RSA signed ECDSA certificate still uses ECDSA for authentication

Nicola Tuveri nic.tuv at
Fri Aug 26 18:02:14 UTC 2022

I'll give it a try.

The Certification Authority (CA) that released the certificate has an RSA
key. That was used to generate the signature in the cert, that tells users
that the CA verified the Certificate Subject identity and that they hold
the secret key associated with the Subject's Public Key.

The Certificate Subject ( has an ECDSA key, and proved to the
CA that they own the secret key matching the Subject's Public Key indicated
in the certificate.

During the TLS handshake, uses ECDHE for key exchange, and
then the same ECDSA key verified by the CA to sign a hash over the
transcript of the handshake itself, this (plus an extra bit of symmetric
authentication not directly relevant for this discussion) proves to the
client that the server they are talking with holds the ECDSA secret key
associated with the Subject's Public Key of the Certificate: if they trust
the CA (or the chain of trust up to the CA that signed the Certificate)
they transitively know that the server is indeed (or someone
that gained control of their secret ECDSA key).

Therefore ECDHE provides key exchange and ECDSA authentication for the
handshake, while RSA guarantees the authenticity of the Certificate.

Best regards,

Nicola Tuveri

On Fri, Aug 26, 2022, 20:49 radiatejava <radiatejava at> wrote:

> I am a bit confused when an RSA signed ECDSA certificate is being used in
> TLS.
> For example, if you run the test for, you will see that
> the certificate has ECDSA key but signed with Signature Algorithm:
> sha256WithRSAEncryption.
> $ openssl s_client  -connect
> The ciphersuite used here is ECDHE-ECDSA-AES128-GCM-SHA256. So it
> means it used ECDSA key for server authentication.
> But I do not understand how did it use ECDSA key for authentication as
> the cert is RSA signed and key exchange is ECDHE, meaning ECDSA key of
> the certificate is not used for encryption keys. Can someone explain
> this to me?
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