Generate certificates

If you don’t have access to a certificate authority (CA) for your organization and want to use Open Distro for Elasticsearch for non-demo purposes, you can generate your own self-signed certificates using OpenSSL.

You can probably find OpenSSL in the package manager for your operating system.

On CentOS, use Yum:

sudo yum install openssl

On macOS, use Homebrew:

brew install openssl

Table of contents

  1. Generate private key
  2. Generate root certificate
  3. Generate admin certificate
  4. (Optional) Generate node and client certificates
    1. Sample script
  5. Get Distinguished Names
  6. Configure certificates
  7. Run
  8. Kibana

Generate private key

The first step in this process is to generate a private key using the genrsa command. As the name suggests, you should keep this file private.

Private keys need to be of sufficient length in order to be secure, so specify 2048:

openssl genrsa -out root-ca-key.pem 2048

If desired, add the -aes256 option to encrypt the key using the AES-256 standard. This option requires a password.

Generate root certificate

Next, use the key to generate a self-signed certificate for the root CA:

openssl req -new -x509 -sha256 -key root-ca-key.pem -out root-ca.pem
  • The -x509 option specifies that you want a self-signed certificate rather than a certificate request.
  • The -sha256 option sets the hash algorithm to SHA-256. SHA-256 is the default in newer versions of OpenSSL, but older versions might use SHA-1.
  • Optionally, add -days 3650 (10 years) or some other number of days to set an expiration date.

Specify details for your organization as prompted. Together, these details form the Distinguished Name (DN) of your CA.

Generate admin certificate

To generate an admin certificate, first create a new key:

openssl genrsa -out admin-key-temp.pem 2048

Then convert that key to PKCS#8 format for use in Java using a PKCS#12-compatible algorithm (3DES):

openssl pkcs8 -inform PEM -outform PEM -in admin-key-temp.pem -topk8 -nocrypt -v1 PBE-SHA1-3DES -out admin-key.pem

Next, create a certificate signing request (CSR). This file acts as an application to a CA for a signed certificate:

openssl req -new -key admin-key.pem -out admin.csr

Fill in the details as prompted. You don’t need to specify a challenge password. As noted in the OpenSSL Cookbook, “Having a challenge password does not increase the security of the CSR in any way.”

Finally, generate the certificate itself:

openssl x509 -req -in admin.csr -CA root-ca.pem -CAkey root-ca-key.pem -CAcreateserial -sha256 -out admin.pem

(Optional) Generate node and client certificates

Follow the steps in Generate admin certificates with new file names to generate a new certificate for each node and as many client certificates as you need. Each certificate should use its own private key.

If you generate node certificates and have opendistro_security.ssl.transport.enforce_hostname_verification set to true (default), be sure to specify a Common Name (CN) for the certificate that matches the hostname of the intended node. If you want to use the same node certificate on all nodes (not recommended), set hostname verification to false. To learn more, see Configure TLS certificates.

Sample script

# Root CA
openssl genrsa -out root-ca-key.pem 2048
openssl req -new -x509 -sha256 -key root-ca-key.pem -out root-ca.pem
# Admin cert
openssl genrsa -out admin-key-temp.pem 2048
openssl pkcs8 -inform PEM -outform PEM -in admin-key-temp.pem -topk8 -nocrypt -v1 PBE-SHA1-3DES -out admin-key.pem
openssl req -new -key admin-key.pem -out admin.csr
openssl x509 -req -in admin.csr -CA root-ca.pem -CAkey root-ca-key.pem -CAcreateserial -sha256 -out admin.pem
# Node cert
openssl genrsa -out node-key-temp.pem 2048
openssl pkcs8 -inform PEM -outform PEM -in node-key-temp.pem -topk8 -nocrypt -v1 PBE-SHA1-3DES -out node-key.pem
openssl req -new -key node-key.pem -out node.csr
openssl x509 -req -in node.csr -CA root-ca.pem -CAkey root-ca-key.pem -CAcreateserial -sha256 -out node.pem
# Cleanup
rm admin-key-temp.pem
rm admin.csr
rm node-key-temp.pem
rm node.csr

Get Distinguished Names

If you created admin and node certificates, you need to specify their DNs in elasticsearch.yml:


But if you look at the subject of the certificate after creating it, you might see different formatting:


If you compare this string to the ones in elasticsearch.yml above, you can see that you need to invert the order of elements and use commas rather than slashes. To get the string you need:

openssl x509 -subject -nameopt RFC2253 -noout -in node.pem

Then you can copy and paste the output:


Configure certificates

This process generates many files, but the ones you need to add to your cluster configuration are:

  • root-ca.pem
  • admin.pem
  • admin-key.pem
  • (Optional) node.pem
  • (Optional) node-key.pem

For information on adding and configuring these certificates, see Docker security configuration and Configure TLS certificates.


After configuring your certificates and starting Elasticsearch, run to initialize the Security plugin:

./ -cd ../securityconfig/ -icl -nhnv -cacert ../../../config/root-ca.pem -cert ../../../config/admin.pem -key ../../../config/admin-key.pem

For more information about what this command does, see Apply configuration changes and Change passwords for read-only users.

If you’re using Docker, see Bash access to containers.


Depending on your settings in kibana.yml, you might need to add root-ca.pem to your Kibana node, as well. You have two options: disable SSL verification or add the root CA.

  • Disable SSL verification:

    elasticsearch.ssl.verificationMode: none
  • Add root CA:

    elasticsearch.ssl.certificateAuthorities: ["/usr/share/kibana/config/root-ca.pem"]
    elasticsearch.ssl.verificationMode: full