09-11-2015 | Remy van Elst | Text only version of this article
This small guide will shows you how to use the OpenSSL Command Line to sign a file, and how to verify the signing of this file. You can do this to prove ownership of a key, or to prove that a file hasn't been modified since you signed it. This works both with small text files as well as huge photo's, documents or PDF files.
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We'll generate a new keypair for this. You can also use an exisiting one. Change the subject in the following command and execute it to generate a self signed keypair:
openssl req -nodes -x509 -sha256 -newkey rsa:4096 -keyout "$(whoami)s Sign Key.key" -out "$(whoami)s Sign Key.crt" -days 365 -subj "/C=NL/ST=Zuid Holland/L=Rotterdam/O=Sparkling Network/OU=IT Dept/CN=$(whoami)s Sign Key"
Also create a small text file to test the signing process on:
echo "Hello, World!" > sign.txt
Use the following command to sign the file. We actually take the sha256 hash of the file and sign that, all in one
openssl dgst -sha256 -sign "$(whoami)s Sign Key.key" -out sign.txt.sha256 sign.txt
This will result in a file
sign.txt with the contents, and the file
sign.txt.sha256 with the signed hash of this file.
You can place the file and the public key (
$(whoami)s Sign Key.crt) on the internet or anywhere you like. Keep the private key (
$(whoami)s Sign Key.key) very safe and private.
To verify the signature, you need the specific certificate's public key. We can get that from the certificate using the following command:
openssl x509 -in "$(whoami)s Sign Key.crt"
But that is quite a burden and we have a shell that can automate this away for us. The below command validates the file using the hashed signature:
openssl dgst -sha256 -verify <(openssl x509 -in "$(whoami)s Sign Key.crt" -pubkey -noout) -signature sign.txt.sha256 sign.txt
If the contents have not changed since the signing was done, the output is like below:
If the validation failed, that means the file hash doesn't correspond to the signed hash. The file has very likely been modified or tampered. The result of a failed validation looks like below:
To get a text version of the signature (the file contains binary content) you can use the
base64 command. The textual version is easier to public online with the file:
base64 sign.txt.sha256 > sign.txt.sha256.txt
To get this back into
openssl parsable output, use the
base64 -d command:
base64 -d sign.txt.sha256.txt > sign.txt.sha256