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Share a private key without using passwords

If you follow security best practices, you are not re-using the same password for multiple purposes. As a consequence you end up with a long list of passwords that you need to secure and manage. Although the use of a password vault certainly improved the experience, I still try to avoid the usage of passwords as much as possible.

Today I want to share a ‘trick’ I discovered that allows you to share(export/import) a PFX file without using passwords.

No clue what a pfx is? Let me explain that first…

A PFX file, also known as a PKCS#12 file, is a binary format used to store certificates and their associated private keys. It combines 2 parts:

  1. A certificate part: A certificate is a digital document that contains information about an entity (such as a person, organization, or server). It is used for authentication, encryption, and secure communication. Certificates are issued by a Certificate Authority (CA).
  2. A private key part: The private key is a cryptographic key that corresponds to the public key in the certificate. It is kept secret and is used for decrypting data encrypted with the public key, as well as for signing and authenticating messages.

A PFX file is typically password-protected to ensure security.They are commonly used for importing/exporting certificates between systems, such as web servers, application servers, and client devices.

Of course this means another password we need to add to our list!

The good news is that on a domain controlled Windows machine, you can use a passwordless approach.

$a = Get-ChildItem -Path cert:\localMachine\my

Export-PfxCertificate -Cert $a[1] -FilePath C:\myexport.pfx -ProtectTo "domain\username"

By using the –ProtectTo argument when exporting the certificate, I can import it using the specified account without requiring a password.

Set-Location -Path Cert:\LocalMachine\My

Import-PfxCertificate -FilePath C:\mypfx.pfx

More information

Export-PfxCertificate (pki) | Microsoft Learn

Import-PfxCertificate (pki) | Microsoft Learn

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