Link Search Menu Expand Document

Key Stores

A Local CA makes use of a Key Store. This is where the CA keys will be generated and stored

A key store must be available before a Local CA can be created - as it relies on this for the key generation

Key Stores can be one of the following types:

  • Software
    • The CA keys will be secured using software based encryption and stored in the database
  • PKCS#11
    • An HSM (Hardware Security Module) that supports the PKCS#11 interface may be used to generate and store the CA keys. Any HSM that supports the PKCS#11 interface may be used, but the following are specifically supported:
      • Thales Luna and DPoD (Data Protection on Demand)
      • nCipher
      • Utimaco
      • AWS Cloud HSM
  • Azure Key Vault
    • A Key Vault in Azure can be used. Note: Certdog enforces HSM protection for keys and this is only supported on the Key Vaults created in the Premium pricing tier (Certdog will not operate with Standard tier Key Vaults)
  • Google KMS
    • A key ring in Google Cloud may be used for key storage. Again, Certdog enforces HSM protection for these keys

Obtaining Credentials and Settings

Before you create a Key Store, the required credentials must be obtained. These are dependant on what type of key store is being used


Only a password is required for software key stores. This password is used to protect any keys generated by the CA. The password itself will also be encrypted before being stored


The PKCS#11 interface makes use of a local library which interfaces to the HSM

This library is provided by the HSM vendor and the setup of this (and any other required configuration) is vendor specific

Note that this setup must be performed on the Certdog server itself - not on the client accessing the Certdog server

Once setup, the following pieces of information are required:

  • The PKCS#11 Library

    This is the library providing the PKCS#11 interface. The full path is required. A typical example for an nCipher HSM’s library is:

    Windows: C:\Program Files (x86)\nCipher\nfast\toolkits\pkcs11\cknfast-64.dll

    Linux/Unix: /opt/nfast/toolkits/pkcs11/64/

  • Slot

    A PKCS#11 device can host many slots which may refer to partitions (on Luna HSMs) or cardsets (on nCipher HSMs). Each slot may use a different password. This will all be configured during the HSM setup so you just need to be sure your password matches with the slot you will reference

  • Password

    This is the password used to authenticate to the HSM. It may be an operator cardset passphrase (in the case of nCipher) or a partition passphrase (in the case of Thales Luna) or a combination of username and password as required by the AWS Cloud HSM (which requires the password in this format: username:password)

  • Use Module Protection

    Some HSMs allow access without requiring a password. Access to the HSM should then be secured using other mechanisms (e.g. network layer security)

Google KMS

To use a key ring in Google Cloud, the following are required. These can be obtained/configured from your Google Cloud account:

  • Project

    This is the project ID as displayed in the Home dashboard:


  • Key Ring Location

    You must have created a key ring from the SecurityKey management section in Google Cloud

    When the key ring has been created the location will be displayed (e.g. us-west4, europe-west2 etc.)

    Note that it is recommended that a dedicated key ring be assigned to Certdog as it will be creating and deleting keys within this key ring

  • Key Ring Name

    The name you assigned to the key ring e.g. certdog

  • Key Ring Credentials

    This is the JSON credential string associated with a service account that has permissions to access the key ring

    A service account can be created from the IAM & AdminService Accounts section in the Google Cloud Console. It is recommended that a dedicated service account is created for Certdog

    The account must have the following roles:

    • Cloud KMS Admin
    • Cloud KMS CryptoKey Signer
    • Cloud KMS CryptoKey Public Key Viewer

    To obtain the JSON credential, select the Keys section for the service account and select Add Key, choosing JSON as the Key type. Download the produced JSON file - it is the contents of this file that must be pasted into the Key Ring Credentials section

Azure Key Vault

To use a Key Vault in Azure, the following are required. These can be obtained/configured from the Azure Portal:

  • Key Vault Name

    This is the Vault URL as displayed on the vault’s overview page, it is not the display name. I.e. in the example below the Key Vault Name required to be entered is:


  • Key Vault Client ID

    This is also referred to as the appId. See the steps below on how to obtain this value

  • Key Vault Tenant ID

    This is also referred to as the Directory ID. This value can be obtained from the overview page (see the green box in the screen shot above) but it is also provided when we configure access to the key vault (see below)

  • Password

    Also referred to as the client secret (the following will explain how to get this)

To obtain these values, we need to register an application that will then be authorised to use the key vault

To do this, perform the following steps:

  1. If not done so already, create a Key Vault in the Azure Portal
  2. From the Portal, navigate to Azure Active Directory and select App Registrations from the left hand menu
  3. From the top menu click New registration
    1. Provide a name for the application (e.g. certdog)
    2. Select the supported account types
    3. For the Redirect URI (optional) setting, choose Web and provide a URL. The URL does not need to be a real URL but must be formatted as a URL. For example, it could be:
  4. Next, open Azure Cloud Shell either by clicking the shell icon from the Portal:


    ​ or by navigating to

  5. At the prompt type the following to create a service principal called certdog (though you can name this whatever you want):

     az ad sp create-for-rbac -n certdog --skip-assignment


     az ad sp create-for-rbac -n certdog --skip-assignment
     The output includes credentials that you must protect. Be sure that you do not include these credentials in your code or check the credentials intoyour source control. For more information, see
     'name' property in the output is deprecated and will be removed in the future. Use 'appId' instead. 
         "appId": "fd94f971-ebd9-4a32-a56e-97427655429e", 
         "displayName": "certdog",
         "name" : "fd94f971-ebd9-4a32-a56e-97427655429e",
         "password": "nScc7-6T.gOI7.ugHawFRRoUbwUA_agrC-",
         "tenant": "36524c35-390b-4343-390b-36524c35707c"
  6. Note the following items:
    • appId

      This is your Key Vault Client ID

    • password

      This is the required password

    • tenant

      This should be the same value as displayed for Directory ID on the key vaults overview page and is the Key Vault Tenant ID

  7. We must now set the permissions on the key vault for this application. To do this, type the following at the shell:

     export AZURE_CLIENT_ID=[value for appId returned above] 
     export AZURE_CLIENT_SECRET=[value returned for password above]
     export AZURE_TENANT_ID=[value returned for tenant above]
     az keyvault set-policy --name [Key Vault Name] --spn $AZURE_CLIENT_ID --key-permissions delete get list create sign verify encrypt decrypt wrapKey unwrapKey –-certificate-permissions get list

The [Key Vault Name] in this instance is not the full URI, but just the name. For example, if you had created a key vault called certdog. Its URI would be: but the name required here would just be: certdog

For example:

export AZURE_CLIENT_ID="fd94f971-ebd9-4a32-a56e-97427655429e"
export AZURE_CLIENT_SECRET="nScc7-6T.gOI7.ugHawFRRoUbwUA_agrC-"
export AZURE_TENANT_ID="36524c35-390b-4343-390b-36524c35707c"

az keyvault set-policy --name certdog --spn $AZURE_CLIENT_ID --key-permissions delete get list create sign verify encrypt decrypt wrapKey unwrapKey --certificate-permissions get list

You would now have created an account that can be configured in Certdog to access your key vault.

Creating a Key Store

  1. From the certdog application, login as an Administrator
  2. From the menu select, Local CAKey Stores
  3. Click Add New Key Store
  4. Enter a Name for the Key Store. This can be anything you like and is used to reference it later
  5. Select the Key Store Type from the drop down



Enter a password, retype and click Create

Note that this password will be used to protect any keys created by Local CAs that use this key store. Ensure it meets your password security requirements



Enter the Password, PKCS#11 Library, HSM Model and choose the Slot as per the details outlined above and click Create

Google KMS


Enter the Project, Key Ring Location, Key Ring Name as obtained above. For the Key Ring Credentials, open the JSON file that was downloaded and copy its contents into the box. Click Create

Azure Key Vault


Enter the Password, Key Vault Name, Key Vault Client ID and Key Vault Tenant ID as obtained from above. Click Create