Secure Nginx with Let’s Encrypt in Ubuntu: Installation, Advantages, Disadvantages, and Conclusion
In today’s digital age, website security is of utmost importance. Cyber attacks are becoming more recurring and sophisticated, making it crucial to ensure that your website is secure. One of the most critical steps in securing your website is to use a trusted SSL/TLS certificate. In this article, we will pursue how to secure Nginx with Let’s Encrypt in Ubuntu and discuss the advantages and disadvantages of using Let’s Encrypt.
Nginx is an admired open-source web server known for its high performance and scalability. It is often used to serve static content, proxy requests to other servers, and as a load balancer. Let’s Encrypt is a free, automated, and exempt certificate jurisdiction that provides SSL/TLS certificates to websites.
We give people the digital certificates they need in order to enable HTTPS (SSL/TLS) for websites, for free, in the most user-friendly way we can. We do this because we want to create a more secure and privacy-respecting Web.
In this tutorial, we will explain to you how to use Certbot to obtain a free SSL certificate and use it with Nginx on Ubuntu 14.04 LTS. We will also show you how to automatically renew your SSL certificate.
We will use the default Nginx configuration file in this tutorial instead of a separate server block file. We recommend creating new Nginx server block files for each domain because it helps to avoid some common mistakes and maintains the default files as a fallback configuration as intended. If you want to set up SSL using server blocks instead, you can follow this Nginx server blocks with Let’s Encrypt tutorial.
Before following this tutorial, you’ll need a few things.
- An Ubuntu 14.04 server with a non-root user who has sudo privileges. You can learn how to set up such a user account by following our initial server setup for Ubuntu 14.04 tutorial.
- Nginx installed, How To Install Nginx on Ubuntu 14.04 LTS
- You must own or control the registered domain name that you wish to use the certificate with. If you do not already have a registered domain name, you may register one with one of the many domain name registrars out there (e.g. Namecheap, GoDaddy, etc.).
- A DNS A Record that points your domain to the public IP address of your server. You can follow this hostname tutorial for details on how to add them. This is required because of how Let’s Encrypt validates that you own the domain it is issuing a certificate for. For example, if you want to obtain a certificate for example.com, that domain must resolve to your server for the validation process to work. Our setup will use example.com and www.example.com as the domain names, so both DNS records are required.
Once you have all of the prerequisites out of the way, let’s move on to installing Certbot, the Let’s Encrypt client software.
Step 1 — Installing Certbot
The first step to using Let’s Encrypt to obtain an SSL certificate is to install the certbot software on your server. The Certbot developers maintain their own Ubuntu software repository with up-to-date versions of the software. Because Certbot is in such active development it’s worth using this repository to install a newer Certbot than provided by Ubuntu.
First, add the repository:
sudo add-apt-repository ppa:certbot/certbot
You’ll need to press ENTER to accept. Afterward, update the package list to pick up the new repository’s package information:
sudo apt-get update
And finally, install Certbot with apt-get:
sudo apt-get install python-certbot-nginx
The certbot Let’s Encrypt client is now ready to use.
Step 2 — Setting up Nginx
Certbot can automatically configure SSL for Nginx, but it needs to be able to find the correct server block in your config. It does this by looking for a server_name directive that matches the domain you’re requesting a certificate for. If you’re starting out with a fresh Nginx install, you can update the default config file:
sudo nano /etc/nginx/sites-available/default
Find the existing server_name line:
/etc/nginx/sites-available/default server_name localhost;
Replace localhost with your domain name:
/etc/nginx/sites-available/default server_name example.com www.example.com;
Save the file and quit your editor. Verify the syntax of your configuration edits with:
sudo nginx -t
If that runs with no errors, reload Nginx to load the new configuration:
sudo service nginx reload
Certbot will now be able to find the correct server block and update it. Now we’ll update our firewall to allow HTTPS traffic.
Step 3 — Obtaining an SSL Certificate
Certbot provides a variety of ways to obtain SSL certificates, through various plugins. The Nginx plugin will take care of reconfiguring Nginx and reloading the config whenever necessary:
sudo certbot --nginx -d example.com -d www.example.com
This runs certbot with the –nginx plugin, using -d to specify the names we’d like the certificate to be valid for.
If this is your first time running certbot, you will be prompted to enter an email address and agree to the terms of service. After doing so, certbot will communicate with the Let’s Encrypt server, then run a challenge to verify that you control the domain you’re requesting a certificate for.
If that’s successful, certbot will ask how you’d like to configure your HTTPS settings:
Output Please choose whether or not to redirect HTTP traffic to HTTPS, removing HTTP access. ------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 1: No redirect - Make no further changes to the webserver configuration. 2: Redirect - Make all requests redirect to secure HTTPS access. Choose this for new sites, or if you're confident your site works on HTTPS. You can undo this change by editing your web server's configuration. ------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Select the appropriate number [1-2] then [enter] (press 'c' to cancel):
Select your choice then hit ENTER. The configuration will be updated, and Nginx will reload to pick up the new settings. certbot will wrap up with a message telling you the process was successful and where your certificates are stored:
Output IMPORTANT NOTES: - Congratulations! Your certificate and chain have been saved at /etc/letsencrypt/live/example.com/fullchain.pem. Your cert will expire on 2017-10-23. To obtain a new or tweaked version of this certificate in the future, simply run certbot again with the "certonly" option. To non-interactively renew *all* of your certificates, run "certbot renew" - Your account credentials have been saved in your Certbot configuration directory at /etc/letsencrypt. You should make a secure backup of this folder now. This configuration directory will also contain certificates and private keys obtained by Certbot so making regular backups of this folder is ideal. - If you like Certbot, please consider supporting our work by: Donating to ISRG / Let's Encrypt: https://letsencrypt.org/donate Donating to EFF: https://eff.org/donate-le
Your certificates are now downloaded, installed, and configured. Try reloading your website using https:// and notice your browser’s security indicator. It should represent that the site is properly secured, usually with a green lock icon. If you test your server using the SSL Labs Server Test, it will get an A grade.
Step 4 — Verifying Certbot Auto-Renewal
Let’s Encrypt’s certificates are only valid for ninety days. This is to encourage users to automate their certificate renewal process. The certbot package we installed takes care of this for us by running ‘certbot renew’ twice a day via a systemd timer. On non-systemd distributions, this functionality is provided by a script placed in /etc/cron.d. This task runs twice a day and will renew any certificate that’s within thirty days of expiration.
To test the renewal process, you can do a dry run with certbot:
sudo certbot renew --dry-run
If you see no errors, you’re all set. When necessary, Certbot will renew your certificates and reload Nginx to pick up the changes. If the automated renewal process ever fails, Let’s Encrypt will send a message to the email you specified, warning you when your certificate is about to expire
You have successfully learned how to Secure Nginx with Let’s Encrypt in Ubuntu 14.04.
Advantages of Using Let’s Encrypt
- Cost: One of the most important advantages of Let’s Encrypt is that it provides SSL/TLS certificates for free. This is a huge benefit for small businesses and individuals needing more money to purchase a certificate from a commercial provider. Let’s Encrypt’s mission is to make the internet more secure by ensuring that every website has access to a trusted SSL/TLS certificate.
- Automation: Another advantage of Let’s Encrypt is that it automates obtaining and renewing SSL/TLS certificates. This means website owners do not have to manually accept and continue credentials, which can be time-consuming. Let’s Encrypt’s automated process is fast, easy, and reliable, ensuring your website is always up-to-date with the latest SSL/TLS certificate.
- Security: Let’s Encrypt uses the latest security standards and protocols to ensure that SSL/TLS certificates are secure. Let’s Encrypt certificates are trusted by all major browsers, including Chrome, Firefox, and Safari. Let’s Encrypt also uses 2048-bit RSA keys and 256-bit elliptic curve cryptography (ECC) keys, which are considered highly secure.
- Open-Source: Let’s Encrypt is an open-source project, meaning the code is publicly available for review. This increases transparency and helps to build trust among users. Let’s Encrypt’s open-source code also means that anyone can contribute to the project, which helps to improve the quality of the SSL/TLS certificates and the overall security of the internet.
Disadvantages of Using Let’s Encrypt
- Validation: Let’s Encrypt uses an automated validation process to issue SSL/TLS certificates. This means there is a risk of issuing fraudulent certificates if there is a flaw in the automatic validation process. However, Let’s Encrypt has measures to prevent this, such as rate limiting and domain ownership verification.
- Limited Certificate Features: Let’s Encrypt SSL/TLS certificates are only valid for 90 days. While this may be fine for many website owners, it does require them to renew their certificates more frequently than they would with a commercial provider. This can be a hassle for some website owners, but it is a small price to pay for the security benefits that Let’s Encrypt provides.
- Compatibility: Let’s Encrypt SSL/TLS certificates may not be compatible with all devices and browsers. While Let’s Encrypt aims to support as many devices and browsers as possible, there may be some that are not compatible. This can be a problem for website owners who must support various devices and browsers.
Conclusion Let’s Encrypt in Ubuntu
In conclusion, Let’s Encrypt is an excellent option for small businesses that want to secure their websites without breaking the bank. Let’s Encrypt offers several advantages: cost, automation, security, and open-source code. However, some disadvantages are also to consider, such as the limited certificate features, compatibility, and validation risks.
While Let’s Encrypt may not be the best option for large enterprises with complex security needs, it is a great starting point for anyone looking to improve their website’s security. With Let’s Encrypt, website owners can get a trusted SSL/TLS certificate for free, automate obtaining and renewing certificates, and ensure their website is secure with the latest security standards and protocols.
Overall, Let’s Encrypt is a valuable tool in the fight against cyber attacks and website vulnerabilities. By using Let’s Encrypt to secure their Nginx server in Ubuntu, website owners can have peace of mind knowing that their website is protected from potential threats.
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Let’s Encrypt is a non-profit certificate authority that provides SSL/TLS certificates for free. Let’s Encrypt’s mission is to secure the internet by ensuring every website has access to a trusted SSL/TLS certificate.
To secure your Nginx server with Let’s Encrypt in Ubuntu, you need to install Certbot, a tool for automating the issuance and renewal of SSL/TLS certificates. Once you have installed Certbot, you can run the following command to obtain and install a certificate for your Nginx server:
sudo certbot --nginx
The advantages of using Let’s Encrypt include cost, automation, security, and open-source code. Let’s Encrypt provides SSL/TLS certificates for free, automates the process of obtaining and renewing certificates, uses the latest security standards and protocols to ensure that certificates are secure, and is an open-source project.
The disadvantages of using Let’s Encrypt include validation risks, limited certificate features, and compatibility issues. Let’s Encrypt uses an automated validation process to issue SSL/TLS certificates, which can be a risk if there is a flaw in the process. Let’s Encrypt SSL/TLS certificates are only valid for 90 days, meaning they must be renewed more frequently than certificates from commercial providers. Let’s Encrypt SSL/TLS certificates may also not be compatible with all devices and browsers.
Let’s Encrypt is suitable for small businesses and individuals who want to secure their websites without breaking the bank. However, Let’s Encrypt may not be the best option for large enterprises with complex security needs. It is essential to assess your website’s security needs and choose a certificate authority that meets them.
Let’s Encrypt SSL/TLS certificates are valid for 90 days. You need to renew your certificate before it expires to ensure your website remains secure. Let’s Encrypt provides an automated process for renewing certificates, which makes the process fast and easy.