Unfortunately, IE is not a full solution as many people in our org use other browsers.

However, you can generate an ‘EV’ certificate in FreeIPA

Why would one care  if we can’t get green bar? If you can become an intermediate CA of a another CA that will allow you to generate EV certs (which I have not found any CA allowing this). Or if you plan to become an EV cert issuing CA yourself and want to embed your certificate in the browsers. If not for anything, for academic reasons.

FreeIPA Certificate Profile for EV Certificate Issuance

The main characteristics of an EV certificate is presence of OSCP, AIA and Certificate Subject in particular way and the certificate should have a Policy ID and CPS statement line.

Start with IPA’s default caIPAserviceCert (see ipa certprofile-find) Here are the important diffs in the profile to add the certificatePoliciesExt:

policyset.evServerCertSet.1.constraint.class_id=subjectNameConstraintImpl Name Constraint
policyset.evServerCertSet.1.default.class_id=userSubjectNameDefaultImpl Name Default
. . .
policyset.evServerCertSet.12.constraint.class_id=noConstraintImpl Constraint
policyset.evServerCertSet.12.default.class_id=certificatePoliciesExtDefaultImpl Policies Extension Default

The policyID should be an ANSI OID (which can get expensive to obtain). For testing, you can use one from Wikipedia assigned to existing EV CAs.  The other cheaper way is to get an Private Enterprise Number from IANA and use the OID from that point on.

Then import the config file into FreeIPA:
ipa certprofile-import caIPAWebServiceEVCert --store=true --file=websslprofile

Certificate Signing Request

In your CSR, it must contain businessCategory=Private Organization/serialNumber=000

For in depth explanation what fields are required, visit the CA Browser forum and look for EV SSL specifications.

Also, thanks to a very nice CSR decode tool at CertLogik: that helped in our investigations.



Creating A Subordinate Certificate Authority in FreeIPA

Within an organization using Free IPA there may be a need to create a subordinate CA. A subordinate CA can issue certificates on behalf of the Root CA in the organization so it should be treated with the same security as an organization’s Root CA. The main advantage is Subordinate CA can be revoked if it goes rogue and so keep part of the organization still working.

Free IPA 4.2.0 allows the use of certificate profiles (certificate template) to sign new certificate requests. This allows you to create your own profiles that will allow sign any type of certificate request. Earlier than FreeIPA 4.2.0, this was not possible, although the underlying dogtag PKI already allowed it.

RFC 5280 is the X.509 certificate description and specifically subordinate CA description. If you have openSSL installed, look at man x509v3_config for detailed description of V3 extensions.

Characteristics of a Sub-CA

For all practical purposes a Sub-CA is a CA that ideally:

  • Has the CA flag set to true
  • Preferably not issue further Sub-CA certificates

Creating the Certificate Profile

A subordinate CA is a very powerful element in the PKI’s trust chain. So ensure people who have access to it have adequate knowledge of what’s happening.

Here is the raw config file we used for our Sub CA certificate profile. Some notes follow this long listing.

[root@idm01 fedora]# cat caSubCACert2.cfg 
desc=This certificate profile is for enrolling Subordinate Certificate Authority certificates.
name=Manual Certificate Manager Subordinate Signing Certificate Enrollment
policyset.caSubCertSet.1.constraint.class_id=subjectNameConstraintImpl Name Constraint
policyset.caSubCertSet.1.default.class_id=userSubjectNameDefaultImpl Name Default
policyset.caSubCertSet.2.constraint.class_id=validityConstraintImpl Constraint
policyset.caSubCertSet.2.default.class_id=caValidityDefaultImpl Certificate Validity Default
policyset.caSubCertSet.3.constraint.class_id=keyConstraintImpl Constraint
policyset.caSubCertSet.3.default.class_id=userKeyDefaultImpl Default
policyset.caSubCertSet.4.constraint.class_id=noConstraintImpl Constraint
policyset.caSubCertSet.4.default.class_id=authorityKeyIdentifierExtDefaultImpl Key Identifier Default
policyset.caSubCertSet.5.constraint.class_id=basicConstraintsExtConstraintImpl Constraint Extension Constraint
policyset.caSubCertSet.5.default.class_id=basicConstraintsExtDefaultImpl Constraints Extension Default
policyset.caSubCertSet.6.constraint.class_id=keyUsageExtConstraintImpl Usage Extension Constraint
policyset.caSubCertSet.6.default.class_id=keyUsageExtDefaultImpl Usage Default
policyset.caSubCertSet.8.constraint.class_id=noConstraintImpl Constraint
policyset.caSubCertSet.8.default.class_id=subjectKeyIdentifierExtDefaultImpl Key Identifier Extension Default
policyset.caSubCertSet.9.constraint.class_id=signingAlgConstraintImpl Constraint
policyset.caSubCertSet.9.default.class_id=signingAlgDefaultImpl Alg
policyset.caSubCertSet.9.constraint.class_id=noConstraintImpl Constraint
policyset.caSubCertSet.9.default.class_id=crlDistributionPointsExtDefaultImpl Distribution Points Extension Default
policyset.caSubCertSet.9.default.params.crlDistPointsIssuerName_0=CN=Certificate Authority,o=ipaca
policyset.caSubCertSet.9.default.params.crlDistPointsPointName_0=http://<your IPA's CRL revocation list>
policyset.caSubCertSet.10.constraint.class_id=noConstraintImpl Constraint
policyset.caSubCertSet.10.default.class_id=authInfoAccessExtDefaultImpl Extension Default
[root@idm01 fedora]# 

This constraint says, the CSR must have a “CN=” string somewhere.


The following says that the certificate is for a CA and path len =0, which means the CA can issue further Sub CAs.


Importing the profile into FreeIPA

[root@idm01 fedora]# ipa certprofile-import caSubCertAuth2 --store=true --file=caSubCACert2.cfg 
Profile description: This certificate profile is for enrolling Subordinate Certificate Authority certificates (v2).
Imported profile "caSubCertAuth2"
 Profile ID: caSubCertAuth2
 Profile description: This certificate profile is for enrolling Subordinate Certificate Authority certificates (v2).
 Store issued certificates: TRUE
[root@idm01 fedora]#

Don’t forget to add the Certificate ACL allowing appropriate groups s access to the certificate profile either from the WebUI or command line.

Certificate Signing Request

The CSR is not different than other requests you can use OpenSSL to create a CSR. Just ensure the CN and others follow the restrictions that is set in the profile above.

Issuing the Certificate

[root@idm01 fedora]# ipa cert-request ./cert.req --principal SUBCA/ --profile-id caSubCertAuth2

This should issue the certificate.

That’s cool, but where’s the green bar?

The green bar that shows up when you visit certain e-commerce websites is a very nice marketing thing. As a result, some users would like to see the green bar. Our next quest is to see if we can create certificate profile that allows generating a certificate with EV flags set. Cursory reading of documentation shows its not well documented and probably not possible.



Horizon Performance Optimizations

Some notes on Open Stack Horizon Performance optimizations on CentOS 7.1 install:
4 vCPU (2.3 GHz Intel Xeon E5 v3), 2 GB – 4 GB RAM, SSD backed 40 GB RAW image.

CentOS 7.1 ships with Apache 2.4.6 so there are some optimizations we’ll try.

Multi-Processing Module selection: Default is PreFork (atleast on Openstack installed system)
Event is apparently better for response times so try:
LoadModule mpm_event_module modules/

Ensure to enable exactly one in this file, then restart httpd: systemctl restart httpd

The side effect is if you have PHP code running, it may stop to work and need php-fpm setup.

Multi master Database Cluster on OpenStack with Load Balancing

Multi Master Database Replication

Multi Master database replication in a cluster of databases allows applications to write to any database node and data is available at other nodes within short order. The main advantage is high availability deployment, high read performance and  scalability.

Overall Design

We are aiming have an application layer accessing  a database cluster via a Load balancer as show in picture below:

Load Balancer for a Database Cluster

Fig. 1: Load Balancer for a Database Cluster


For providing databases services on OpenStack we considered Trove. However, its broken on Kilo. There is no easy way to get a ‘Trove Image’ and launch it.  There is a nice and automated script  located here at the RDO page that actually creates an image. However, after the image is registered, it errors out upon DB instance launch. Given that Open Stack Trove documentation was not helpful so there was no motivation for us to debug that further as it would be much more riskier for us to maintain any hacked code. Wish it worked. Moving on to other options… Enter Galera Cluster and MySQL Cluster products.

Using other options

In the world of MySQL based multi master replication cluster databases, there are few popular ones:

  • MariaDB Galera Cluster
  • Percona XtraDB Cluster
  • MySQL Cluster

Out of the three, we chose Percona XtraDB Cluster (PXC). Mainly because of slightly better support for tables without primary keys [1] [2] – Note Galera is used both in MariaDB and PXC. However, some users have still reported issues on not having PK on MariaDB. Generally, you must have PK for every table. We could have used MariaDB Galera Cluster, however, either the documentation is not maintained or has a pretty strict rule about primary keys required. Unfortunately, that is a significant restriction. MySQL Cluster on the other hand has a huge learning curve for setup and administration. This might be something to consider when scaling up to millions of queries per second. MySQL Cluster bears no resemblance to MariaDB or Percona’s cluster counterparts so its a completely different mindset.

Instance Preparation

We use CentOS 7.1 instances that  create a new volume for OS disk. The database volume itself is on a separate volume: vdb.

Swap File Preparation

Normally, the instances don’t have swap file enabled (check by swapon --summary). So prepare a swap file like so:

fallocate -l 1G /swapfile;
dd if=/dev/zero of=/swapfile bs=1M count=1024;
chmod 600 /swapfile;
mkswap /swapfile;
swapon /swapfile
swapon --summary

MySQL data directory preparation

Next, prepare the secondary hard that will hold the data directory of mysql

fdisk /dev/vdb
new partition, extended.
new partition, logical.
w (to write the partition table)

Now make a file system. Ensure you have a valid partion created (vdb5 – in this case).

mkfs.ext4 /dev/vdb5

Automount swap and data directory

Create mysql directory as we have not yet installed mysql and setup /etc/fstab

mkdir /var/lib/mysql
echo "/swapfile none swap defaults 0 0" >> /etc/fstab
echo "/dev/vdb5 /var/lib/mysql ext4 defaults 0 2" >> /etc/fstab

Mount the fstab file and make sub directory for data (I like to use non default directories so I know whats going on)

mount -av
mkdir /var/lib/mysql/mysql_data
touch /var/lib/mysql/mysql_data/test_file

Finally restore security context on the mysql directory

restorecon -R /var/lib/mysql

Database Node List

In our case we have 3 database servers all with CentOS 7.1.

DBNode1 -
DBNode2 -
DBNode3 -

Security Groups, Iptables & Selinux

We need to open these ports for each of the database nodes:

 TCP 873 (rsync)
 TCP 3306 (Mysql)
 TCP 4444 (State Transfer)
 TCP 4567 (Group Communication - GComm_port)
 TCP 4568 (Incremental State Transfer port = GComm_port+1)

Selinux was set to Permissive (setenforce 0) — temporarily while installation was done. Ensure the above ports allowed by a security group applied to the database instances.
For every node, we need to install the PXC database software. Install, but don’t start the mysql service yet.

Installing the Database Percona XtraDB Cluster Software

Before you install, there is a pre-requisite to install socat. This package should installed from the base repository. If you have epel, remove it (assuming this node is going to be used only for database).

sudo yum remove epel-release
sudo yum install -y socat;

Installing the Database Percona XtraDB Cluster Software

Install the Percona repo and software itself.

sudo yum install -y;

sudo yum install Percona-XtraDB-Cluster-56

First Node (Primary) in Cluster setup

In order to start a new cluster, the very first node should be started in specific way – aka bootstrapping. This will cause the node to assume its the primary of the DB cluster that we are going make come to life.

First edit the /etc/my.cnf so setup your requirements.

 # Edit to your requirements.
log_bin                        = mysql-bin
binlog_format                  = ROW
innodb_buffer_pool_size        = 200M
innodb_flush_log_at_trx_commit = 0
innodb_flush_method            = O_DIRECT
innodb_log_files_in_group      = 2
innodb_log_file_size           = 20M
innodb_file_per_table          = 1
wsrep_cluster_address          = gcomm://,,
wsrep_provider                 = /usr/lib64/galera3/
wsrep_slave_threads            = 2
wsrep_cluster_name             = SilverSkySoftDBClusterA
wsrep_node_name                = DBNode1
wsrep_node_address             =
wsrep_sst_method               = rsync
innodb_locks_unsafe_for_binlog = 1
innodb_autoinc_lock_mode       = 2
pid-file = /run/mysqld/

Start the bootstrap service
systemctl start mysql@bootstrap.service

This special service uses the my.cnf with wsrep_cluster_address = gcomm://  (no IPs) and start the MySQL server as the first node. This creates a new cluster. Be sure to run this service only at create cluster time and not at node join time.

While this first node is running, login to each of the other nodes DBNode2 & DBNode3 and use the my.cnf from above as a template. For each node update the wsrep_node_name and wsrep_node_address. Note that The wsrep_cluster_address should contain all IP addresses of that node.

Start the mysql service on each of the nodes 2 & 3 while node 1 is still running:
systemctl start mysql

Verify Cluster is up and nodes are joined

It should show Value: 3 (indicating 3 nodes are joined)

mysql> select @@hostname\G show global status like 'wsrep_cluster_size' \G
*************************** 1. row ***************************
@@hostname: dbserver1.novalocal
1 row in set (0.00 sec)

*************************** 1. row ***************************
Variable_name: wsrep_cluster_size
Value: 3
1 row in set (0.00 sec)

Start Node 1 back in normal mode

On the Node 1, restart in normal mode:
systemctl stop mysql@bootstrap.service; systemctl start mysql

Verify database and replication actually happens

In one of the node, say DBNode3, create a sample database and table.

mysql -u root -p
USE my_test_db;
CREATE TABLE my_test_table (test_year INT, test_name VARCHAR(255));
INSERT INTO my_test_table (test_year, test_name) values (1998, 'Hello year 1998');

On an another node, say DBNode2, check the table and rows are visible:

 mysql -u root -p 
 SELECT @@hostname\G SELECT * from my_test_db.my_test_table;
 *************************** 1. row ***************************
 @@hostname: dbserver2.novalocal
 1 row in set (0.00 sec)
 | test_year | test_name       |
 | 1998      | Hello year 1998 |
 1 row in set (0.00 sec)

This confirms our cluster is up and running.
Don’t forget to enable the mysql service to start automatically – systemctl enable mysql
Also set the root password for MySQL.

Managing Users in Clustered Database

In the cluster setup, the mysql.*  is not replicated so manually creating an user in mysql.* table will be limited to local. So you can use CREATE USER statements to create users that are replicated across the cluster. A sample is:

CREATE USER 'admin'@'%' IDENTIFIED BY 'plainpassword';
GRANT ALL ON *.* TO 'admin'@'%';

You can log into any other node to the new user is created.

In addition, you can use MySQL workbench to databases in the cluster.

OpenStack Load Balancer

OpenStack Load balancer as a service (LBaaS) is easily enabled in RDO packstack and other installs. To create a Load balancer for the database cluser we created above, click on the Load balancer menu under Network and click add pool as show in figure below:

Image of how to add add a New Load Balancing Pool in OpenStack
Adding a New Load Balancing Pool in OpenStack

Then fill in the pool details as show in below picture:

image of Setting the details of the Load Balancing Pool
Setting the details of the Load Balancing Pool

Note that we are using TCP protocol in the case as we need to allow MySQL connections. For simplicity of testing use ROUND_ROBIN balancing method.

Next, add the VIP for the load balancer from the Actions column. In the VIP setup choose protocol TCP and port as 3306

Next, add the members of the pool by selecting ‘Members’ tab and then selecting the Database Nodes. For now you can keep weight as 1.

Get the VIP address by clicking the VIP link at the Load balancer pool. Once you get the IP, you can optionally choose to associate a floating IP.  This can be done by going compute -> Access & Security. Allocate an IP to your project. Then click on Associate. In the drop down, you should the the vip’s name and IP you provided.

This completes the Load balancer setup.

Testing the Load Balancer

A simple test is to query the load balancer’s VIP with mySQL client. In our case the VIP is and result is seen below.

[centos@client1 etc]$ mysql -u root -p -h -e "SHOW VARIABLES LIKE 'wsrep_node_name';"
Enter password: 
| Variable_name | Value     |
| wsrep_node_name | DBNode1 |
[centos@client1 etc]$ mysql -u root -p -h -e "SHOW VARIABLES LIKE 'wsrep_node_name';"
Enter password: 
| Variable_name | Value     |
| wsrep_node_name | DBNode2 |

You can see that each query is being routed to different nodes.

Simplistic PHP Test App

On an another VM, install apache and PHP. Start Apache and insert a PHP file as below. The database is the one we create above.

 $user = "root";
 $pass = "your_password";
 $db_handle = new  PDO(";dbname=my_test_db", $user, $pass);
 print "<pre>";
 foreach ($db_handle->query("SELECT test_name FROM my_test_table") as $row) 
   print "Name from db " . $row['test_name'] . "<br />";
 print "\n";
 foreach ($db_handle->query("SHOW VARIABLES LIKE 'wsrep_%'") as $row) {
 print $row['Variable_name'] . " = " . $row['Value'];
 print "\n";
 print_r ($row);
 print "</pre>";
 $db_handle = null;

From the browser navigate to the URL where this file is.

This would show the data from the table and various wsrep variables. Each time you refresh the page you should see wsrep_node_address, wsrep_node_name changing so you know load balancer is working.


In general, the cluster needs to be monitored for crashed databases etc. The OpenStack load balancer can monitor the members in the pool and set it to inactive state.

Crashed Node Recovery

Recovery of crashed nodes with little impact to overall cluster is one of main reasons why we go with a cluster. A very nice article about various ways to recover a crashed node is on Percona’s site.


We described how to create a database cluster and configure a load balancer on top. Its not a very complex process. The entire environment was in OpenStack Kilo.