I have three certificates in a chain:

  • root.pem
  • intermediate.pem
  • john.pem

When I examine them using openssl x509 -in [filename] -text -noout they look fine, root.pem looks like it is self-signed (Issuer == Subject), and the Subject of each certificate is the Issuer of the next one, as expected.

And indeed I can verify the chain up to the intermediate certificate:

$ openssl verify -CAfile root.pem root.pem
root.pem: OK
$ openssl verify -CAfile root.pem intermediate.pem
intermediate.pem: OK

However, john.pem fails:

$ openssl verify -CAfile root.pem -CAfile intermediate.pem john.pem
john.pem: C = CL, [...redacted data...]
error 2 at 1 depth lookup:unable to get issuer certificate

To the best of my knowledge, this means that openssl is unable to find the issuer for intermediate.pem. Which doesn't make sense since root.pem is indeed the issuer for intermediate.pem.

What am I missing?

Edit: I had originally posted an answer saying that root.pem and intermediate.pem should be concatenated in one file, and then one should use this file as the parameter for -CAfile. This is WRONG, because this implicitly trusts intermediate.pem, as Johannes Pille points out. Read the link he posted in my deleted answer: https://mail.python.org/pipermail/cryptography-dev/2016-August/000676.html

  • Please delete your answer, it is dangerous misinformation! Feb 14, 2019 at 16:03
  • 2
    @JohannesPille Done, thank you for the information
    – Jong Bor
    Feb 15, 2019 at 22:47
  • Kudos for actually doing it and the quick reaction. May 3, 2019 at 23:40

2 Answers 2


You don't have to cat the two certificates together in order to verify them.

If you have the following three certificates:

  • root.pem - stores a self-signed certificate.
  • intermediate.pem - stores a certificate signed by root.pem
  • john.pem - stores a certificate signed by intermediate.pem

And you trust only root.pem, then you would verify john.pem with the following command:

openssl verify -CAfile root.pem -untrusted intermediate.pem john.pem

It you had many intermediates, you could just chain -untrusted intermediate2.pem -untrusted intermediate3.pem ...

  • This. Is the only right answer. Feb 14, 2019 at 16:04
  • I thought that if I had both the Intermediate and Root CA Certificates in the bundle openssl would pick those up and verify the certificates. Is there a reason this would be happening? Like, the person who signed the user certificate didn't sign it with the Intermediate but the root, or something?
    – FilBot3
    Jun 28, 2019 at 18:44
  • 2
    @AjaxLeung - both multiple -untrusted options (in any order) or a single -untrusted option pointing to a bundle of intermediates (concatenated in any order) works. This is with OpenSSL version 1.1.1c on Ubuntu. Jan 19, 2020 at 20:28
  • 1
    @JingHe - untrusted here doesn't mean distrust; it's a neutral judgement, not a negative judgement. openssl will examine the untrusted certs to see if it can establish trust by some other means. If the intermediate certs provided to -untrusted are signed by the root cert, then they'll be trusted. If you want to blacklist a cert, then some other option is needed. I don't know what that option is.
    – antiduh
    Nov 16, 2020 at 20:10
  • 1
    Beware that I had an issue with verifying the certification trust path because the certificates did not have a binary compatible isssuer / subject field. This TLS specific requirement of binary compatibility is more strict than RFC 5280: X.509v3 it seems. I.e. even if you've got the chain and trust store setup correctly, it may still fail. Oct 25, 2021 at 13:56

what @antiduh said only works for single intermediate certificate case for me. By adding more than one -untrusted intermediate.pem in the command seems not work. Not sure is it related to specific openssl version.

According to the openssl document: [https://linux.die.net/man/1/verify]

-untrusted file

A file of untrusted certificates. The file should contain multiple certificates

In my case I have a chain like: root.pem -> intermediate1.pem -> intermediate2.pem -> john.pem

by cat intermediate1.pem & intermediate2.pem into a single intermediate-chain.pem file and then run openssl verify -CAfile root.pem -untrusted intermediate-chain.pem john.pem works for me.

Also seems the in ca extension you need set basicConstraints = CA:true otherwise I still encounter openssl verify report error.

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