I’ve been updating my book sites over to HTTPS:
They’re all hosted on the same (virtual) box as adactio.com—Ubuntu 14.04 running Apache 2.4.7 on Digital Ocean. If you’ve got a similar configuration, this might be useful for you.
First off, I’m using Let’s Encrypt. Except I’m not. It’s called Certbot now (I’m not entirely sure why).
I installed the Let’s Encertbot client with this incantation (which, like everything else here, will need root-level access so if none of these work, retry using
sudo in front of the commands):
chmod a+x certbot-auto
Seems like a good idea to put that
certbot-auto thingy into a directory like
mv certbot-auto /etc
Rather than have Certbot generate conf files for me, I’m just going to have it generate the certificates. Here’s how I’d generate a certificate for
/etc/certbot-auto --apache certonly -d yourdomain.com
The first time you do this, it’ll need to fetch a bunch of dependencies and it’ll ask you for an email address for future reference (should anything ever go screwy). For subsequent domains, the process will be much quicker.
The result of this will be a bunch of generated certificates that live here:
Now you’ll need to configure your Apache gubbins. Head on over to…
If you only have one domain on your server, you can just edit
default.ssl.conf. I prefer to have separate conf files for each domain.
Time to fire up an incomprehensible text editor.
There’s a great SSL Configuration Generator from Mozilla to help you figure out what to put in this file. Following the suggested configuration for my server (assuming I want maximum backward-compatibility), here’s what I put in.
Make sure you update the
/path/to/yourdomain.com part—you probably want a directory somewhere in
/var/www or wherever your website’s files are sitting.
To exit the infernal text editor, hit ctrl and o, press
enter in response to the prompt, and then hit ctrl and x.
yourdomain.com.conf didn’t previously exist, you’ll need to enable the configuration by running:
Time to restart Apache. Fingers crossed…
service apache2 restart
If that worked, you should be able to go to
https://yourdomain.com and see a lovely shiny padlock in the address bar.
Assuming that worked, everything is awesome! …for 90 days. After that, your certificates will expire and you’ll be left with a broken website.
Not to worry. You can update your certificates at any time. Test for yourself by doing a dry run:
/etc/certbot-auto renew --dry-run
You should see a message saying:
And then, after a while:
** DRY RUN: simulating 'certbot renew' close to cert expiry
** (The test certificates below have not been saved.)
Congratulations, all renewals succeeded.
You could set yourself a calendar reminder to do the renewal (without the
--dry-run bit) every few months. Or you could tell your server’s computer to do it by using a
cron job. It’s not nearly as rude as it sounds.
You can fire up and edit your list of
cron tasks with this command:
This tells the machine to run the renewal task at quarter past six every evening and log any results:
15 18 * * * /etc/certbot-auto renew --quiet >> /var/log/certbot-renew.log
(Don’t worry: it won’t actually generate new certificates unless the current ones are getting close to expiration.) Leave the cronrab editor by doing the ctrl o, enter, ctrl x dance.
Hopefully, there’s nothing more for you to do. I say “hopefully” because I won’t know for sure myself for another 90 days, at which point I’ll find out whether anything’s on fire.
If you have other domains you want to secure, repeat the process by running:
/etc/certbot-auto --apache certonly -d yourotherdomain.com
And then creating/editing
I found these useful when I was going through this process:
That last one is good if you like the warm glow of accomplishment that comes with getting a good grade:
For extra credit, you can run your site through securityheaders.io to harden your headers. Again, not as rude as it sounds.
You know, I probably should have said this at the start of this post, but I should clarify that any advice I’ve given here should be taken with a huge pinch of salt—I have little to no idea what I’m doing. I’m not responsible for any flame-bursting-into that may occur. It’s probably a good idea to back everything up before even starting to do this.
Yeah, I definitely should’ve mentioned that at the start.