Non-profit, member-based IT support for research & educational institutions

Strategic and Practical FAQ -- Using Digital Certificates

Accessing JSTOR Using CREN-Institutional Certificates

Draft 2.1, August 5, 2001


JSTOR, a provider of digital journals is now ready to use CREN-signed institutional digital certificates for user authorization from participating institutions.

1. Why should a user access JSTOR using CREN-Institutional Certificates?

A user with a CREN-signed institutional certificate as part of their digital certificate can access JSTOR from anywhere at anytime. These users do not have to be on campus where the incoming IP address is used for authentication nor do they need to access a campus proxy server to make it appear as if they are on campus. This service increases access for users.

2. How does JSTOR process incoming user digital certificates?

JSTOR has prepared its server to recognize and process incoming digital certificates. In processing digital certificates, the web server examines the signers of the certificates and the expiration dates of the digital certificates.The issuer field of the certificate needs to match a signer, such as the University of Minnesota CA in the JSTOR database. For access to JSTOR to work, the certificate must also be valid. This means a certificate that has not expired and that contains a valid chain, i.e. that the chain tracks back to a recognized root, such as CREN.

3. What does a campus need to do to obtain a CREN-signed institutional certificate?

The detailed steps for obtaining a CREN-signed institutional certificate are at the CREN site at (please fill this in) In brief the process is as follows:

  • Apply for the CREN Certificate Authority Institutional Certificate at
  • Complete and sign the application form
  • Set up a secure communications channel for sending a certificate signing request
  • Receive the certificate and install it in your campus Certificate authority software package.

4. What does a campus need to do to arrange for JSTOR to recognize the -signed institutional certificate from their campus?

The campus technical contact needs to contact Spencer Thomas at JSTOR ( requesting that JSTOR set up your institution for access to JSTOR using digital certificates. Here are the steps in the process.

  • Use the CREN-signed institutional certificate to create the campus certificate that will be used to sign digital certificates issued to members of the campus community.
  • Send Spencer a copy of the CREN-signed campus institutional certificate and a copy of the public key portion of this certificate.
  • Confirm to JSTOR ( that end-user certificates signed with the campus certificate will only be issued to the students, faculty and staff at an institution consistent with the existing JSTOR contract.
  • Certify that you will be issuing end-user digital certificates with a reasonably short expiration period, such as, the end of the academic year.
  • Begin using JSTOR with digital certificates at the following URL: