How does browser know what Certificate to provide for Client Cert Authentication

Ever wonder how the browser provided the client cert when multiple are available for the user?

The answer is the server that is requesting the client cert for authentication has an option to ask for the cert that is signed by a specific Distinguished Name CA, which is part of the server communication. You can see this in wireshark capture, No need for SSL decryption, as the DN CA information is part of server hello messages which happens before the encryption beings between the server and client.

As long as the browser can find the matching cert with a private key signed by DN CA, it has the ability to silently provide to the server based on browser settings. If there is more than one issued by the DN CA, it will prompt the user to make the selection. If the browser finds a matching cert but it doesn’t have the private key, it will skip that cert.

If the server just asks for client cert without providing DN CA, then the browser displays all available client cert that have the private key and prompts the user to make the selection.

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