Tags: certificates, integration, howto

Requesting certificates from FreeIPA on Active Directory clients

In recent times I have seen some support cases and sales inquiries about getting certificates on Linux systems that are enrolled in Active Directory (AD). Linux hosts can be directly enrolled in AD via realmd or adcli. On AD-enrolled machines, SSSD can provide authentication services, access control and some Group Policy enforcement (see sssd-ad(5)). At Red Hat we call this approach direct integration. The alternative approach is to enrol hosts in a FreeIPA / IDM realm, and use cross-realm trusts to allow AD users/principals to authenticate to FreeIPA services, or vice-versa.

Unfortunately when it comes to getting certificates from AD-CS (the Active Directory certificate authority component) we don’t have a good story yet. Certmonger lacks an out-of-the-box capability to talk to AD-CS (except via SCEP, but that is not what we want). I do not know how much work would be involved in writing an AD-CS request helper for Certmonger. It might be a large effort or small; the little AD-CS enrolment documentation I have found is hard to penetrate. But even if we could write the AD-CS helper and ship it tomorrow, it would not help users and customers on older releases.

For now the best solution is to deploy FreeIPA / IDM, and use the IPA CA to issue certificates to AD-enrolled hosts. In this HOWTO-style post I walk through this scenario with a RHEL 6 client.


My local Windows Server 2012 R2 server defines the AD.LOCAL Active Directory (AD) realm. The DNS zone is ad.local. I configured a DNS Conditional Forwarder for ipa.local, delegating that namespace to the FreeIPA DNS server.

The FreeIPA server is rhel76-0.ipa.local. There is no AD trust. The integrated DNS is in use so KDC discovery will work.

In a typical scenario the IPA CA might be a subordinate of the AD CA. In my setup the IPA CA is self-signed. Operationally there is one additional step when the IPA CA is not subordinate to the AD CA: the IPA CA certificate has to be explicitly trusted. To trust the certificate copy it to a file under /etc/pki/ca-trust/source/anchors/ then execute update-ca-trust.

The RHEL 6 host is named rhel610-0.ipa.local The packages required were adcli and ipa-client. On RHEL 7 and later or Fedora the realm command, which is provided by the realmd package, is a better choice than adcli. /etc/resolv.conf points to the Windows Server.

Active Directory enrolment

I used the adcli command to enrol rhel610-0 in Active Directory:

[root@rhel610-0 ~]# adcli join ad.local --show-details
Password for Administrator@AD.LOCAL: XXXXXXXX
domain-name = ad.local
domain-realm = AD.LOCAL
domain-controller = win-ppk015f9mdq.ad.local
domain-short = AD
domain-SID = S-1-5-21-3519545429-1027502194-913185514
naming-context = DC=ad,DC=local
domain-ou = (null)
host-fqdn = rhel610-0.ipa.local
computer-name = RHEL610-0
computer-dn = CN=RHEL610-0,CN=Computers,DC=ad,DC=local
os-name = redhat-linux-gnu
kvno = 2
keytab = FILE:/etc/krb5.keytab

The output shows that the enrolment succeeded and prints information about the realm and enrolment. Inspecting the system keytab /etc/krb5.keytab shows the Kerberos keys:

[root@rhel610-0 ~]# ktutil
ktutil:  read_kt /etc/krb5.keytab
ktutil:  list
slot KVNO Principal
---- ---- ---------------------------------------------------------------------
   1    2                      RHEL610-0$@AD.LOCAL
   2    2                      RHEL610-0$@AD.LOCAL
   3    2                      RHEL610-0$@AD.LOCAL
   4    2                      RHEL610-0$@AD.LOCAL
   5    2                      RHEL610-0$@AD.LOCAL
   6    2                      RHEL610-0$@AD.LOCAL
   7    2                  host/RHEL610-0@AD.LOCAL
   8    2                  host/RHEL610-0@AD.LOCAL
   9    2                  host/RHEL610-0@AD.LOCAL
  10    2                  host/RHEL610-0@AD.LOCAL
  11    2                  host/RHEL610-0@AD.LOCAL
  12    2                  host/RHEL610-0@AD.LOCAL
  13    2        host/rhel610-0.ipa.local@AD.LOCAL
  14    2        host/rhel610-0.ipa.local@AD.LOCAL
  15    2        host/rhel610-0.ipa.local@AD.LOCAL
  16    2        host/rhel610-0.ipa.local@AD.LOCAL
  17    2        host/rhel610-0.ipa.local@AD.LOCAL
  18    2        host/rhel610-0.ipa.local@AD.LOCAL
  19    2     RestrictedKrbHost/RHEL610-0@AD.LOCAL
  20    2     RestrictedKrbHost/RHEL610-0@AD.LOCAL
  21    2     RestrictedKrbHost/RHEL610-0@AD.LOCAL
  22    2     RestrictedKrbHost/RHEL610-0@AD.LOCAL
  23    2     RestrictedKrbHost/RHEL610-0@AD.LOCAL
  24    2     RestrictedKrbHost/RHEL610-0@AD.LOCAL
  25    2 RestrictedKrbHost/rhel610-0.ipa.local@AD.LOCAL
  26    2 RestrictedKrbHost/rhel610-0.ipa.local@AD.LOCAL
  27    2 RestrictedKrbHost/rhel610-0.ipa.local@AD.LOCAL
  28    2 RestrictedKrbHost/rhel610-0.ipa.local@AD.LOCAL
  29    2 RestrictedKrbHost/rhel610-0.ipa.local@AD.LOCAL
  30    2 RestrictedKrbHost/rhel610-0.ipa.local@AD.LOCAL
ktutil:  quit

FreeIPA “enrolment”

Next I created a host princpial for rhel610-0.ipa.local in the FreeIPA realm:

[root@rhel76-0 ~]# ipa host-add rhel610-0.ipa.local
Added host "rhel610-0.ipa.local"
  Host name: rhel610-0.ipa.local
  Principal name: host/rhel610-0.ipa.local@IPA.LOCAL
  Principal alias: host/rhel610-0.ipa.local@IPA.LOCAL
  Password: False
  Keytab: False
  Managed by: rhel610-0.ipa.local

Because the integrated DNS is in use, we do not need to explicitly tell the Kerberos library about the IPA.LOCAL KDC. Instead you only need to ensure that /etc/krb5.conf does not contain:

  dns_lookup_kdc = false

When not using KDC discovery a section like the following is needed:

  kdc = rhel76-0.ipa.local
  admin_server = rhel76-0.ipa.local

I also needed to add a [domain_realm] section to tell the Kerberos client library what realm to use when talking to the IPA server:

 .ipa.local = IPA.LOCAL

Reading krb5.conf(5), there is a [libdefaults] knob called realm_try_domains. From the description, it seems that using it could avoid the need for a [domain_realm] section. But it did not work for me, in the way I expected (on this RHEL 6 client at least).

Next I had to retrieve the host keys for the IPA.LOCAL realm into the system keytab. The Certmonger IPA helper will use those keys to authenticate to FreeIPA when requesting a certificate:

[root@rhel610-0 ~]# kinit admin@IPA.LOCAL
Password for admin@IPA.LOCAL: 
[root@rhel610-0 ~]# ipa-getkeytab -s rhel76-0.ipa.local \
    -p host/rhel610-0.ipa.local@IPA.LOCAL \
    -k /etc/krb5.keytab
Keytab successfully retrieved and stored in: /etc/krb5.keytab

Listing the keys in /etc/krb5.conf we now see that the IPA.LOCAL host keys have been appended:

[root@rhel610-0 ~]# ktutil
ktutil:  read_kt /etc/krb5.keytab
ktutil:  list
slot KVNO Principal
---- ---- ---------------------------------------------------------------------
   1    2                      RHEL610-0$@AD.LOCAL
  30    2 RestrictedKrbHost/rhel610-0.ipa.local@AD.LOCAL
  31    1       host/rhel610-0.ipa.local@IPA.LOCAL
  32    1       host/rhel610-0.ipa.local@IPA.LOCAL
  33    1       host/rhel610-0.ipa.local@IPA.LOCAL
  34    1       host/rhel610-0.ipa.local@IPA.LOCAL
ktutil:  quit

SELinux considerations

I will store certificates and keys under /etc/pki/tls/private/ because this directory has the correct SELinux context (and default context rules) for Certmonger to use it:

[root@rhel610-0 ~]# ls -l -d -Z /etc/pki/tls/private/
drwxr-xr-x. root root system_u:object_r:cert_t:s0 /etc/pki/tls/private/

If you want Certmonger to manage keys and certificates in other directories you need to ensure the files/directory have the cert_t type label. This can be achieved via the semanage(8) and restorecon(8), but I will not go into further detail here.

Certmonger IPA configuration

Certmonger comes out of the box with a request/renewal helper for an IPA CA. But it assumes that the client is an IPA-enrolled server, i.e. per ipa-client-install. In particular there are two files that must be manually set up. First, the IPA CA (and chain) must be present in /etc/ipa/ca.crt. It can be copied from the IPA server without changes. I have filed a ticket to make Certmonger use the system CA trust store.

The other file is /etc/ipa/default.conf. The Certmonger IPA helper reads several fields from this file to locate the IPA server and work out how to initialise Kerberos credentials. I used the following configuration:

server = rhel76-0.ipa.local
basedn = dc=ipa,dc=local
realm = IPA.LOCAL
domain = ipa.local
xmlrpc_uri = https://rhel76-0.ipa.local/ipa/xml
ldap_uri = ldaps://rhel76-0.ipa.local

Requesting the certificate

Now we can tell Certmonger to request a certificate using the IPA CA:

[root@rhel610-0 ~]# getcert request \
    -c IPA \
    -k /etc/pki/tls/private/cert.key \
    -f /etc/pki/tls/private/cert.pem \
    -K host/rhel610-0.ipa.local@IPA.LOCAL \
    -D rhel610-0.ipa.local
New signing request "20190920053226" added.

The options used are:


Use the IPA CA request/renewal helper. To see a list of all the defined CA helpers execute getcert list-cas.


Where to store the newly generated, or read the existing, private key.


Where to store the issued certificate.


Kerberos principal name, which will appear in the CSR’s Subject Alternative Name extension. The IPA request helper requires this parameter.


DNS name to include in the Subject Alternative Name extension.

We can use the request ID to print the details of the certificate request:

[root@rhel610-0 ~]# getcert list -i 20190920053226
Number of certificates and requests being tracked: 1.
Request ID '20190920053226':
  status: MONITORING
  stuck: no
  key pair storage: type=FILE,location='/etc/pki/tls/private/cert.key'
  certificate: type=FILE,location='/etc/pki/tls/private/cert.pem'
  issuer: CN=Certificate Authority,O=IPA.LOCAL 201909191314
  subject: CN=rhel610-0.ipa.local,O=IPA.LOCAL 201909191314
  expires: 2021-09-23 09:34:49 UTC
  dns: rhel610-0.ipa.local
  principal name: host/rhel610-0.ipa.local@IPA.LOCAL
  key usage: digitalSignature,nonRepudiation,keyEncipherment,dataEncipherment
  eku: id-kp-serverAuth,id-kp-clientAuth
  pre-save command: 
  post-save command: 
  track: yes
  auto-renew: yes

The MONITORING status shows that the initial certificate request was successful. Certmonger is now tracking the certificate and will attempt to renew it when its notAfter (expiration) time approaches. We can also pretty-print the certificate to see the gory details:

[root@rhel610-0 ~]# openssl x509 -text -noout \
    < /etc/pki/tls/private/cert.pem
        Version: 3 (0x2)
        Serial Number: 19 (0x13)
    Signature Algorithm: sha256WithRSAEncryption
        Issuer: O=IPA.LOCAL 201909191314, CN=Certificate Authority
            Not Before: Sep 23 09:34:49 2019 GMT
            Not After : Sep 23 09:34:49 2021 GMT
        Subject: O=IPA.LOCAL 201909191314, CN=rhel610-0.ipa.local
        Subject Public Key Info:
            Public Key Algorithm: rsaEncryption
                Public-Key: (2048 bit)
                    ... <snip>
                Exponent: 65537 (0x10001)
        X509v3 extensions:
            X509v3 Authority Key Identifier: 

            Authority Information Access: 
                OCSP - URI:http://ipa-ca.ipa.local/ca/ocsp

            X509v3 Key Usage: critical
                Digital Signature, Non Repudiation, Key Encipherment, Data Encipherment
            X509v3 Extended Key Usage: 
                TLS Web Server Authentication, TLS Web Client Authentication
            X509v3 CRL Distribution Points: 

                Full Name:
                CRL Issuer:
                  DirName: O = ipaca, CN = Certificate Authority

            X509v3 Subject Key Identifier: 
            X509v3 Subject Alternative Name: 
                DNS:rhel610-0.ipa.local, othername:<unsupported>, othername:<unsupported>
    Signature Algorithm: sha256WithRSAEncryption
         ... <snip>


I have shown how AD-enrolled Linux hosts can request certificates from FreeIPA. Reviewing the major considerations and steps:

  1. Create a host principal in the FreeIPA realm
  2. Retrieve the keytab
  3. Adjust /etc/krb5.conf for the FreeIPA realm (DNS-based KDC discovery means there is less to do)
  4. Add IPA CA certificate to /etc/ipa/ca.crt and add /etc/ipa/default.conf; these are needed by the Certmonger request helper
  5. Request certificate (some SELinux-fu needed if storing certs/keys in non-default locations)

The exact steps were for a RHEL 6 machine. The procedure may differ for newer systems, but not in any big ways.

In the course of exploring the procedure for this post I found it helpful to invoke the Certmonger IPA helper directly, e.g.:

[root@rhel610-0 ~]# /usr/libexec/certmonger/ipa-submit \
    -P host/rhel610-0.ipa.local@IPA.LOCAL foo.req
Submitting request to "https://rhel76-0.ipa.local/ipa/xml".
Fault 3009: (RPC failed at server.  invalid 'csr': hostname in
  subject of request 'freebsd10-0.ipa.local' does not match name
  or aliases of principal 'host/rhel610-0.ipa.local@IPA.LOCAL').
Server at https://rhel76-0.ipa.local/ipa/xml denied our request,
  giving up: 3009 (RPC failed at server.  invalid 'csr': hostname
  in subject of request 'freebsd10-0.ipa.local' does not match
  name or aliases of principal 'host/rhel610-0.ipa.local@IPA.LOCAL').

In the preceding example, I invoked the helper directly, supplying a (bogus) CSR and specifying the subject principal. The goal was not to successfully request a certificate but to verify the Kerberos configuration. If you are trying to use the IPA helper on a non-IPA-enrolled system you may also find this approach helpful for diagnosing issues.

Newer releases of Certmonger added support for requesting certificates using a different certificate profile, or a different IPA (sub-)CA. On RHEL 6, it is not possible to request a different profile so the default profile (caIPAserviceCert) is always used. IPA server on RHEL 7 and later does support modifying profiles, including the default profile.

The Certmonger IPA request helper uses /etc/ipa/ca.crt as the trust store for the HTTPS requests it makes to the FreeIPA server. If the IPA CA certificate is updated, this file will have to be updated on clients. When there are systems not IPA-enrolled á la ipa-client-install, it may be worthwhile to use configuration management tools such as Ansible to do this.

As for getting certificates from AD-CS directly, there is interest from users and customers. I would like to see it implemented, but when or by whom, or whether we even will, has not been decided as of September 2019.

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