cert-enroll Tool


cert-enroll [-c filename] [-i directory]

cert-enroll -h


The cert-enroll bash shell script uses the strongSwan pki command to request an initial X.509 certificate from a PKI server using either the Enrollment over Secure Transport protocol (RFC 7030 EST) or the older Simple Certificate Enrollment Protocol (RFC 8894 SCEP). After having received the host certificate, its expiration date can be monitored periodically and a new certificate will be automatically requested when a predefined deadline of remaining validity days is reached. The availability of new CA certificates is also monitored periodically. The locally generated RSA, EDCSA or EdDSA private key, the downloaded X.509 certificate and the current set of CA certificates can then be installed in specific places on the host via a selection of installation scripts.

The cert-enroll script has been extensively tested with an OpenXPKI server and various TLS or IPsec based applications needing X.509 host certificates.



Prints usage information and a short summary of the available commands


Path to the optional local configuration file that can be used to overwrite parameters in the default configuration file ${sysconfdir}/cert-enroll.d/cert-enroll.conf which usually should not be edited directly. Defaults to ${sysconfdir}/cert-enroll.d/cert-enroll.conf.local.


Path to the installation script directory. Defaults to ${sysconfdir}/cert-enroll.d/cert-install.d. This directory will contain dynamic links to selected installation scripts available in the ${sysconfdir}/etc/cert-enroll.d/cert-install-available directory.

The ${sysconfdir} directory is usually set to /etc but might differ in some strongSwan installations.

Build Options

To build the cert-enroll script, add


to the ./configure options. If you want to run cert-enroll as a systemd timer, additionally add



Activation as systemd Timer

The timer is enabled and started with the following commands

# systemctl enable cert-enroll.timer
# systemctl start  cert-enroll.timer

The initial generation of the X.509 host certificate can be done via the single shot command

# systemctl start cert-enroll.service

Activation as a cron Job

The daily execution of the cert-enroll script is enabled via the following crontab entry

# crontab -l
#  m h  dom mon dow   command
   0 2  *   *   *     /usr/sbin/cert-enroll 2>&1 | /usr/sbin/logger -p user.info

The initial generation of the X.509 host certificate can be done via the command

# /usr/sbin/cert-enroll

Key and Certificate Storage Location

The generated private key and the host and CA certificates are stored under standardized names in the default directory /root/certificates/

 |-- key.pem             # host key
 |-- cert.pem            # host certificate
 |-- cacert.pem          # root CA certificate
 |-- cacert-1.pem        # issuing intermediate CA certificate
 |--new/                 # temporary directory for re-enrollment
 +--old/                 # repository for deprecated credentials
     |-- key.pem         # old host key after re-enrollment
     |-- cert.pem        # old host certificate after re-enrollment
     +-- cacert-1.pem    # old issuing CA certificate after rollover

Installation Scripts for Private Keys and Certificates

The following installation scripts are currently available in the cert-install-available directory. On the basis of these examples arbitrary key and certificate installations can be implemented.

  • cert-install-dirsrv: Installs the private key, the host and CA certificates in the NSS databases key4.db und cert9.db that are needed by a 389 Directory Server for TLS authentication as an LDAP server.

  • cert-install-gitea: Installs the private key and the host certifcate needed as TLS credentials by a Gitea-based GIT server.

  • cert-install-ipsec: Installs the private key, the host and CA certificates on VPN endpoints that still manage their strongSwan-based IPsec tunnels via the legacy ipsec command line tool.

  • cert-install-lighttpd: Installs the private key and the host certificate needed as TLS credentials by a lighttpd-based web server.

  • cert-install-openxpki: Installs the private key, the host and CA certificates needed as TLS credentials by an apache2-based OpenXPKI server.

  • cert-install-ssl: Installs the generated key, host certificate and associated CA certificates as credentials for a TLS-protected client-server connection.

  • cert-install-sssd: Copies the current and the previous but still valid Root CA and Intermediate CA certificates into the ldap_tls_cacertdir directory defined in sssd.conf on hosts running the System Security Services Daemon (SSSD). After updating the CA certificates, openssl rehash is executed in the ldap_tls_cacertdir directory.

  • cert-install-swanctl: Installs the private key, the host and CA certificates on VPN endpoints that run their strongSwan IKE charon daemon as a systemd service and manage their IPsec tunnels via the swanctl command line tool.

Activation of Installation Scripts

Installation scripts are activated via symbolic links im the cert-install.d directory. For the example of a 389 Directory Server the following two installation scripts are referenced:

# cd /etc/cert-enroll.d
# ln -s cert-install-available/cert-install-dirsrv cert-install.d
# ln -s cert-install-available/cert-install-sssd   cert-install.d


The cert-enroll script is logging as a systemd service to the systemd journal and as a cron job via the logger to the syslog. Here are some sample entries

Sep 29 12:10:47 ns.strongswan.org cert-enroll[63840]: Error: generation of 256 bit ECDSA private key failed
Sep 29 12:23:38 ns.strongswan.org cert-enroll[63872]: Ok: successfully enrolled 'cert.pem' via EST
Sep 30 02:18:51 ns.strongswan.org cert-enroll[64634]: Warning: validity of 'cert.pem' is only 29 days, less than the minimum of 42 days
Sep 30 02:18:51 ns.strongswan.org cert-enroll[64634]: Ok: 'cacert.pem' and 'cacert-1.pem' are unchanged
Sep 30 02:18:52 ns.strongswan.org cert-enroll[64634]: Ok: successfully re-enrolled 'cert.pem' via EST
Oct 01 02:45:40 ns.strongswan.org cert-enroll[65850]: Ok: validity of 'cert.pem' is 1459 days, more than the minimum of 42 days
Oct 02 03:45:40 ns.strongswan.org cert-enroll[67028]: Ok: validity of 'cert.pem' is 1458 days, more than the minimum of 42 days

The most important messages have an Ok:, Warning: or Error: prefix.