Onboarding Utility

Configuring Your Go Server for Mutual TLS

How to use TLS, client authentication, and CA certificates in Go

Create a private key and request a certificate for your Go server

Before you can teach your server to speak TLS, you will need a certificate issued by a trusted certificate authority (CA). If your organization already runs its own CA and you have a private key and certificate for your Go server, along with your CA's root certificate, you can skip to the next step.

If your organization does not yet run its own internal CA, you can read more about creating and running a CA using the open source Smallstep software here.

$ step ca certificate "myserver.internal.net" server.crt server.key

Your certificate and private key will be saved in server.crt and server.key respectively.

Request a copy of your CA root certificate, which will be used to make sure each application can trust certificates presented by other applications.

$ step ca root ca.crt

Your certificate will be saved in ca.crt.

Configure Go to authenticate itself with its TLS certificate

We now want to instruct our Go server to identify itself using the certificate issued in the last step and to force clients to connect over TLS.

In your server's Go file, we pass the server's certificate and private key into Go's convenient API to launch a HTTPS listener.

// ...

http.ListenAndServeTLS(":9443", "server.crt", "server.key", nil)

// ...

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Configure Go to require clients to authenticate with a certificate issued by your CA

To tell Go to use mutual TLS and not just one-way TLS, we must instruct it to require client authentication to ensure clients present a certificate from our CA when they connect.

In your server's Go file, we pass a TLS stack configuration into the server initalization. The configuration enables strict client certificate verficiation against all trusted root certificates in the CA pool we create. Finally, we call the server's API to create a HTTPS listener using its own certificate and private key for client-side verification.

// ...

caCert, _ := ioutil.ReadFile("ca.crt")
caCertPool := x509.NewCertPool()

tlsConfig := &tls.Config{
    ClientCAs: caCertPool,
    ClientAuth: tls.RequireAndVerifyClientCert,

server := &http.Server{
    Addr:      ":9443",
    TLSConfig: tlsConfig,

server.ListenAndServeTLS("server.crt", "server.key")

// ...

That's it! Go should now be able to receive TLS connections from clients who authenticate themselves using a certificate issued by your trusted CA.

Read about using Go as a TLS client here.

All documentation content from the Hello mTLS project is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0).

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