Remove SSL certificate passphrase

A lot of people ask how they can remove the passphrase requirements from a private key so that Apache can be (re)started without the need to re-enter the key’s passphrase.

Security warning

Once you remove the requirement for the passphrase, the certificate can be easily copied and used elsewhere, thus raising the risk of it being abused. If you must remove the passphrase then you must take adequate protection in the storage of the file. Ensure that the permissions are set to only allow access to those who need it.

Now that you have been warned about the risks, we can continue onto the options

1) httpd has a directive you can use, SSLPassPhraseDialog.
2) You can use OpenSSL to remove the passphrase from the certificate completely.

An example usage of SSLPassPhraseDialog :

SSLPassPhraseDialog exec:/path/to/script

N.B. 'SSLPassPhraseDialog' can only be used in the main server config, and must be outside of any <Directory> or <Location> blocks.

Inside an example perl script:

#!/bin/sh
echo "put the passphrase here"

After saving the passphrase script, set the file executable

chmod +x /path/to/passphrase-script

How to strip a key with OpenSSL

With OpenSSL you can actually remove the passphrase from the SSL key completely. This will avoid Apache asking you to enter the passphrase every time it is started. To do this go to the command line and type

/path/to/openssl rsa -in /path/to/originalkeywithpass.key -out /path/to/newkeywithnopass.key

with the file names and paths appropriate for your environment.

Automatically SSL without Passphrase Prompt on Apache2 Restart or Server Reboot

You need to remove encryption from your private key file like this:

openssl rsa -in server.key -out server.key.new
mv server.key.new server.key

Make sure the new key file is only readable by root – otherwise anyone with shell access to this server will be able to grab the private key and impersonate your server.

To make the key readable only by root, do ‘chmod 600 server.key.new’ before swapping keys.

Now you should have Httpd Apache2 automatically started without SSL Passphrase prompt.