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Let's encrypt

Let's encrypt is the new thing in town: allows a seamless procedure for obtaining TLS certificates; and it's free ;)

Roughly speaking, it's a certification authority, capable of generating certificates accepted from any major browser; it has appositely created an (open source) client to do that without human intervention.

The protocol used by the client is ACME (stands for Automatic Certificate Management Environment);

First of all, install the client (in the future will exist a maintained package) in the server (all the operations must be done as root, I know, sucks)

# git clone && cd letsencrypt
# ./letsencrypt-auto
[... installing packages...]
Creating virtual environment...
Updating letsencrypt and virtual environment dependencies.......
Running with virtualenv: /root/.local/share/letsencrypt/bin/letsencrypt
No installers seem to be present and working on your system; fix that or try running letsencrypt with the "certonly" command

This creates in the $HOME/.local/share/letsencrypt a virtualenv with the client, letsencrypt-auto should be a wrapper to the main executable named letsencrypt, that checks everytime if updates are available. If you want to use letsencrypt directly you have to activate the virtualenv.

There are several different ways to obtain a certificate and to deploy it, I choose a manual method, since I usually I have nginx that is not officially supported. If you have apache all should be completely automated. Exist also other methods, if you want to improve your knowledge, read the documentation.

From this post I stole the configuration for nginx (to place in /etc/nginx/snippets/letsencryptauth.conf)

location /.well-known/acme-challenge {
    alias /etc/letsencrypt/webrootauth/.well-known/acme-challenge;
    location ~ /.well-known/acme-challenge/(.*) {
        add_header Content-Type application/jose+json;

then in the server block serving the domain for which you want to issue the certificate you can include this snippet

server {

        # the include must be placed before any location directive
        include snippets/letsencryptauth.conf;

        # other location directives

Finally we have to create the authentication directory

# mkdir /etc/letsencrypt/webrootauth

and execute the last step

# ./letsencrypt-auto  \
    --webroot-path /etc/letsencrypt/webrootauth \
    --domain  \
    -a webroot certonly
[... wait a little bit ...]
 - Congratulations! Your certificate and chain have been saved at
   /etc/letsencrypt/live/ Your cert will expire
   on 2016-03-03. To obtain a new version of the certificate in the
   future, simply run Let's Encrypt again.
 - If like Let's Encrypt, please consider supporting our work by:

   Donating to ISRG / Let's Encrypt:
   Donating to EFF:          

Remember that the certificate generated will expire after just three months.


All is working but someone has (rightly) rised some concerns about security since all the scripts are autoupdating and running as root. An alternative way is to install and run it using docker with the following steps: first of all, pull the image

$ docker pull

and then run it, mounting the path used to store configuration and certificates by letsencrypt

$ docker run \
    -v "/etc/letsencrypt:/etc/letsencrypt" \
    -v "/var/lib/letsencrypt:/var/lib/letsencrypt" \
    --entrypoint=/bin/bash \

I warn you that docker works only on 64bit machines.


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