Let’s Understand How to Get Private Key from Certificate
It’s always a good idea to know where your SSL certificates’ private keys are located, as they are the key (pun intended) to authorizing that your domain is the real deal. Whether you’re using a Comodo SSL certificate private key or one from another certificate authority (CA), it’s vital that you know where it is and keep it safe. Why is it so important? Because anyone who gets access to your private keys can spoof your website since it will now be “authenticated” with the compromised private key.
With the fake website, they can then proceed to phish your customers, perform a man-in-the-middle (MitM) attack to steal your customer’s data, or even defame your company. Even when you take the threat of having your website spoofed, you also need your Comodo SSL certificate’s private key to install your SSL certificate, as this key serves as evidence that you (or anyone who gets access to it) owns the certificate being installed.
Even if you may not have any immediate need for your private key, knowing where to find it and keeping it in a safe location is a basic cybersecurity precaution everyone should take. That’s why we’ve put together this step-by-step guide that explains how you can find your SSL certificate’s private key. Before we dive into the process of finding your private key, though, let’s discuss what a private key is and why it’s a crucial to your business.
What is a Comodo SSL Certificate Private Key?
A private key is a data file that acts as an authenticator for an SSL certificate when a browser attempts to connect to a website and check whether it is secure. Comodo CA (powered by Sectigo) just happens to be the certificate authority who issued the certificate. Along with your private key, there’s also a public key that belongs to your certificate. During the encryption process, which is known as the SSL handshake, the public key encrypts the data being transferred, and only the private key can decrypt it on arrival.
As I’ll explain later, your private key was created automatically when you generated your certificate signing request (CSR). In case you don’t remember whether you ever did this, you can review this guide on How to Generate a CSR. (If you don’t have an SSL certificate yet, you can click the button below to get one as low as $5.88/yr. to secure your website!)
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Once you’ve got your CSR sorted out, you can start the process of locating your SSL certificate’s private key. Simply follow the steps below and you’ll have your private key in no time. Note: In this guide we use cPanel, but the process should be similar for other hosting platforms.
How to Find Your Comodo Private Key
- Login to cPanel. First, you’ll need to login to your hosting control page. For cPanel, this can be found at https://domain.com:2083 (replace domain.com with your domain), and should look like this:
- Head to the “Security” section. After logging in, scroll down to “Security”, which looks like this:
- Click “SSL/TLS.” This page should look as follows:
- Choose the appropriate key. Since we’re looking for our private key, click Generate, view, upload, or delete your private keys. Then, select Edit on the key you wish to locate. If you’re not sure which key belongs to which certificate (in the event that you have more than one certificate), the description may contain some useful identifiers.
- Your private key will be located under “Encoded Private Key”. Once you’re on the “View Private Key” page, your private key for the SSL certificate you selected will be under the “Encoded Private Key” field, including the “—–BEGIN RSA PRIVATE KEY—–” and “—–END RSA PRIVATE KEY—–” at the beginning and end of the encrypted key.
- You’re done!
A Few Tips on Protecting Your Comodo Private Key
Now that you’ve found your Comodo private key, you may be inclined to tell it to other people, write it down, or even save it someplace you consider “safe.” However, doing these things can actually put your SSL certificate’s security at risk. As a rule of thumb, here’s a brief guideline on precautions you should take when it comes to your Comodo SSL certificate private key:
- Never store your private keys locally. Although it may seem convenient to have your private key stored locally on your computer, you should never do that. Anyone who gets a hold of your private keys controls your SSL certificate, and each place you put your private key is just one more way it could get into the wrong hands.
- Make sure to reissue your SSL certificate if there’s a chance someone else has a copy of your private key. If you think your private key may have been compromised, you should reissue your SSL certificate. Reissuing your SSL certificate will create a new private key, one that only you will have access to. For instructions on how to reissue your Comodo SSL certificate, you can head to our Knowledge Base.