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OpenSSL Tutorial with Examples

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  • Post last modified:February 3, 2024


OpenSSL is a versatile open-source toolkit that provides support for Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) and Transport Layer Security (TLS) protocols. It is widely used for cryptographic functions, including generating and managing certificates, creating secure connections, and encrypting data. In this tutorial, we’ll explore some common OpenSSL commands and use cases with practical examples.


Before we get started, ensure OpenSSL is installed on your system. You can install OpenSSL using your system’s package manager. For example, on a Debian-based system:

sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install openssl

Generating a Self-Signed Certificate

Example 1: Generating a Self-Signed Certificate

To generate a self-signed certificate, you can use the following OpenSSL command:

openssl req -x509 -newkey rsa:2048 -keyout key.pem -out cert.pem -days 365


  • req: Certificate request and certificate generating utility.
  • -x509: Outputs a self-signed certificate instead of a certificate request.
  • -newkey rsa:2048: Generates a new RSA private key of 2048 bits.
  • -keyout key.pem: Specifies the output file for the private key.
  • -out cert.pem: Specifies the output file for the certificate.
  • -days 365: Sets the validity period of the certificate in days.

Working with Certificates

Example 2: Checking Certificate Information

To view information about a certificate, use the following command:

openssl x509 -in cert.pem -text -noout


  • x509: Certificate display and signing utility.
  • -in cert.pem: Specifies the input certificate file.
  • -text: Prints the certificate in human-readable form.
  • -noout: Suppresses the output of the encoded version of the certificate.

Example 3: Extracting Public Key from Certificate

To extract the public key from a certificate, use the following command:

openssl x509 -in cert.pem -pubkey -noout > pubkey.pem


  • -pubkey: Outputs the public key.

Example 4: Verifying a Certificate

To verify if a certificate is valid, you can use the following command:

openssl verify cert.pem


  • verify: Verifies a certificate against a certificate chain.

OpenSSL and Encryption

Example 5: Encrypting and Decrypting Files

OpenSSL can be used to encrypt and decrypt files using symmetric encryption (AES in this case). For example, to encrypt a file:

openssl enc -aes-256-cbc -salt -in plaintext.txt -out encrypted.txt

To decrypt the file:

openssl enc -aes-256-cbc -d -in encrypted.txt -out decrypted.txt


  • enc: Symmetric cipher encoding and decoding.
  • -aes-256-cbc: Specifies the cipher algorithm (AES in CBC mode).
  • -salt: Adds salt to the encryption for added security.
  • -in plaintext.txt: Specifies the input file.
  • -out encrypted.txt: Specifies the output file.
  • -d: Decrypts the input file.


OpenSSL is a powerful and flexible tool for managing certificates, securing connections, and performing cryptographic operations. This tutorial covered some common use cases and commands, but OpenSSL offers a wide range of functionalities. Feel free to explore more options and adapt them to your specific needs.

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