PostgreSQL has native support for using SSL connections to encrypt client/server communications for increased security. This requires that OpenSSL is installed on both client and server systems and that support in PostgreSQL is enabled at build time (see Chapter 16).
With SSL support compiled in, the PostgreSQL server can be started with SSL enabled by setting the parameter ssl to on in postgresql.conf. The server will listen for both normal and SSL connections on the same TCP port, and will negotiate with any connecting client on whether to use SSL. By default, this is at the client's option; see Section 20.1 about how to set up the server to require use of SSL for some or all connections.
PostgreSQL reads the system-wide OpenSSL configuration file. By default, this file is named openssl.cnf and is located in the directory reported by openssl version -d. This default can be overridden by setting environment variable OPENSSL_CONF to the name of the desired configuration file.
OpenSSL supports a wide range of ciphers and authentication algorithms, of varying strength. While a list of ciphers can be specified in the OpenSSL configuration file, you can specify ciphers specifically for use by the database server by modifying ssl_ciphers in postgresql.conf.
Note: It is possible to have authentication without encryption overhead by using NULL-SHA or NULL-MD5 ciphers. However, a man-in-the-middle could read and pass communications between client and server. Also, encryption overhead is minimal compared to the overhead of authentication. For these reasons NULL ciphers are not recommended.
To start in SSL mode, files containing the server certificate and private key must exist. By default, these files are expected to be named server.crt and server.key, respectively, in the server's data directory, but other names and locations can be specified using the configuration parameters ssl_cert_file and ssl_key_file.
On Unix systems, the permissions on server.key must disallow any access to world or group; achieve this by the command chmod 0600 server.key. Alternatively, the file can be owned by root and have group read access (that is, 0640 permissions). That setup is intended for installations where certificate and key files are managed by the operating system. The user under which the PostgreSQL server runs should then be made a member of the group that has access to those certificate and key files.
If the private key is protected with a passphrase, the server will prompt for the passphrase and will not start until it has been entered.
In some cases, the server certificate might be signed by an "intermediate" certificate authority, rather than one that is directly trusted by clients. To use such a certificate, append the certificate of the signing authority to the server.crt file, then its parent authority's certificate, and so on up to a certificate authority, "root" or "intermediate", that is trusted by clients, i.e. signed by a certificate in the clients' root.crt files.
To require the client to supply a trusted certificate, place certificates of the certificate authorities (CAs) you trust in the file root.crt in the data directory, set the parameter ssl_ca_file in postgresql.conf to root.crt, and add the authentication option clientcert=1 to the appropriate hostssl line(s) in pg_hba.conf. A certificate will then be requested from the client during SSL connection startup. (See Section 32.18 for a description of how to set up certificates on the client.) The server will verify that the client's certificate is signed by one of the trusted certificate authorities.
If intermediate CAs appear in root.crt, the file must also contain certificate chains to their root CAs. Certificate Revocation List (CRL) entries are also checked if the parameter ssl_crl_file is set. (See http://h71000.www7.hp.com/doc/83final/ba554_90007/ch04s02.html for diagrams showing SSL certificate usage.)
The clientcert authentication option is available for all authentication methods, but only in pg_hba.conf lines specified as hostssl. When clientcert is not specified or is set to 0, the server will still verify any presented client certificates against its CA file, if one is configured — but it will not insist that a client certificate be presented.
Note that the server's root.crt lists the top-level CAs that are considered trusted for signing client certificates. In principle it need not list the CA that signed the server's certificate, though in most cases that CA would also be trusted for client certificates.
If you are setting up client certificates, you may wish to use the cert authentication method, so that the certificates control user authentication as well as providing connection security. See Section 20.3.9 for details. (It is not necessary to specify clientcert=1 explicitly when using the cert authentication method.)
Table 18-2 summarizes the files that are relevant to the SSL setup on the server. (The shown file names are default or typical names. The locally configured names could be different.)
Table 18-2. SSL Server File Usage
|ssl_cert_file ($PGDATA/server.crt)||server certificate||sent to client to indicate server's identity|
|ssl_key_file ($PGDATA/server.key)||server private key||proves server certificate was sent by the owner; does not indicate certificate owner is trustworthy|
|ssl_ca_file ($PGDATA/root.crt)||trusted certificate authorities||checks that client certificate is signed by a trusted certificate authority|
|ssl_crl_file ($PGDATA/root.crl)||certificates revoked by certificate authorities||client certificate must not be on this list|
The files server.key, server.crt, root.crt, and root.crl (or their configured alternative names) are only examined during server start; so you must restart the server for changes in them to take effect.
To create a quick self-signed certificate for the server, use the following OpenSSL command:
openssl req -new -text -out server.req
Fill out the information that openssl asks for. Make sure you enter the local host name as "Common Name"; the challenge password can be left blank. The program will generate a key that is passphrase protected; it will not accept a passphrase that is less than four characters long. To remove the passphrase (as you must if you want automatic start-up of the server), run the commands:
openssl rsa -in privkey.pem -out server.key rm privkey.pem
Enter the old passphrase to unlock the existing key. Now do:
openssl req -x509 -in server.req -text -key server.key -out server.crt
to turn the certificate into a self-signed certificate and to copy the key and certificate to where the server will look for them. Finally do:
chmod og-rwx server.key
because the server will reject the file if its permissions are more liberal than this. For more details on how to create your server private key and certificate, refer to the OpenSSL documentation.
A self-signed certificate can be used for testing, but a certificate signed by a certificate authority (CA) (either one of the global CAs or a local one) should be used in production so that clients can verify the server's identity. If all the clients are local to the organization, using a local CA is recommended.
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