Creating a Code-Signing Certificate using the Key Storage Provider

This example will show you how to create a code-signing certificate request using a key generated and stored in the YubiHSM 2 via the Key Storage Provider (KSP). This type of code-signing certificate is appropriate for use with the Microsoft signtool utility for digitally signing Windows binaries.

In this example, we will use the command line certreq utility. All procedures documented here are available in the Certificate Manager (certmgr.msc) MMC snap-in if you prefer a UI experience.

Configure the Key Storage Provider

The KSP will by default use the factory authentication key in slot 1. If the factory authentication key no longer exists or use of a different authentication key is desired, the KSP must first be configured with the desired key ID and password.

Note that the configured authentication key must at a minimum have capabilities generate-asymmetric-key,sign-pkcs and delegated capability sign-pkcs. If you want the generated key to be exportable, then add the exportable-under-wrap delegated capability.

Authentication Key Example

Create a new Authentication Key capable of generating exportable asymmetric keys through KSP.

yubihsm> put authkey 0 0 "GenerateKey" 1 generate-asymmetric-key,sign-pkcs sign-pkcs,exportable-under-wrap password
Stored Authentication key 0x0e32

Create the Certificate Request Configuration File

The certreq utility requires a .inf file as input which defines your request. An example file is supplied here:


Signature="$Windows NT$"

Subject = "CN=My Publisher"                     ; Entity name (dns name/upn for other cert types)
HashAlgorithm = sha256                          ; Request uses sha256 hash
KeyAlgorithm = RSA                              ; Key pair generated using RSA algorithm
Exportable = FALSE                              ; Private key is not exportable
ExportableEncrypted = FALSE                     ; Private key is not exportable encrypted
KeyLength = 2048                                ; YubiHSM KSP key sizes: 2048, 3072, 4096
KeySpec = 2                                     ; 1 = AT_KEYEXCHANGE, 2 = AT_SIGNATURE
KeyUsage = 0x80                                 ; 80 = Digital Signature, 20 = Key Encipherment (bitmask)
MachineKeySet = FALSE                           ; True: cert belongs the local computer, False: current user
KeyUsageProperty = NCRYPT_ALLOW_SIGNING_FLAG    ; Private key only used for signing, not decryption
UseExistingKeySet = FALSE                       ; Do not use an existing key pair
ProviderName = "YubiHSM Key Storage Provider"
ProviderType = 1
SMIME = FALSE                                   ; No secure email function
UseExistingKeySet = FALSE                       ; Do not use an existing key pair
RequestType = PKCS10                            ; Can be CMC, PKCS10, PKCS7 or Cert (self-signed)


%szOID_BASIC_CONSTRAINTS% = "{text}ca=0&pathlength=0"

; If you are using ADCS with certificate templates, you may add
; a specific template under [RequestAttributes]
;CertificateTemplate= CodeSigning

Create the Certificate Request

Once you’ve created the certificate request configuration file, pass it to certreq as the input file argument, e.g:

certreq -new sign.inf sign.req

Sign the Certificate Request

In the above example, the certificate request was written to sign.req. Take this file and submit its contents to your CA for signature. Once signed, open the resulting file (e.g., sign.crt) and install the certificate to your personal store.

Sign using Signtool

Open a prompt with signtool in the path and use the following command to sign your binary.

> signtool sign <binary name>

If you have multiple certificates available for code signing, it may be necessary to identify your signing certificate by hash. If this occurs, signtool will show you a list of valid certificates. Simply re-run sign tool with the sha1 hash of the certificate:

> signtool sign /sha1 <certificate hash> <binary name>

When importing the certificate for the first time on a new computer, it may be necessary to manually bind the certificate to the private key. This is because the key is not stored with the certificate and Windows doesn’t automatically create an association between the two.

After importing the certificate to your personal store, use the certutil utility provided by Windows to associate the YubiHSM private key to the certificate.

> certutil -repairstore my <certificate hash>


The error messages returned from signtool are often unhelpful in diagnosing why a signing operation failed. In these situations there are a few commands you can use to try to track down the root cause.

When using signtool, use the /v and /debug flags to get more detailed output. The example below shows a response you may receive if the certificate is installed but the YubiHSM is not connected or is misconfigured.

> signtool sign /v /debug <binary name>
After EKU filter, 1 certs were left.
After expiry filter, 1 certs were left.
After Hash filter, 1 certs were left.
After Private Key filter, 0 certs were left.
SignTool Error: No certificates were found that met all the given criteria.

Use certutil to check the validity of the imported certificate.

> certutil -verifystore my <certificate hash>
================ Certificate 0 ================
Serial Number: 029fe48291dd587c1e6f42bca341291
Certificate is valid

Use certutil to check whether the KSP has been installed correctly. You should see Provider Name: YubiHSM Key Storage Provider as one of the entries with no errors.

> certutil -csplist
Provider Name: YubiHSM Key Storage Provider

Use certutil to check if the key is accessible through the storage provider. You can also add the -v flag to get additional details.

> certutil -csp "YubiHSM Key Storage Provider" -key
YubiHSM Key Storage Provider:

Use certutil to dump certificate information. This command may show Cannot find the certificate and private key for decryption. when using a new computer if certutil -repairstore hasn’t yet been performed.

> certutil -store my <certificate hash>
================ Certificate 0 ================
Serial Number: 029fe48291dd587c1e6f42bca341291
Private key is NOT exportable
Signature test passed

More Information

For a detailed explanation of all options available in the request inf file, please see the documentation for the certreq utility.

To generate a similar request using the Certificate Manager, open the Certificate Manager snap-in, select the Personal/Certificates store, right click and select All Tasks→Advanced Operations→Create Custom Request.