The Joys of Importing & Using an S/MIME Certificate
CCIT Publication
The Joys of Importing & Using an S/MIME Certificate Page 1 / 24

Table of Contents
The Joys of Importing & Using an S/MIME Certificate......................................................................3
Requesting and backing-up your S/MIME certificate..........................................................................4
Mozilla Firefox...........................................................................................................................6
Internet Explorer.........................................................................................................................7
Google Chrome...........................................................................................................................8
Safari...........................................................................................................................................9
Interlude: Encryption Hurdles............................................................................................................11
Configuring S/MIME certificate with Microsoft Outlook.................................................................12
Installing S/MIME plugin into OWA.................................................................................................16
Configuring S/MIME certificate for Apple Mail on Mac OSX.........................................................17
Configuring S/MIME certificate for Outlook on Mac OSX..............................................................19
Configuring S/MIME certificate for Apple Mail on iOS...................................................................20
Interesting note: if multiple S/MIME certificates are installed.................................................20
Configuring S/MIME certificate for Mail Reader on Android...........................................................21
Configuring S/MIME certificate with Mozilla Thunderbird..............................................................22
Addendum: Publishing certificate fingerprints..................................................................................24
The Joys of Importing & Using an S/MIME Certificate Page 2 / 24

The Joys of Importing & Using an S/MIME Certificate
S/MIME (Secure Multipurpose Internet Mail Extensions) is a widely supported standard used to
secure email. It is client-based and allows email messages to be digitally-signed and encrypted.
Message encryption is used to preserve the confidentiality of the exchange – only intended
recipients should be able to decrypt and view the content. This gives the ability to send sensitive
information through email – like passwords, PII (Personally Identifiable Information), payroll, HR,
or institutional data that is not for public release etc. – in a secure fashion.
Digital-signatures are a way of assuring the integrity of the received message: that it has come from
the individual who sent it with non-modified content. This way a message bearing a valid signature
from Derek Wilson, Phil Romig III, or any other CCIT staff member, can be viewed as not being
some form of email spam spoofing the From: address or modifying the original messages for
malevolent purposes.
Selection has been made of an S/MIME provider for, initially, all CCIT staff members: Comodo.
Longer-term: expanding these secure-email certificates across to other selected school departments
or out to a wider campus audience is to be considered.
Comodo has trusted root authority certificates (under 'Comodo CA Limited' in the certificate store)
in all of the major operating systems. Looking at the signing hierarchy Comodo uses for an
S/MIME certificate: AddTrust CA root (again, trusted in all major OSs) signs UTN-USERFirst
(Client Authentication and Email certificate) which signs the underlying Comodo Client
Authentication and Secure Email CA. Finally, this then signs the individual S/MIME entities bound
to each individual. Both AddTrust AB (Sweden) and UTN-USERFirst (USA) have established and
trusted relationships with Comodo. There are valid security concerns related to such hierarchies of
trust existing amongst root Certificate Authorities and selected resellers or business partners – but,
realistically, this must be managed as an appropriate risk. In the past, exploitation of these
relationships has allowed attackers to target “weaker” links to abuse the trust inherent to issued
rogue certificates.
The main body of this document will cover the steps needed to obtain and install your issued
S/MIME certificate. The systems covered include: Windows with Outlook, Windows with OWA
access via Internet Explorer, OSX with Apple Mail, OSX with Outlook, iOS with Apple Mail,
Android with default email reader application, and Mozilla Thunderbird cross-platform. If use is
being made of other email clients or operating systems, extra research might be needed to correctly
configure everything.
The Joys of Importing & Using an S/MIME Certificate Page 3 / 24

Requesting and backing-up your S/MIME certificate
Per F
igure 1, an email message will arrive from 'Comodo Security Services
<noreply_support@comodo.com>'. This will have 'Applying for your Corporate Secure Email
Certificate' as the subject. Initially, this message was being flagged as spam, but this has been
resolved.
Either click the button if visible or, preferably, copy the link location
(https://secure.comodo.com/products/CorporateSecureEmail) and paste this into your browser. This
gives more assurance that the location being visited is truly https://secure.comodo.com and not
elsewhere in the event of a targeted malicious message.
Through the application process you will need the displayed 'Certificate Password'.
Figure 1: Comodo's application message for S/MIME certificate
Browsers being discussed, in the following section, for performing the steps of requesting, initial
installation, and making backups of your S/MIME certificate include: Mozilla Firefox, Internet
Explorer, Google Chrome, and Safari.
The Joys of Importing & Using an S/MIME Certificate Page 4 / 24

Figure 2: S/MIME certificate application page
Having visited Comodo's S/MIME application page, as in Figure 2, please input your email address
and your certificate password, as given in the original message. This is the only place where this
password is needed – later on in the process you use your own choice of password for protecting
this certificate. Double-check that the browser padlock and security information shows in green and
is for 'COMODO CA Limited (GB)'. Read through the subscriber agreement and check the 'I
ACCEPT the terms of this Subscriber Agreement' before clicking through 'Submit & Continue'.
Figure 3: Request S/MIME certificate
Next you should hit the page shown in Figure 3. Read through the warning and click through
The Joys of Importing & Using an S/MIME Certificate Page 5 / 24

'Request My Certificate Now'. A popup box related to private key generation should show. Once
this completes you should see something akin to Figure 4 (depending on browser being used).
Figure 4: Personal certificate has been installed
At this point your certificate has been installed into the associated certificate store. Per the
instructions, you should make a backup copy.
Mozilla Firefox
For the Mozilla Firefox browser reference Figure 5. Select 'Options' → 'Advanced' tab →
'Encryption' sub-tab. Click on 'View Certificates' then select 'Your Certificates' tab. Select the
'COMODO CA Limited' entry – it should show your name – and click the 'Backup' button. Save the
file somewhere appropriate. Next (Figure 6), input your password. It is important to use a
memorable password as this is how you, firstly, protect the contained private-key (this must be
known only to you and no-one else), as well as being needed when importing this certificate object
onto other systems you use.
Having completed these steps you should see a confirmation dialog telling you that everything has
been backed-up (Figure 7). Save the resulting file somewhere safe – our backed-up network drives
would be preferable. Remember: your private-key is protected by your selected password.
Figure 5: Firefox: Backup S/MIME certificate
The Joys of Importing & Using an S/MIME Certificate Page 6 / 24

Figure 6: Firefox: Choose a certificate backup password
Figure 7: Firefox: Successfully backed up security certificate
Internet Explorer
See Figure 8 for Internet Explorer: 'Internet Options' → 'Content' tab → 'Certificates' → 'Personal'
tab → 'Export' button.
Figure 8: Internet Explorer: Certificate backup
The Joys of Importing & Using an S/MIME Certificate Page 7 / 24

Google Chrome
For Google's Chrome browser you should be looking at the client certificate informational message
shown in Figure 9. Click 'View' to be able to start the backup process.
Figure 9: Chrome: 'View' button
Switch from the 'General' tab, showing certificate information, to the 'Details' tab. Click on 'Copy to
File...' to start the Certificate Export Wizard (Figure 10).
Figure 10: chrome: Details → certificate export wizard
Through the wizard it will ask whether you want to export the private-key: answer 'Yes, export the
private key' (Figure 11).
Save the file using 'Personal Information Exchange – PKCS #12 (.PFX)', selecting 'Include all
certificates in the certification path if possible' and 'Export all extended properties'. Ensure that the
middle option, 'Delete the private key if export is successful' is NOT checked (Figure 12).
Input your backup password and then the resulting file should be stored somewhere safe – a backed-
up network drive would be preferable.
The Joys of Importing & Using an S/MIME Certificate Page 8 / 24

It seems that chrome – certainly on Windows – appears to save the backup file, by default, to a
somewhat out-of-the-way disk location. Look inside somewhere similar to the following and then
copy this file to somewhere on our network drives:
C:\Users\<login>\AppData\Local\Google\Chrome\Application\<version>\
Figure 11: Chrome: export private key
Figure 12: Chrome: export as PFX file
Safari
Using Safari on Mac, the certificate should be imported directly into your keychain. To make a
backup, open the 'Keychain Access' application, ensure you are in the 'login' keychain, select 'My
Certificates', highlight your new Comodo S/MIME certificate – it should be titled with your name –
and select 'Export'. Make sure you export to file format 'Personal Information Exchange (.p12)'
(Figure 13).
The Joys of Importing & Using an S/MIME Certificate Page 9 / 24

Figure 13: Mac keychain certificate export
Which browser you used for this step may determine which of the remaining sections of this
document applies. For example, if you used Microsoft's Internet Explorer and use Outlook as your
email client, then the specific instructions for manually importing the certificate into Outlook will
probably not be needed. This is due to the fact that Outlook references Microsoft's certificate store,
wherein the certificate will now already be present.
Having performed the above steps, you should have received another message from Comodo to
confirm that your certificate issuance has been completed (F
igure 1 4).
Figure 14: Comodo S/MIME certificate issued message
The Joys of Importing & Using an S/MIME Certificate Page 10 / 24

Interlude: Encryption Hurdles
Having obtained your S/MIME certificate and then installed and configured everything for your
email clients per the instructions below, mention must be made about some encryption hurdles.
Firstly, this discussion is not about being unable to send digitally-signed messages. You will be able
to send a signed message to anyone – because this is based on the private-key you control and have
just installed. Signing messages is for you to declare, “I am me and have just sent this message to
you.” No problems there. In fact we should definitely have signing set as a default action for all
messages we send – this will be covered in the instructions below.
However, the first-time you try sending encrypted messages to someone, even potentially yourself
depending on which client you use, there is a good chance that your email client will complain and
not be able to encrypt your message. The item it complains about is related to it not possessing the
recipient(s) certificate(s). How do you get other peoples' certificates? Most email clients will collect
them for you transparently – in that whenever you read a message if it has an embedded S/MIME
certificate then that is stored and you can encrypt messages to that user.
Where you are testing against yourself, you can have your own certificate be collected for you (into
the right place, per your client) by sending yourself a signed message. Read this message – ensuring
it shows the 'signed' icon – and you should now be able to send encrypted messages back to
yourself.
As a department CCIT has around 50 employees. Therefore being able to communicate amongst
ourselves and being able to securely encrypt messages containing sensitive information is a part of
what we can do because of our S/MIME certificates. However, due to the above caveats and the fact
that the majority of our messages really don't need to be encrypted this is optional for each of us.
We should, probably, not select encryption as a default action – the steps for doing this is discussed
below. Then on an individual basis, we can decide which messages we want or need to encrypt. An
example: I need to send Phil a list of passwords – this will most definitely be encrypted. I ensure
that I possess Phil's certificate – if I don't have it then I send Phil a signed message asking for his
reply. Upon completing this transaction – we can now encrypt our messages to each other.
Following this kind of usage model, we have the setup where the people we most commonly
communicate with are the ones where we can encrypt if we need to.
As will be discussed below in the Outlook on Windows section: a way we can publish our
certificates within our Active Directory environment (to the Global Address List (GAL).) This gives
people who use supported clients – like Outlook, most Apple products, as well as others – a way to
be able to interrogate ADIT for the recipients S/MIME certificates. This level of centralization will
bring benefits including not necessarily needing to have a users certificate ahead of being able to
send them encrypted messages.
The Joys of Importing & Using an S/MIME Certificate Page 11 / 24

Configuring S/MIME certificate with Microsoft Outlook
Options → 'Trust Center' → 'Trust Center Settings...' (F
igure 1 5). In earlier versions of Outlook this
is 'Tools' → 'Options' → 'Security'.
Figure 15: Outlook Options: Trust Center Settings...
From the 'Trust Center' screen select 'E-mail Security' on the left-hand side and click the
'Import/Export...' button. Select the saved certificate file. Input the password you used to protect this
file. Hit OK. (F
igure 1 6). In some versions of Outlook you may also need to input a value into the
'Digital ID' field: for this use your name.
Upon importing you will go through the 'Importing a new private exchange key' wizard (F
igure 1 7).
First you need to select a security level (F
igure 1 8), picking between Medium (request permission
when using) and High (request permission with a password when using). If a high security level is
selected then provide a password (F
igure 1 9) – this can be different to the import-password used
with the certificate file.
Back at the 'E-mail Security' page, verify the certificate is selected by clicking on the 'Settings...'
button. The displayed settings should be acceptable (F
igure 20) and do not need to be modified –
hash algorithm: SHA1, encryption algorithm: AES (256-bit). Close out this dialog.
Finally, ensure that in the uppermost section called 'Encrypted e-mail' the second two check-boxes
should be enabled (F
igure 2 1). These turn on default digital-signatures using your S/MIME
certificate. The first checkbox is related to default encryption that has already been discussed in the
section, “Interlude: Encryption Hurdles”. Also, as mentioned in the aforementioned section, click
the 'Publish to GAL...' button to send your certificate information up to our ADIT environment. This
should benefit the users who do this when you need to send an encrypted message to another GAL-
published CCIT staff member.
The Joys of Importing & Using an S/MIME Certificate Page 12 / 24

Figure 16: Outlook: certificate import
Figure 17: Outlook: importing a new private exchange key
Figure 18: Outlook: Choose a Security
Level
The Joys of Importing & Using an S/MIME Certificate Page 13 / 24

Figure 19: Outlook: High Security Level password
Figure 20: Outlook: Finalizing settings
Figure 21: Outlook: select default signing
To test these settings: firstly restart Outlook. Compose a new message and send it to yourself. The
defaults should kick in and digital-signatures should be in-place (F
igure 2 2).
Having sent the message to yourself, you should now observe the ribbon meaning the message is
signed (F
igure 2 3). (The padlock icon, as shown, will be present if the message is also encrypted –
however, please read the section, “Interlude: Encryption Hurdles”, about likely complications with
The Joys of Importing & Using an S/MIME Certificate Page 14 / 24

performing encryption.)
In Outlook, upon first using your S/MIME certificate, you will be explicitly asked for permission,
per the security level you selected earlier. It will, at least, ask to be granted access – along with
requiring a password at the higher security level. This seems to happen only once per session,
although it might have some associated timeout value that has not been identified through the
testing performed.
Figure 22: Outlook: sending an encrypted and
signed message
Figure 23: Outlook: message is encrypted and signed
The Joys of Importing & Using an S/MIME Certificate Page 15 / 24

Installing S/MIME plugin into OWA
Using Microsoft Exchange's web-interface, OWA (Outlook Web-App), does support S/MIME
certificates – but only through Internet Explorer. There is an issue with pure 64-bit IE versions –
but, most of the time, Windows should have both 32-bit and 64-bit versions available.
Please note that if you have imported your S/MIME certificate into Microsoft's certificate store then
Internet Explorer should be aware of your certificate to use through OWA.
Login to OWA and select Options. Click on Settings and go to the S/MIME tab (Figure24). Click on
the 'Download the S/MIME control' link.
Figure 24: Internet Explorer OWA S/MIME control
Once the control is installed, check that the 'Add a digital signature to all messages I send' checkbox
is selected (F
igure 2 5). The default encryption option is optional. Click Save.
Figure 25: OWA S/MIME plugin options
The Joys of Importing & Using an S/MIME Certificate Page 16 / 24

Configuring S/MIME certificate for Apple Mail on Mac OSX
Installing your S/MIME certificate is as easy as double-clicking the file. You will be asked to
confirm which keychain you want to add it to – accept the defaults (keychain: login) (F
igure 2 6).
You will need to input the certificate password (F
igure 2 7) before your S/MIME certificate installs
itself into the keychain (F
igure 2 8).
Figure 26: OSX: add certificate
Figure 27: OSX: enter certificate
password
Figure 28: OSX: certificate installed into keychain
Apple Mail may need to be restarted at this point. It will automatically pick up on the S/MIME
certificate being present. Test it by sending a message to yourself – notice the padlock and the
ribbon icons (F
igure 2 9). If the padlock is sealed then the message will be encrypted, if the ribbon
The Joys of Importing & Using an S/MIME Certificate Page 17 / 24

has a tick inside then the message will be digitally signed.
You may need to play with the level of header visibility to see the 'Security:' header information. In
this example it tells you that this message is both encrypted and signed (F
igure 30).
Figure 29: OSX: Creating a signed & encrypted message
Figure 30: OSX: header showing Security:
details
OSX will ask for permission to access your S/MIME certificate private-key (F
igure 31) – whether
you allow it each time, deny (which will mean your S/MIME signing and decryption capabilities
will not function), or select 'Always Allow' is dependent on how you use your Mac. If you are the
only user then it should be fine selecting 'Always Allow'.
Figure 31: OSX: allow access to confidential
information
(See this interesting note, if you have multiple S/MIME certificates installed on your Mac.)
The Joys of Importing & Using an S/MIME Certificate Page 18 / 24

Configuring S/MIME certificate for Outlook on Mac OSX
Having installed the S/MIME certificate into your keychain by double-clicking on the file (more
details here) – Outlook on Mac should be fairly easy to configure. You may need to restart Outlook
after completing the certificate importation into your keychain step.
In Outlook for Mac: 'Tools' → 'Accounts...' → 'Advanced'. Go to 'Security' tab and make sure your
certificate is selected in the 'Certificate:' field. Ensure that the three checkboxes are all selected in
the uppermost 'Digital Signing' section (Figure 32). Encryption is optional, remembering the
caveats expressed in the section, “Interlude: Encryption Hurdles”.
Figure 32: Outlook on Mac: setting up certificate
Please note: select your own, freshly installed, certificate in the 'Encryption' → 'Certificate' section
shown in the middle of Figure 32. The reason for doing this is because, otherwise, when you send
an encrypted message to someone Outlook does not know how to encrypt it for your own local
“Sent Mail” folder. It does alert you multiple times, but the message is not instantly obvious (you
may, for example, think that Outlook is moaning about not possessing the recipient's certificate,
whereas this is, specifically, concerned with your own certificate).
Essentially, if you proceed through the alert messages, Outlook encrypts the message to the
recipient, using their certificate, just fine. However, Outlook cannot encrypt your local copy,
therefore it will be forever non-accessible to you sitting in your 'Sent Mail' folder. In almost every
scenario this will not be what is intended.
The Joys of Importing & Using an S/MIME Certificate Page 19 / 24

Configuring S/MIME certificate for Apple Mail on iOS
These instructions are for setting up S/MIME on Apple iOS devices, like iPads and iPhones. This
testing was done on the latest iOS 6.x (6.1.3, at this time) running on an iPad – it may well be a
little different with alternative setups. From the research performed it looks like iOS < 5.0 does
NOT support S/MIME – at least not “natively”. Successful testing has also been completed on
iPhones.
The easiest way to configure is to send your S/MIME file to yourself via email, then hop onto your
iOS device and bring up the Apple Mail application. Your file should be in a PKCS #12 format –
easiest check is to see if the last part of the file is p12, e.g. my_smime_file.p12.
Click on this attachment, it should bring up the 'Install Profile' window showing your 'Identity
Certificate'. Click on 'Install' → 'Install Now'. Enter firstly your iPad or iPhone access code,
followed by the password you used to backup your certificate with. You will be presented with the
'Profile Installed' screen. Click 'Done' to exit.
Now to configure S/MIME: go into 'Settings' → 'Mail, Contacts, Calendars'. Click on your Mines'
Exchange account. Click through the 'Account' button, which should be the first button you see at
the top. Scroll down and at the bottom you should see an S/MIME slider – turn this to on. Also
enable the 'Sign' action. For encryption, remember the caveats expressed in the section, “Interlude:
Encryption Hurdles”.
Upon selecting 'Sign', you will go into a sub-section that shows you which certificate will be used
for signing your messages. Unless you have more than one personal certificate installed, this should
be the one you have just imported.
Interesting note: if multiple S/MIME certificates are installed
If you have multiple S/MIME certificates installed on your Apple product and wish to ensure the
right associations are in-place, i.e. this S/MIME certificate is associated to your @mines.edu email
address. Bring up 'Keychain Access' application and right-click on the appropriate certificate. Select
'New Identity Preference...' and type in the right email address to associate with.
The Joys of Importing & Using an S/MIME Certificate Page 20 / 24

Configuring S/MIME certificate for Mail Reader on Android
The following steps were successful in configuring S/MIME on an Android device. However, given
the somewhat fragmented ecosystem, i.e. differences between Samsung versus HTC versus
whoever else brands, different versions of the Android OS and vendors' customizations etc. you
may need to use different steps to get everything working on your specific Android device.
Steps, using the “native” Mail Reader application:
1. Copy the certificate file to somewhere on the phones internal memory. We did encounter
issues when we initially copied the certificate file out to the external SD card. Again, your
mileage may well vary depending on which phone you have.
2. Open Mail Reader application and select your Mines account.
3. Select 'Options' → 'More' → 'Account Settings' → 'Security Options' → 'Email Certificate'
4. Select 'Install' then select the certificate file.
5. To unlock, input your certificate password.
6. Optionally rename what your phone tags your certificate with.
7. Select 'Sign all outgoing mail'.
8. Optional choice for 'Encrypt all outgoing mail' (read section “Interlude: Encryption
Hurdles”).
9. Accept all other defaults.
10. Test – your phone should now be sending signed (and, optionally, encrypted) emails.
The Joys of Importing & Using an S/MIME Certificate Page 21 / 24

Configuring S/MIME certificate with Mozilla Thunderbird
Go to 'Edit' → 'Account Settings', then select 'Security' (F
igure 33).
Figure 33: Thunderbird: importing S/MIME certificate
Click on 'View Certificates' → 'Import...'. Select the certificate file and input the password to
unlock. It should display the certificates information (F
igure 34), check through and click 'OK'. It
should now display both a 'Successfully restored your security certificate(s) and private key(s)'
message (F
igure 35), as well as prompting you about enabling encryption as a default action (Figure
3 6). (Please recall the caveats regarding encryption discussed in the section, “Interlude: Encryption
Hurdles”.)
Your final initial configuration should be as in F
igure 3 7.
Testing against yourself, you should see both the wax-sealed envelope (signed) and the (optional)
padlock (encrypted) icons showing that Thunderbird is working correctly with your S/MIME
certificate (F
igure 3 8).
Figure 34: Thunderbird: imported certificate information
Figure 35: Thunderbird: Successful import
The Joys of Importing & Using an S/MIME Certificate Page 22 / 24

Figure 36: Thunderbird: default encryption action
Figure 37: Thunderbird: initial security settings
Figure 38: Thunderbird: signed and encrypted message
The Joys of Importing & Using an S/MIME Certificate Page 23 / 24

Addendum: Publishing certificate fingerprints
It is our intention to collect together the issued certificate fingerprints for each of us and centrally
publish these values somewhere. This will give any of us the ability to check the actual fingerprint
against those published – any discrepancies should be investigated appropriately. This way we have
another layer of being able to trust the fact that, for example, Phil Romig III's email message is
really from Phil Romig III and not a pseudo-Phil-spambot coming out of the darkened underbelly of
the internet!
The certificate signature values – as issued – are available to CCIT's security team through the
administration console we have through our Comodo account (F
igure 3 9). This way collection can
occur from this single point-of-issuance rather than needing each of us to communicate this
information in a more manual fashion. After-the-fact verification should still occur, however, to
ensure everything is valid, i.e. check that the published certificate signature matches your actual
certificate signature.
Figure 39: certificate fingerprint information available
through Comodo's admin console
The Joys of Importing & Using an S/MIME Certificate Page 24 / 24