Creating and configuring a private CA - AWS Certificate Manager Private Certificate Authority

Creating and configuring a private CA

This section describes how you create a private certificate authority (CA) with an optional certificate revocation list (CRL) using ACM Private CA. You can use these procedures to create both root CAs and subordinate CAs, resulting in an auditable hierarchy of trust relationships that matches your organizational needs.

For information about using a CA to sign end-entity certificates for your users, devices, and applications, see Issuing a private end-entity certificate.


Your account is charged a monthly price for each private CA starting from the time that you create it.

CRL structure

Each CRL is a DER encoded file. To view the file using OpenSSL, use a command like to the following:

$ openssl crl -inform DER -in path-to-crl-file -text -noout

CRLs have the following format:

Certificate Revocation List (CRL): Version 2 (0x1) Signature Algorithm: sha256WithRSAEncryption Issuer: /C=US/ST=WA/L=Seattle/O=Example Company CA/OU=Corporate/ Last Update: Feb 26 19:28:25 2018 GMT Next Update: Feb 26 20:28:25 2019 GMT CRL extensions: X509v3 Authority Key Identifier: keyid:AA:6E:C1:8A:EC:2F:8F:21:BC:BE:80:3D:C5:65:93:79:99:E7:71:65 X509v3 CRL Number: 1519676905984 Revoked Certificates: Serial Number: E8CBD2BEDB122329F97706BCFEC990F8 Revocation Date: Feb 26 20:00:36 2018 GMT CRL entry extensions: X509v3 CRL Reason Code: Key Compromise Serial Number: F7D7A3FD88B82C6776483467BBF0B38C Revocation Date: Jan 30 21:21:31 2018 GMT CRL entry extensions: X509v3 CRL Reason Code: Key Compromise Signature Algorithm: sha256WithRSAEncryption 82:9a:40:76:86:a5:f5:4e:1e:43:e2:ea:83:ac:89:07:49:bf: c2:fd:45:7d:15:d0:76:fe:64:ce:7b:3d:bb:4c:a0:6c:4b:4f: 9e:1d:27:f8:69:5e:d1:93:5b:95:da:78:50:6d:a8:59:bb:6f: 49:9b:04:fa:38:f2:fc:4c:0d:97:ac:02:51:26:7d:3e:fe:a6: c6:83:34:b4:84:0b:5d:b1:c4:25:2f:66:0a:2e:30:f6:52:88: e8:d2:05:78:84:09:01:e8:9d:c2:9e:b5:83:bd:8a:3a:e4:94: 62:ed:92:e0:be:ea:d2:59:5b:c7:c3:61:35:dc:a9:98:9d:80: 1c:2a:f7:23:9b:fe:ad:6f:16:7e:22:09:9a:79:8f:44:69:89: 2a:78:ae:92:a4:32:46:8d:76:ee:68:25:63:5c:bd:41:a5:5a: 57:18:d7:71:35:85:5c:cd:20:28:c6:d5:59:88:47:c9:36:44: 53:55:28:4d:6b:f8:6a:00:eb:b4:62:de:15:56:c8:9c:45:d7: 83:83:07:21:84:b4:eb:0b:23:f2:61:dd:95:03:02:df:0d:0f: 97:32:e0:9d:38:de:7c:15:e4:36:66:7a:18:da:ce:a3:34:94: 58:a6:5d:5c:04:90:35:f1:8b:55:a9:3c:dd:72:a2:d7:5f:73: 5a:2c:88:85

The CRL will only be deposited in Amazon S3 once a certificate has been issued that refers to it. Prior to that, there will only be an acm-pca-permission-test-key file visible in the Amazon S3 bucket.

Access policies for CRLs in Amazon S3

If you plan to create a CRL, you need to prepare an Amazon S3 bucket to store it in. ACM Private CA automatically deposits the CRL in the Amazon S3 bucket you designate and updates it periodically. For more information, see Creating a bucket?

Your S3 bucket must be secured by an attached permissions policy. The policy protects the contents of the bucket from being accessed by unauthorized users or service principals. During the console procedure for creating a CA, you can let ACM Private CA create a new bucket and apply a policy automatically, or you can use a bucket that you have previously set up yourself. In that case, or when you create a CA using the AWS CLI, you must attach a policy manually. For more information, see Adding a bucket policy using the Amazon S3 console

We offer two example policies that you can use or modify to secure Amazon S3 buckets.

Policy 1 (Restrictive)

This policy grants restricted permissions on the S3 bucket to the ACM Private CA service principal. This example restricts by both AWS account and by the ARN of a private CA, but it could also be configured to restrict just one or the other. The Put permission allows ACM Private CA to place objects in the bucket. The Get permission allows objects in the bucket to be retrieved.

{ "Version":"2012-10-17", "Statement":[ { "Effect":"Allow", "Principal":{ "Service":"" }, "Action":[ "s3:PutObject", "s3:PutObjectAcl", "s3:GetBucketAcl", "s3:GetBucketLocation" ], "Resource":[ "arn:aws:s3:::bucket-name/*", "arn:aws:s3:::bucket-name" ], "Condition":{ "StringEquals":{ "aws:SourceAccount":"account", "aws:SourceArn":"arn:partition:acm-pca:region:account:certificate-authority/CA-ID" } } } ] }

Policy 2 (Permissive)

This policy grants Put and Get permissions on the S3 bucket to the ACM Private CA service principal without restricting access by CA or user. The Put permission allows ACM Private CA to place objects in the bucket. The Get permission allows objects in the bucket to be retrieved. A permissive policy is appropriate if you want the bucket to be available for multiple CAs or multiple users.

{ "Version":"2012-10-17", "Statement":[ { "Effect":"Allow", "Principal":{ "Service":"" }, "Action":[ "s3:PutObject", "s3:PutObjectAcl", "s3:GetBucketAcl", "s3:GetBucketLocation" ], "Resource":[ "arn:aws:s3:::bucket-name/*", "arn:aws:s3:::bbucket-name" ] } ] }

Enabling the S3 Block Public Access feature

New Amazon S3 buckets are configured by default with the Block Public Access (BPA) feature activated. Included in the S3 security best practices, BPA is a set of access controls that customers can use to fine-tune access to objects in their S3 buckets and to the buckets as a whole. When BPA is active and correctly configured, only authorized and authenticated AWS users have access to a bucket and its contents.

AWS recommends the use of BPA on all S3 buckets to avoid exposure of sensitive information to potential adversaries. However, additional planning is required if your PKI clients retrieve CRLs across the public internet (that is, while not logged into an AWS account). This section describes how to configure a private PKI solution using Amazon CloudFront, a content delivery network (CDN), to serve CRLs without requiring authenticated client access to an S3 bucket.


Using CloudFront incurs additional costs on your AWS account. For more information, see Amazon CloudFront Pricing.

If you choose to store your CRL in an S3 bucket with BPA enabled, and you do not use CloudFront, you must build another CDN solution to ensure that your PKI client has access to your CRL.

Set up S3

In S3, create a new bucket for your CRL, as usual, then enable BPA on it.

To configure an S3 bucket that blocks public access to your CRL

  1. Create a new S3 bucket using the procedure in Creating a bucket. During the procedure, select the Block all public access option.

    For more information, see Blocking public access to your Amazon S3 storage.

  2. When the bucket has been created, choose its name from the list, navigate to the Permissions tab, choose Edit in the Object ownership section, and select Bucket owner preferred.

  3. Also on the Permissions tab, Add an IAM policy to the bucket as described in Access policies for CRLs in Amazon S3 .

Set up CloudFront

Create a CloudFront distribution that will have access to your private S3 bucket, and can serve CRLs to unauthenticated clients.

To configure a CloudFront distribution for the CRL

  1. Create a new CloudFront distribution using the procedure in Creating a Distribution in the Amazon CloudFront Developer Guide.

    While completing the procedure, apply the following settings:

    • In Origin Domain Name, choose your S3 bucket.

    • Choose Yes for Restrict Bucket Access.

    • Choose Create a New Identity for Origin Access Identity.

    • Choose Yes, Update Bucket Policy under Grant Read Permissions on Bucket.


      In this procedure, CloudFront modifies your bucket policy to allow it to access bucket objects. Consider editing this policy to allow access only to objects under the crl folder.

  2. Once the distribution has initialized, locate its domain name in the CloudFront console and save it for the next procedure.


    If your S3 bucket was newly created in a Region other than us-east-1, you may get an HTTP 307 temporary redirect error when you access your published application through CloudFront. It may take several hours for the address of the bucket to propagate.

Set up your CA

While configuring your new CA, include the alias to your CloudFront distribution.

To configure your CA with a CNAME for CloudFront

  • Create your CA using Procedure for creating a CA (CLI) .

    When you perform the procedure, the revocation file revoke_config.txt should include the following lines to specify a non-public CRL object and to provide a URL to the distribution endpoint in CloudFront:

    "S3ObjectAcl":"BUCKET_OWNER_FULL_CONTROL", "CustomCname":""

    Afterword, when you issue certificates with this CA, they will contain a block like the following:

    X509v3 CRL Distribution Points: Full Name: URI:

If you have older certificates that were issued by this CA, they will be unable to access the CRL.

Encrypting your CRLs

You can optionally configure encryption on the Amazon S3 bucket containing your CRLs. ACM Private CA supports two encryption modes for assets in S3:

  • Automatic server-side encryption with Amazon S3-managed AES-256 keys.

  • Customer-managed encryption using AWS Key Management Service and customer master keys (CMKs) configured to your specifications.


ACM Private CA does not support using default CMKs generated automatically by S3.

The following procedures describe how to set up each of the encryption options.

To configure automatic encryption

Complete the following steps to enable S3 server-side encryption.

  1. Open the Amazon S3 console at

  2. In the Buckets table, choose the bucket that will hold your ACM Private CA assets.

  3. On the page for your bucket, choose the Properties tab.

  4. Choose the Default encryption card.

  5. Choose Enable.

  6. Choose Amazon S3 key (SSE-S3).

  7. Choose Save Changes.

To configure custom encryption

Complete the following steps to enable encryption using a custom key.

  1. Open the Amazon S3 console at

  2. In the Buckets table, choose the bucket that will hold your ACM Private CA assets.

  3. On the page for your bucket, choose the Properties tab.

  4. Choose the Default encryption card.

  5. Choose Enable.

  6. Choose AWS Key Management Service key (SSE-KMS).

  7. Choose either Choose from your AWS KMS keys or Enter AWS KMS key ARN.

  8. Set Bucket Key to Disable.

  9. Choose Save Changes.

  10. (Optional) If you do not have an AWS KMS CMK already, create one using the following AWS CLI create-key command:

    $ aws kms create-key

    The output contains the key ID and Amazon Resource Name (ARN) of the CMK. The following is example output:

    { "KeyMetadata": { "KeyId": "01234567-89ab-cdef-0123-456789abcdef", "Description": "", "Enabled": true, "KeyUsage": "ENCRYPT_DECRYPT", "KeyState": "Enabled", "CreationDate": 1478910250.94, "Arn": "arn:aws:kms:us-west-2:123456789012:key/01234567-89ab-cdef-0123-456789abcdef", "AWSAccountId": "123456789012" } }
  11. Using the following steps, you give the ACM Private CA service principal permission to use the CMK. By default, all AWS KMS CMKs are private; only the resource owner can use a CMK to encrypt and decrypt data. However, the resource owner can grant permissions to access the CMK to other users and resources. The service principal must be in the same region as where the CMK is stored.

    1. First, save the default policy for your CMK as policy.json using the following get-key-policy command:

      $ aws kms get-key-policy --key-id key-id --policy-name default --output text > ./policy.json
    2. Open the policy.json file in a text editor and add the following statement:

      { "Sid":"Allow ACM-PCA use of the key", "Effect":"Allow", "Principal":{ "Service":"" }, "Action":[ "kms:GenerateDataKey", "kms:Decrypt" ], "Resource":"*", "Condition":{ "StringLike":{ "kms:EncryptionContext:aws:s3:arn":[ "arn:aws:s3:::bucket-name/acm-pca-permission-test-key", "arn:aws:s3:::bucket-name/acm-pca-permission-test-key-private", "arn:aws:s3:::bucket-name/audit-report/*", "arn:aws:s3:::bucket-name/crl/*" ] } } }
    3. Finally, add the updated policy using the following put-key-policy command:

      $ aws kms put-key-policy --key-id key-id --policy-name default --policy file://policy.json

Procedure for creating a CA (console)

You can create a CA using the AWS console, the ACM Private CA portion of the AWS CLI, or AWS CloudFormation.

To create a private CA using the AWS console

  1. Sign in to your AWS account and open the ACM Private CA console at The introductory page will appear if your console opens to a region in which you do not have a CA. Choose Get started beneath Private certificate authority. Choose Get started again. If the console opens to a region in which you already have one or more CAs, the introductory page will not be shown. Choose Private CAs and then choose Create CA.

  2. On the Select the certificate authority (CA) type page, select the type of the private certificate authority that you want to create.

    • Choosing Root CA establishes a new CA hierarchy. This CA is backed by a self-signed certificate. It serves as the ultimate signing authority for other CAs and end-entity certificates in the hierarchy.

    • Choosing Subordinate CA creates a CA that must be signed by a parent CA above it in the hierarchy. Subordinate CAs are typically be used to create other subordinate CAs or to issue end-entity certificates to users, computers, and applications.


      ACM Private CA provides an automated signing process when your subordinate CA's parent CA is also hosted by ACM Private CA. All you do is select the parent CA to use.

      If your subordinate CA is to be signed by an external signing authority, ACM Private CA provides you with a certificate signing request (CSR) that you must download and use to obtain a signed CA certificate. For more information, see If you are installing a subordinate CA certificate signed by an external parent CA.

    After selecting a CA type, choose Next.

  3. On the Configure the certificate authority (CA) subject name, configure the subject name of your private CA. You must enter at least one of the following values:

    • Organization (O)

    • Organization Unit (OU)

    • Country name (C)

    • State or province name

    • Locality name

    • Common Name (CN)

    Because the backing certificate is self-signed, the subject information you provide for a private CA is probably sparser than what a public CA would contain. For more information about each of the values that make up a subject distinguished name, see X.500 Distinguished Name.

    When done, choose Next.

  4. On the Configure the certificate authority (CA) key type page, select the key algorithm and the bit-size of the key. The default value is an RSA algorithm with a 2048-bit key length. If you expand the Advanced options, you can select from the following algorithms:

    • RSA 2048

    • RSA 4096

    • ECDSA P256

    • ECDSA P384

    Make a selection and then choose Next.

  5. On the Configure certificate revocation page, you have the option of creating a certificate revocation list (CRL) managed by ACM Private CA. Clients such as web browsers query CRLs to determine whether an end-entity or subordinate CA certificate can be trusted. For more information, see Revoking a private certificate.

    When you have associated a CRL with a CA, ACM Private CA includes the CRL Distribution Points extension in certificates issued by the CA. This extension provides the URL to the CRL so that client devices can check certificate revocation status.

    To create a CRL, complete the following steps:

    1. Choose Enable CRL distribution.

    2. To create a new Amazon S3 bucket for your CRL entries, choose Yes for the Create a new S3 bucket option and type a unique bucket name. (You do not need to include the path to the bucket.) Otherwise, choose No and select an existing bucket from the list.

      If you choose Yes, ACM Private CA creates and attaches the required access policy to your bucket. If you choose No, you must attach a policy to your bucket before you can begin generating CRLs. Use one of the policy patterns described in Access policies for CRLs in Amazon S3 . For information about attaching a policy, see How Do I Add an S3 Bucket Policy?


      When you are using the ACM Private CA console, an attempt to create a CA fails if the following conditions apply:

      • You are enforcing Block Public Access settings on your S3 bucket or account.

      • You asked ACM Private CA to create an S3 bucket automatically.

      In this situation, the console attempts, by default, to create a publicly accessible bucket, and S3 rejects this action. Check your Amazon S3 settings if this occurs. For more information, see Blocking public access to your Amazon S3 storage.

    3. Expand Advanced for additional configuration options.

      • Add a Custom CRL Name to create an alias for your Amazon S3 bucket. This name is contained in certificates issued by the CA in the “CRL Distribution Points" extension that is defined by RFC 5280.

      • Type the number of days your CRL will remain valid. The default value is 7 days. For online CRLs, a validity period of two to seven days is common. ACM Private CA tries to regenerate the CRL at the midpoint of the specified period.

    Choose Next.

  6. On the Add tags page, you can optionally tag your CA. Tags are key/value pairs that serve as metadata for identifying and organizing AWS resources. For a list of ACM Private CA tag parameters and for instructions on how to add tags to CAs after creation, see Add tags to your private CA.

    Choose Next.

  7. Configure CA permissions

    Optionally delegate automatic renewal permissions to the ACM service principal. ACM can only automatically renew private end-entity certificates generated by this CA if this permission is granted. You can assign renewal permissions at any time with the ACM Private CA CreatePermission API or create-permission CLI command.

    The default is to enable these permissions.

    Choose Next.

  8. On the Review and create page, confirm that your configuration is correct. If you are creating your CA in the ap-northeast-3 Region, check the box to acknowlege that the key storage security standard is FIPS 140-2 Level 2 or higher. In all cases, check the box to acknowledge pricing information. Finally, choose Confirm and create.

    If you want to continue on to creating and installing a CA certificate, choose Get started in the Success dialog box and follow the instructions at Creating and installing the certificate for a private CA. Otherwise choose You can also finish this later, which takes you to a list of your Private CAs.

Procedure for creating a CA (CLI)

Use the create-certificate-authority command to create a private CA. You must specify the CA configuration, the revocation configuration if you plan to use a CRL, and the CA type. This information is contained in two files that you supply as arguments to the command. Optionally, you can also supply tags and an idempotency token.

If you are configuring a CRL, you must have a secured Amazon S3 bucket in place before you issue the create-certificate-authority command. For more information, see Access policies for CRLs in Amazon S3 .

The CA configuration file specifies the following information:

  • The name of the algorithm

  • The key size to be used to create the CA private key

  • The type of signing algorithm that the CA uses to sign

  • X.500 subject information

The CRL configuration file specifies the following information:

  • The CRL expiration period in days (the validity period of the CRL)

  • The Amazon S3 bucket that will contain the CRL

  • (Optional) An S3ObjectAcl value that determines whether the CRL is publicly accessible. In the example presented here, public access is blocked. For more information see Enabling the S3 Block Public Access feature.

  • (Optional) A CNAME alias for the S3 bucket that is included in certificates issued by the CA. If the CRL is not publicly accessible, this will be needed to point to a distribution mechanism such as Amazon CloudFront.

Modify the following example files as needed for your CA configuration and revocation, and then run the command.

File: ca_config.json

{ "KeyAlgorithm":"RSA_2048", "SigningAlgorithm":"SHA256WITHRSA", "Subject":{ "Country":"US", "Organization":"Example Corp", "OrganizationalUnit":"Sales", "State":"WA", "Locality":"Seattle", "CommonName":"" } }

File: revoke_config.json

{ "CrlConfiguration":{ "Enabled":true, "ExpirationInDays":7, "CustomCname":"some_name.crl", "S3BucketName":"your-bucket-name", "S3ObjectAcl":"BUCKET_OWNER_FULL_CONTROL", "CustomCname":"" } }


$ aws acm-pca create-certificate-authority \ --certificate-authority-configuration file://ca_config.json \ --revocation-configuration file://revoke_config.json \ --certificate-authority-type "ROOT" \ --idempotency-token 01234567 \ --tags Key=Name,Value=MyPCA

If successful, this command outputs the Amazon Resource Name (ARN) of the new CA.

{ "CertificateAuthorityArn":"arn:aws:acm-pca:region:account: certificate-authority/CA_ID" }

Creating a CA with AWS CloudFormation

For information about creating a private CA using AWS CloudFormation, see ACM PCA Resource Type Reference in the AWS CloudFormation User Guide.