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Rotate Server Certificates

Server-side X.509 certificates should periodically be rotated, to ensure optimal security.

Rotating Server Certificates

Certificate rotation is needed when:

  • A certificate expires

  • You move from an old CA authority to a new

  • There is a change in the policy of the certificates issued by the CA

  • A widespread breach of security has occurred in your system

Certificate-renewal should be planned well before a certificate expires. X.509 certificate-rotation in Couchbase is an online operation that does not require a node or cluster restart: applications maintain continued access to Couchbase Server, experiencing no downtime due to the rotation operation.

Certificate Rotation

  1. Generate a new certificate.

    Before you rotate a certificate, you need to generate a new certificate.

    Typically, your Certificate Authority will give you a self-service option to re-issue certificates. If this is not the case, you can manually regenerate a new X509 certificate.

    1. Renew the root CA certificate

      The root certificate authority is the topmost CA in a CA hierarchy. Its validity period is typically the longest in the hierarchy: between 10 and 20 years.

      Note that when you renew the root CA, you have the option of reusing its existing private key. If you keep the same private key on your root CA, all certificates can continue to validate successfully against the new root; all that is required of you is to trust the new root.

    2. Generate the root CA for the first time

      openssl genrsa -out ca.key 2048
      openssl req -new -x509  -days 3650 -sha256 -key ca.key -out ca.pem \
      -subj '/C=UA/O=My Company/CN=My Company Root CA'
    3. After ten years, the renewal time for the root CA comes up.

      • Renew the root CA using the existing ca.key:

        openssl req -new -key ca.key -out newcsr.csr
        openssl x509 -req -days 3650 -sha256 -in newcsr.csr \
        -signkey newca.key -out newca.pem
      • Generate a completely new root CA:

        openssl genrsa -out newca.key 2048
        openssl req -new -x509  -days 3650 -sha256 -key newca.key \
        -out newca.pem -subj '/C=UA/O=My Company/CN=My Company Root CA'
    4. Renew the intermediate certificates.

      For the intermediate CAs, a possible strategy might be to renew them for a year to six months before they expire, and reuse the existing key.

      By replacing the old chain file with the new chain file (which contains the updated intermediate certificates), rotation of the intermediate certificates can be performed:

      cat pkey.pem ../int/newint.pem \
      <possibly other intermediate CAs> > chain.pem
  2. Deploy the CA public key and intermediate certificates

    Before modifying anything on the server-side, deploy the CA public key and intermediate certificates in the certificate-stores used by your client browser and the SDK language.

    For example, here are steps to do that for Firefox and Chrome.

  3. Rotate certificates on the server

    1. Configure the new root CA certificate (newca.pem is the new root CA certificate).

      • Using CLI:

        couchbase-cli ssl-manage -c <node-name>:8091 -u Administrator \
        -p password --upload-cluster-ca=newca.pem
      • Using REST:

        curl -X POST \
        --data-binary "@newca.pem" http://Administrator:password@127.0.0.1:8091/controller/uploadClusterCA
    2. Configure the new intermediate and node certificate.

      For each node, copy over new chain.pem file, and per node private key (new pkey.pem file, if the node certificate is rotated) to the inbox folder.

      • Using CLI:

        couchbase-cli ssl-manage -c <node-name>:8091 -u Administrator \
        -p password --set-node-certificate
      • Using REST:

        curl -X \
        POST http://Administrator:password@[node-name]:8091/node/controller/reloadCertificate
  4. Test the server CA certificate

    You can also use OpenSSL’s s_client by trying to connect to a server that you know is using a certificate signed by the CA that you just installed:

    openssl s_client \
    -connect https://<hostname>:8091 -CApath <root ca public key>