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openssl-verification-options - generic X.509 certificate verification options


openssl command [ options ... ] [ parameters ... ]


Many OpenSSL commands and various other uses of the crypto library function X509_verify_cert(3) verify X.509 certificates. The details of how each command handles errors are documented on the specific command page.

Certificate verification is a complicated process, consisting of a number of separate steps that are detailed in the following paragraphs.

First, a certificate chain is built up starting from the target certificate and typically ending in a self-signed "root" CA certificate. It is an error if the whole chain cannot be built up unless the -partial_chain option is given. The chain is built up iteratively, looking up in turn the certificate of the signer ("issuer") of the current certificate. If a certificate is found that appears to be its own issuer it is assumed to be the self-signed root, which must be trusted.

The process of looking up the issuer's certificate itself involves a number of steps. All available certificates with a subject name that matches the issuer name of the current certificate are subject to further tests. The relevant authority key identifier components of the current certificate (if present) must match the subject key identifier (if present) and issuer and serial number of the candidate issuer certificate. If there is such a certificate, the first one found that is currently valid is taken, otherwise the one that expired most recently of all such certificates.

The lookup first searches for issuer certificates in the trust store. If it does not find a match there it consults the list of untrusted "intermediate" CA certificates (if provided). The last certificate (which typically is of a root CA) is always looked up in the trusted certificate list; an exact match must be found there.

The second step is to check the extensions of every untrusted certificate for consistency with the supplied purpose. If the -purpose option is not included then no checks are done. The target or "leaf" certificate must have extensions compatible with the supplied purpose and all other certificates must also be valid CA certificates. The precise extensions required are described in more detail in "CERTIFICATE EXTENSIONS" in openssl-x509(1).

The third step is to check the trust settings on the last certficate, typically of a root CA. It should be trusted for the supplied purpose. For compatibility with previous versions of OpenSSL, a certificate with no trust settings is considered to be valid for all purposes.

The fourth, and final, step is to check the validity of the certificate chain. For each element in the chain, including the root CA certificate, the validity period as specified by the "notBefore" and "notAfter" fields is checked against the current system time. The -attime flag may be used to use a reference time other than "now." The certificate signature is checked as well (except for the signature of the typically self-signed root CA certificate, which is verified only if the -check_ss_sig option is given). When verifying a certificate signature the keyUsage extension (if present) of the candidate issuer certificate is checked to permit digitalSignature for signing proxy certificates or to permit keyCertSign for signing other certificates, respectively. If all operations complete successfully then certificate is considered valid. If any operation fails then the certificate is not valid.


Trusted Certificate Options

The following options specify how to select the trusted root certificates, also known as trust anchors. A collection of trusted roots is called a trust store.

Note that OpenSSL does not provide a default set of trust anchors. Many Linux distributions include a system default and configure OpenSSL to point to that. Mozilla maintains an influential trust store that can be found at <>.

The certificates to trust can be specified using following options.

-CAfile file
Load the specified file which contains one or more PEM-format certificates of CA's that are trusted.
Do not load the default file of trusted certificates.
-CApath dir
Use the specified directory as a list of trust certificates. That is, files should be named with the hash of the X.509 SubjectName of each certificate. This is so that the library can extract the IssuerName, hash it, and directly lookup the file to get the issuer certificate. See openssl-rehash(1) for information on creating this type of directory.
Do not use the default directory of trusted certificates.
-CAstore uri
Use uri as a store of trusted CA certificates. The URI may indicate a single certificate, as well as a collection of them. With URIs in the "file:" scheme, this acts as -CAfile or -CApath, depending on if the URI indicates a single file or directory. See ossl_store-file(7) for more information on the "file:" scheme.

These certificates are also used when building the server certificate chain (for example with openssl-s_server(1)) or client certificate chain (for example with openssl-s_time(1)).

Do not use the default store.

Verification Options

The certificate verification can be fine-tuned with the following flags.
Print extra information about the operations being performed.
-attime timestamp
Perform validation checks using time specified by timestamp and not current system time. timestamp is the number of seconds since January 1, 1970 (i.e., the Unix Epoch).
This option suppresses checking the validity period of certificates and CRLs against the current time. If option -attime is used to specify a verification time, the check is not suppressed.
This disables non-compliant workarounds for broken certificates. Thus errors are thrown on certificates not compliant with RFC 5280.

When this option is set, among others, the following certificate well-formedness conditions are checked:

  • The basicConstraints of CA certificates must be marked critical.
  • CA certificates must explicitly include the keyUsage extension.
  • If a pathlenConstraint is given the key usage keyCertSign must be allowed.
  • The pathlenConstraint must not be given for non-CA certificates.
  • The issuer name of any certificate must not be empty.
  • The subject name of CA certs, certs with keyUsage crlSign, and certs without subjectAlternativeName must not be empty.
  • If a subjectAlternativeName extension is given it must not be empty.
  • The signatureAlgorithm field and the cert signature must be consistent.
  • Any given authorityKeyIdentifier and any given subjectKeyIdentifier must not be marked critical.
  • The authorityKeyIdentifier must be given for X.509v3 certs unless they are self-signed.
  • The subjectKeyIdentifier must be given for all X.509v3 CA certs.
Normally if an unhandled critical extension is present that is not supported by OpenSSL the certificate is rejected (as required by RFC5280). If this option is set critical extensions are ignored.
Checks end entity certificate validity by attempting to look up a valid CRL. If a valid CRL cannot be found an error occurs.
Checks the validity of all certificates in the chain by attempting to look up valid CRLs.
Enable support for delta CRLs.
Enable extended CRL features such as indirect CRLs and alternate CRL signing keys.
-suiteB_128_only, -suiteB_128, -suiteB_192
Enable the Suite B mode operation at 128 bit Level of Security, 128 bit or 192 bit, or only 192 bit Level of Security respectively. See RFC6460 for details. In particular the supported signature algorithms are reduced to support only ECDSA and SHA256 or SHA384 and only the elliptic curves P-256 and P-384.
-auth_level level
Set the certificate chain authentication security level to level. The authentication security level determines the acceptable signature and public key strength when verifying certificate chains. For a certificate chain to validate, the public keys of all the certificates must meet the specified security level. The signature algorithm security level is enforced for all the certificates in the chain except for the chain's trust anchor, which is either directly trusted or validated by means other than its signature. See SSL_CTX_set_security_level(3) for the definitions of the available levels. The default security level is -1, or "not set". At security level 0 or lower all algorithms are acceptable. Security level 1 requires at least 80-bit-equivalent security and is broadly interoperable, though it will, for example, reject MD5 signatures or RSA keys shorter than 1024 bits.
Allow verification to succeed even if a complete chain cannot be built to a self-signed trust-anchor, provided it is possible to construct a chain to a trusted certificate that might not be self-signed. This certificate may be self-issued or belong to an intermediate CA.
Verify the signature of the last certificate in a chain if the certificate is supposedly self-signed. This is prohibited and will result in an error if it is a non-conforming CA certificate with key usage restrictions not including the keyCertSign bit. This verification is disabled by default because it doesn't add any security.
Allow the verification of proxy certificates.
As of OpenSSL 1.1.0 this option is on by default and cannot be disabled.

When constructing the certificate chain, the trusted certificates specified via -CAfile, -CApath, -CAstore or -trusted are always used before any certificates specified via -untrusted.

As of OpenSSL 1.1.0, since -trusted_first always on, this option has no effect.
-trusted file
Parse file as a set of one or more certificates in PEM format. All certificates must be self-signed, unless the -partial_chain option is specified. This option implies the -no-CAfile, -no-CApath, and -no-CAstore options and it cannot be used with the -CAfile, -CApath or -CAstore options, so only certificates in the file are trust anchors. This option may be used multiple times.
-untrusted file
Parse file as a set of one or more certificates in PEM format. All certificates are untrusted certificates (typically of intermedate CAs) that may be used to construct a certificate chain from the subject certificate to a trust anchor. This option may be used multiple times.
-policy arg
Enable policy processing and add arg to the user-initial-policy-set (see RFC5280). The policy arg can be an object name an OID in numeric form. This argument can appear more than once.
Set policy variable require-explicit-policy (see RFC5280).
Enables certificate policy processing.
Print out diagnostics related to policy processing.
Set policy variable inhibit-any-policy (see RFC5280).
Set policy variable inhibit-policy-mapping (see RFC5280).
-purpose purpose
The intended use for the certificate. If this option is not specified, this command will not consider certificate purpose during chain verification. Currently accepted uses are sslclient, sslserver, nssslserver, smimesign, smimeencrypt.
-verify_depth num
Limit the certificate chain to num intermediate CA certificates. A maximal depth chain can have up to num+2 certificates, since neither the end-entity certificate nor the trust-anchor certificate count against the -verify_depth limit.
-verify_email email
Verify if email matches the email address in Subject Alternative Name or the email in the subject Distinguished Name.
-verify_hostname hostname
Verify if hostname matches DNS name in Subject Alternative Name or Common Name in the subject certificate.
-verify_ip ip
Verify if ip matches the IP address in Subject Alternative Name of the subject certificate.
-verify_name name
Use default verification policies like trust model and required certificate policies identified by name. The trust model determines which auxiliary trust or reject OIDs are applicable to verifying the given certificate chain. See the -addtrust and -addreject options for openssl-x509(1). Supported policy names include: default, pkcs7, smime_sign, ssl_client, ssl_server. These mimics the combinations of purpose and trust settings used in SSL, CMS and S/MIME. As of OpenSSL 1.1.0, the trust model is inferred from the purpose when not specified, so the -verify_name options are functionally equivalent to the corresponding -purpose settings.

Extended Verification Options

Sometimes there may be more than one certificate chain leading to an end-entity certificate. This usually happens when a root or intermediate CA signs a certificate for another a CA in other organization. Another reason is when a CA might have intermediates that use two different signature formats, such as a SHA-1 and a SHA-256 digest.

The following options can be used to provide data that will allow the OpenSSL command to generate an alternative chain.

-xkey infile, -xcert infile, -xchain
Specify an extra certificate, private key and certificate chain. These behave in the same manner as the -cert, -key and -cert_chain options. When specified, the callback returning the first valid chain will be in use by the client.
Specify whether the application should build the certificate chain to be provided to the server for the extra certificates via the -xkey, -xcert, and -xchain options.
-xcertform DER|PEM|P12
The input format for the extra certificate. This option has no effect and is retained for backward compatibility only.
-xkeyform DER|PEM|P12
The input format for the extra key. This option has no effect and is retained for backward compatibility only.


X509_verify_cert(3), openssl-verify(1), openssl-ocsp(1), openssl-ts(1), openssl-s_client(1), openssl-s_server(1), openssl-smime(1), openssl-cmp(1), openssl-cms(1)


The checks enabled by -x509_strict have been extended in OpenSSL 3.0.


Copyright 2000-2021 The OpenSSL Project Authors. All Rights Reserved.

Licensed under the Apache License 2.0 (the "License"). You may not use this file except in compliance with the License. You can obtain a copy in the file LICENSE in the source distribution or at <>.

2021-05-06 3.0.0-alpha16