APNS Certificate

APNS, or Apple Push Notification Service, is an operating system notification service that delivers notifications to iOS devices. In order to securely send notifications through APNs, you’ll need an Apple Push Certificate among other requirements.

Without configuring and registering with an operating system push notification service like Apple Push Notifications Service, your app would be unable to send notifications to iOS users. The Apple Push Notifications Certificate is a necessary element in the process of sending notifications to your users through APNs.

How To Create APNs Push Certificate

Here are a few steps you need to follow to create an APNs Certificate

Step 1: Firstly, you need to launch Keychain Access on your Mac. Now, in the Certificate Assistant section, click on Request a Certificate from a Certificate Authority… Now, download and install the WWDR Intermediate Certificate first. Also, make sure no private key is selected in the main Keychain Access window.

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Step 2: Enter your apple developer account login email address here. Now, check Saved to disk and click Continue. Save the file as “MyAppPushCSR.certSigningRequest”.

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Step 3: Now, log in to the Apple Developer Console and move to Certificates, Identifiers & Profiles.

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Step 4: Click on Identifiers > App IDs and choose your app.

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Step 5: Now, tap on Edit to update the app settings.

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Step 6: If you have not enabled push notifications yet then check on the Push Notifications service checkbox to enable it.

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Step 7. In case, you already created a certificate, you can use it, download it and move on to the further step. If not, then tap on Create Certificate…

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Step 8: Now, you need to follow the instructions on the next webpage to make a certificate request on your Mac, and click Continue.

Step 9: On the Generate your certificate page, select Choose File and select the certificate request file you just created (with a .certSigningRequest extension) and then click on Continue.

Step 10: Download the certificate to your Mac and then open the .cer file to install it in Keychain Access.

Step 10: Go to the Keys section of Keychain Access, you will see that a new private key has appeared in your keychain. Right-click it and choose Export.

Step 11. Save the private key as “yourAppPushKey.p12” and enter a passphrase.:

How To Create a PEM File

By now, you will be having three files:

  1. The CSR
  2. The private key as a p12 file (PushChatKey.p12)
  3. The SSL certificate, aps_development.cer

Make sure you keep all three files in a safe place. You can make use of the same CSR to create a new one when your certificate expires. For instance, for generating a new CSR, you also need a new private key. By re-using the CSR you can keep using your existing private key and you only need to change the .cer file.

Now, all you have to do is to convert the certificate and private key into a more usable format and combine the certificate along with the private key into a single file that uses the PEM format.
You need to use the command-line OpenSSL tools for this. Open a Terminal and execute the following steps.

Step 1. Go to the folder in which you have saved the downloaded certificate (aps.cer) and exported .p12 file let's suppose these files have been saved in Desktop then in the terminal goto Desktop using the below command.

$ cd ~/Desktop/

Step 2. Convert the .cer file into a .pem file:

$ openssl x509 -in aps_development.cer -inform der -out yourAppPushCert.pem

Step 3. Convert the private key’s .p12 file into a .pem file:

$ openssl pkcs12 -nocerts -out yourAppPushKey.pem -in yourAppPushKey.p12
        Enter Import Password: 
        MAC verified OK 
        Enter PEM pass phrase: 
        Verifying - Enter PEM pass phrase:

You first have to enter the passphrase for the .p12 file, so that OpenSSL can read it. Now, you need to enter a new passphrase that will be used to encrypt the PEM file.

Ultimately, combine the certificate and key into a single .pem file:

$ cat yourAppPushCert.pem yourAppPushKey.pem > ck.pem

At this point, it’s a good idea to test whether the certificate works. Execute the following command:

Development Environment:

$ telnet gateway.sandbox.push.apple.com 2195 
            Trying 17.172.232.226... 
            Connected to gateway.sandbox.push-apple.com.akadns.net.
           Escape character is '^]'.

Production Environment:

$ telnet gateway.push.apple.com 2196 
             Trying 17.188.160.138... 
             Connected to gateway.push-apple.com.akadns.net.
             Escape character is '^]'.

This tries to make a regular, unencrypted, connection to the APNS server. If you see the above response, then your Mac can reach APNS. Press Ctrl+C to close the connection. If you get an error message, then make sure your firewall allows outgoing connections on port 2195.

Let’s try connecting again, this time using our SSL certificate and private key to set up a secure connection:

Development Environment:

$ openssl s_client -connect gateway.sandbox.push.apple.com:2195 -cert yourAppPushCert.pem -key yourAppPushKey.pem

         Enter pass phrase for yourAppPushKey.pem:

Production Environment:

$ openssl s_client -connect gateway.sandbox.push.apple.com:2195 -cert yourAppPushCert.pem -key yourAppPushKey.pem

         Enter pass phrase for yourAppPushKey.pem:

You should see a whole bunch of output, which is OpenSSL letting you know what is going on under the hood.

If the connection is successful, you should be able to type a few characters. When you press enter, the server should disconnect. If there was a problem establishing the connection, OpenSSL will give you an error message but you may have to scroll up through the output to find it.

Configuring the APNS Certificate

To configure the APNS Certificate navigate to settings> App push> IOS
Now, to complete the configuration, you need to update the status to Active and select Authentication type. Further, add IOS PassPhrase (must same with case sensitive as you have created in previous steps) and App bundle ID then select environment, and save the changes.

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Finally, upload the (ck.pem) certificate file to complete the process.