By Hazel Virdó
senior technical writer
Let’s Encrypt is a Certificate Authority (CA) that provides an easy way to obtain and install free TLS/SSL certificates, thereby enabling encrypted HTTPS on web servers. It simplifies the process by providing a software client, Certbot, that attempts to automate most (if not all) of the required steps. Currently, the entire process of obtaining and installing a certificate is fully automated on both Apache and Nginx.
In this tutorial, you will use Certbot to obtain a free SSL certificate for Nginx on Ubuntu 16.04 and set up your certificate to renew automatically.
This tutorial will use a separate Nginx server block file instead of the default 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 the default server block, you can follow this Nginx + Let’s Encrypt tutorial instead.
To follow this tutorial, you will need:
One Ubuntu 16.04 server set up by following this initial server setup for Ubuntu 16.04 tutorial, including a sudo non-root user and a firewall.
A fully registered domain name. This tutorial will use
example.com throughout. You can purchase a domain name on Namecheap, get one for free on Freenom, or use the domain registrar of your choice.
Both of the following DNS records set up for your server. You can follow this hostname tutorial for details on how to add them.
example.compointing to your server’s public IP address.
www.example.compointing to your server’s public IP address.
Nginx installed by following How To Install Nginx on Ubuntu 16.04.
A separate Nginx server block file for your domain, set up by following this Nginx server blocks tutorial for Ubuntu 16.04. This tutorial will use
The first step to using Let’s Encrypt to obtain an SSL certificate is to install the Certbot software on your server.
Certbot is in very active development, so the Certbot packages provided by Ubuntu tend to be outdated. However, the Certbot developers maintain a Ubuntu software repository with up-to-date versions, so we’ll use that repository instead.
First, add the repository.
- sudo add-apt-repository ppa:certbot/certbot
You’ll need to press
ENTER to accept. Then, update the package list to pick up the new repository’s package information.
- sudo apt-get update
And finally, install Certbot’s Nginx package with
- sudo apt-get install python-certbot-nginx
Certbot is now ready to use, but in order for it to configure SSL for Nginx, we need to verify some of Nginx’s configuration.
Certbot needs to be able to find the correct
server block in your Nginx configuration for it to be able to automatically configure SSL. Specifically, it does this by looking for a
server_name directive that matches the domain you request a certificate for.
If you followed the prerequisite tutorial on Nginx server blocks, you should have a server block for your domain at
/etc/nginx/sites-available/example.com with the
server_name directive already set appropriately.
To check, open the server block file for your domain using
nano or your favorite text editor.
- sudo nano /etc/nginx/sites-available/example.com
Find the existing
server_name line. It should look like this:
. . . server_name example.com www.example.com; . . .
If it does, you can exit your editor and move on to the next step.
If it doesn’t, update it to match. Then save the file, quit your editor, and verify the syntax of your configuration edits.
- sudo nginx -t
If you get an error, reopen the server block file and check for any typos or missing characters. Once your configuration file’s syntax is correct, reload Nginx to load the new configuration.
- sudo systemctl reload nginx
Certbot can now find the correct
server block and update it.
Next, we’ll update our firewall to allow HTTPS traffic.
If you have the
ufw firewall enabled, as recommended by the prerequisite guides, you’ll need to adjust the settings to allow for HTTPS traffic. Luckily, Nginx registers a few profiles with
ufw upon installation.
You can see the current setting by typing:
- sudo ufw status
It will probably look like this, meaning that only HTTP traffic is allowed to the web server:
OutputStatus: active To Action From -- ------ ---- OpenSSH ALLOW Anywhere Nginx HTTP ALLOW Anywhere OpenSSH (v6) ALLOW Anywhere (v6) Nginx HTTP (v6) ALLOW Anywhere (v6)
To additionally let in HTTPS traffic, we can allow the Nginx Full profile and then delete the redundant Nginx HTTP profile allowance:
- sudo ufw allow 'Nginx Full'
- sudo ufw delete allow 'Nginx HTTP'
Your status should look like this now:
- sudo ufw status
OutputStatus: active To Action From -- ------ ---- OpenSSH ALLOW Anywhere Nginx Full ALLOW Anywhere OpenSSH (v6) ALLOW Anywhere (v6) Nginx Full (v6) ALLOW Anywhere (v6)
We’re now ready to run Certbot and fetch our certificates.
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
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.
OutputPlease 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:
OutputIMPORTANT 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 downloaded, installed, and loaded. Try reloading your website using
https:// and notice your browser’s security indicator. It should indicate 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.
Let’s finish by testing the renewal process.
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 adding a renew script to
/etc/cron.d. This script runs twice a day and will automatically renew any certificate that’s within thirty days of expiration.
To test the renewal process, you can do a dry run with
- 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.
In this tutorial, you installed the Let’s Encrypt client
certbot, downloaded SSL certificates for your domain, configured Nginx to use these certificates, and set up automatic certificate renewal. If you have further questions about using Certbot, their documentation is a good place to start.
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Here still not working…
The certbot added this config files after displayed a success message.:
But when I try access https://boracodar.com.br I get this error This site can’t be reached
Thank you for this tutorial :)
A question, I did run the tutorial and I got the certificate working for my domain .
I started out with the file in /etc/nginx/sites-available/wordpress1 . I did run the certbot command from /etc/nginx. I can see that Certbot added a a couple of lines to the /etc/nginx/sites-available/wordpress1-file. [i.e domain.org ]
So, I would like to set up a second server, wordpress2 ( /etc/nginx/sites-available/wordpress2-file) with a new domain with a new letscencrypt cert -how does Certbot know to which file [wordpress1 or wordpress2] to enter the new information (domain.se)? Or would I have to add the information myself to wordpress2 ?
Can i run the command again with a new subdomain and it will work just fine? (As long as i setup the nginx server blocks)
A example for contrab:
and add this line:
Thank you! Up and running just fine. One observation that might help someone is that I prepared a subdomain from the beginning that is also default.
Certbot made another entry in the default serverblock file. Once I removed the redundant server block, everything worked as expected.
Any idea on how to stop certbot from duplicating the server block?
Wow! Such a well-written tutorial. Thanks, DigitalOcean. But I need your help now.
Every step seems to be successful but still, when I hit my site URL, it says “This site can’t be reached” can’t be reached. What am I missing?
Thanks in advance.
HTTPS does not show in url after following this tutorial. Why?
I am using “wordpress + nginx + ubuntu”
But, when I test on https://www.ssllabs.com/ssltest/ ----- I get an A score.
Why does this happen?
Should I use the SSL set up using this tutorial or should I use the SSL provided by Cloudfare??
Thank you so much. This is really an useful article. I read all links and learned a lot about the web server and app server.
The command: sudo ufw status Only show me the port but dont the name of Nginx HTTP or similar.