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Developer Guide: Certificate Management Extension API on Chrome OS

This document is for extension developers and describes how to use the extension API enterprise.platformKeys for client certificate enrollment.


Client certificates allow secure authentication to digital resources, like networks or web resources. A typical certificate based authentication protocol is Transport Layer Security (TLS, formerly known as SSL) and the protocols that are built on top like EAP-TLS for network authentication and HTTPS for web resources.

This article describes how to manage and make use of client certificates on Chrome OS using the enterprise.platformKeys extension API: in particular, how to provision a new client certificate and how to use a client certificate for network or web authentication.


Many certificate enrollment protocols exist, like SCEP, EST or CMC, that define the communication between the client (in this case, the Chrome OS device) and the Certificate Authority (CA), which can be accompanied by a Registration Authority. The enterprise.platformKeys API is designed in a way that extensions have the freedom to implement any enrollment protocol based on what is supported by the target Certificate Authority.

Independent of which specific protocol is used to communicate, the following steps describe the typical flow of a certificate enrollment:

  1. Trigger the enrollment process, e.g. the user tries to authenticate but no client cert is installed, or the user manually starts the enrollment.
  2. Obtain the enrollment configuration, e.g. URL of the CA, or the attributes to use for the certification request.
  3. Obtain credentials to authenticate the certification request, either by asking the user or by using an API, e.g. chrome.identity.
  4. Generate public/private key pair locally on the device.
  5. Create the certification request, which contains data like the public key and some attributes, which in turn is signed by the private key. The private key is kept secret and is not part of the request.
  6. Send the certification request to the CA.
  7. After the CA authorizes the request, it creates the client certificate and sends it to the client.
  8. The client receives the certificate and installs it.

After successful enrollment the certificate can be used to authenticate to resources like a network or a web page.

The enterprise.platformKeys API

This extension API of Chrome OS allows extensions to generate a key pair, sign a certification request, and to manage the installed client certificates (import, get and remove certificates). Using this API, an extension can drive the process of installing a new client certificate to a Chrome OS device.

In order to use the API, an extension must be pre-installed by user policy. Only extensions installed by policy can use the API.

How to implement the enrollment process in an extension

  1. The enrollment can be started by several events.

    • The extension can expose a link or an icon that the user can use to manually start the enrollment process, see for example chrome.browserAction.
    • The first time the user tries to connect to a network that requires a client certificate for authentication, Chrome OS can automatically open the extension if the following required step has been taken by the administrator: The network must be configured by policy to use client certificates for authentication (e.g. a 802.1x WiFi with EAP-TLS) and the Client Enrollment URL must be set to a page of the extension, see Manage Networks. Every time the user attempts to connect to this network and there is no matching certificate in the user’s certificate store, Chrome OS will open the configured Client Enrollment URL in a new browser tab.
    • The extension can use an event page (succeeding background page) to check whether a valid client certificate is already installed at certain times (e.g. after login and once per day). If not or if the certificate is expiring soon, the extension can trigger the enrollment flow.
  2. The extension needs some configuration about the enrollment process, at a minimum the URL of the CA and maybe attributes to embed in the certification request.

    The configuration can

    • be part of the extension itself, which prevents reuse of the extension with other configurations,
    • be part of the Client Enrollment URL that is opened by Chrome OS (see previous step),
    • be pushed through policy for extensions, which allows the administrator to configure the extension in the management console.
  3. To obtain credentials to authenticate the certification request at the CA, the extension can present any UI and ask the user to provide the credentials or use any other APIs, for example, OAuth.

  4. The extension has to obtain the user Token (with the id "user") using enterprise.platformKeys.getTokens and generate a key pair using the subtleCrypto.generateKey method of the Token. The private key will be generated by the TPM and is guaranteed to never leave the device or even the TPM.

    function getUserToken(callback) {
    chrome.enterprise.platformKeys.getTokens(function(tokens) {
       for (var i = 0; i < tokens.length; i++) {
         if (tokens[i].id == "user") {
    var algorithm = {
     name: "RSASSA-PKCS1-v1_5",
      // RsaHashedKeyGenParams:
      modulusLength: 2048,
     // Equivalent to 65537
      publicExponent: new Uint8Array([0x01, 0x00, 0x01]), 
     hash: {
       name: "SHA-1"
    userToken.subtleCrypto.generateKey(algorithm, false /* not extractable */, ["sign"])
        .then(function(keyPair) { ... continue with generated keyPair ... },
  5. Extract the public key from the key handle using the subtleCrypto.exportKey method of the Token:

    userToken.subtleCrypto.exportKey("spki", keyPair.publicKey)
      .then(function(publicKey) { ... continue with publicKey ... },
  6. Create the content for the certification request in the extension. This request must contain at least the public key. The CA may expect additional attributes that must be added. If the request is PKCS#10 based, for example, the open source library forge may be used.

    var request = CreateCertificationRequest();
    request.setSubject('CommonName', 'some name');
  7. Sign the content of the certification request (using the subtleCrypto.sign method of the Token) and create the final request from the content and the signature. Any subsequent attempt to use the same key for signing will fail for security reasons: This API guarantees that only Chrome OS itself can use the private key and the certificate for authentication.

    function signData(data, callback) {
     userToken.subtleCrypto.sign({name : "RSASSA-PKCS1-v1_5"}, keyPair.privateKey, data)
       .then(callback, console.error.bind(console));
  8. Send the certification request to the CA and receive the client certificate (e.g. using XMLHttpRequest)

    var xhr = new XMLHttpRequest();
    function onReadyStateChange() {
     if (xhr.readyState !== 4)
     if (xhr.status !== 200) {
        ... handle error ...
     ... continue with xhr.response which contains the certificate ....
    xhr.onreadystatechange = onReadyStateChange;'POST', caUrl);
    xhr.setRequestHeader('Content-Type', ...);
  9. Install the client certificate using enterprise.platformKeys.importCertificate

    chrome.enterprise.platformKeys.importCertificate(, certificate);
  10. Different methods to use the client certificate for authentication are available

    For network authentication:

    • The user can manually select the client certificate in the network configuration dialog.
    • The selection can also be automated if the network is configured by policy. For network types that support client certificates, like EAP-TLS, the administrator can configure a Certificate Pattern that defines which client certificates are valid for authenticating to this network. Chrome OS will automatically select the most recent matching client certificate and use it for authentication on every connection attempt.

    For web pages requiring client certificate authentication:

    • When accessing a web page that requires the client to present a certificate, Chrome OS will show the user a list of available client certificates. After selecting one, Chrome OS will use it to authenticate.
    • The selection can also be automated for specific URLs using the policy Automatically select client certificates for these sites: For URLs that are listed in this policy, the most recent matching client certificate will automatically be used for authentication without prompting the user.

Note that the enterprise.platformKeys API guarantees, that client certificates imported using the API can only be used by Chrome OS itself for authentication. The extension is not able to drive any authentication with such a certificate and in particular the API guarantees that the certificate can’t be extracted to authenticate any other user or device.


To determine whether any valid client certificate is already installed and to check the expiration of the installed certificates, an extension can use the platformKeys.getCertificates function and if necessary trigger the process to obtain a new client certificate.

chrome.enterprise.platformKeys.getCertificates(, function(certificates) {
 for (var i = 0; i < certificates.length; i++) {
   var certificate = certificates[i];
   ... check whether certificate is valid and matches the required attributes ...

An installed certificate can be removed from the user’s certificate store using the function enterprise.platformKeys.removeCertificate. As client certificates can be selected automatically (see last step in the enrollment process above), unnecessary certificates should be removed to prevent conflicts.