How To Setup Let’s Encrypt SSL Certificate with Nginx on Debian 10 / Debian 9

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Let’s Encrypt is a certificate authority that provides free SSL certificates for TLS encryption, launched in April 2016.

Let’s Encrypt is not only provides SSL certificates; it also automates certificate creation, validation, signing, implementation, and renewal of certificates for secure websites.

Currently, Let’s Encrypt supports auto installation of certificates on Apache, Nginx, Plex, and Haproxy.

Prerequisites

I recommend you to set up LEMP stack on your system before you proceed further.

READ: How to Install LEMP Stack on Debian 10

READ: How to Install LEMP Stack on Debian 9

Setup Let’s Encrypt SSL Certificate with Nginx

Install Certbot

To generate a certificate for your domain, you should have terminal access and Certbot ACME client. Certbot client handles certificate issuance and installation with no downtime.

Certbot is available on Debian base repository. So, you can use below commands to install it.

sudo apt update

sudo apt install -y certbot python-certbot-nginx

Create Virtualhost

We will now create a virtual host for the domain www.itzgeek.net.

This virtual host serves the HTTP version of your domain.
sudo nano /etc/nginx/conf.d/www.itzgeek.net.conf

Use the below information.

server {
   server_name www.itzgeek.net;
   root /opt/nginx/www.itzgeek.net;

   location / {
       index index.html index.htm index.php;
   }

   access_log /var/log/nginx/www.itzgeek.net.access.log;
   error_log /var/log/nginx/www.itzgeek.net.error.log;

   location ~ \.php$ {
      include /etc/nginx/fastcgi_params;
      fastcgi_pass 127.0.0.1:9000;
      fastcgi_index index.php;
      fastcgi_param SCRIPT_FILENAME /opt/nginx/www.itzgeek.net$fastcgi_script_name;
   }
}

Create a document root to hold HTML files.

sudo mkdir -p /opt/nginx/www.itzgeek.net

Change the permission of the directory.

sudo chown -R nginx:nginx /opt/nginx/www.itzgeek.net

Place the sample HTML file in the document root of your domain.

echo "This is a test site @ www.itzgeek.net" | sudo tee /opt/nginx/www.itzgeek.net/index.html

Restart the Nginx service.

sudo systemctl restart nginx

Create / Update DNS Record

Access your DNS management tool or Domain registrar and create an A/CNAME record for the domain. Ex: www.itzgeek.net.

Update DNS Record
Update DNS Record

Wait for some time to let the record propagate.

Check the DNS propagation with Nslookup sudo apt install -y dnsutils utility.

Check DNS Propagation
Check DNS Propagation

Install Let’s Encrypt Certificate

Use the certbot command to create a Let’s Encrypt certificate and configure Nginx to use the certificate.

sudo certbot --nginx

Follow the interactive prompt and install the certificate.

Saving debug log to /var/log/letsencrypt/letsencrypt.log
Plugins selected: Authenticator nginx, Installer nginx
Enter email address (used for urgent renewal and security notices) (Enter 'c' to
cancel): xxx.xxx@gmail.com  << Enter Email ID

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Please read the Terms of Service at
https://letsencrypt.org/documents/LE-SA-v1.2-November-15-2017.pdf. You must
agree in order to register with the ACME server at
https://acme-v02.api.letsencrypt.org/directory
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
(A)gree/(C)ancel: A  << Agree to Terms and Conditions

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Would you be willing to share your email address with the Electronic Frontier
Foundation, a founding partner of the Let's Encrypt project and the non-profit
organization that develops Certbot? We'd like to send you email about our work
encrypting the web, EFF news, campaigns, and ways to support digital freedom.
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
(Y)es/(N)o: Y  << Subscriber to Newsletter

Which names would you like to activate HTTPS for?
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1: www.itzgeek.net
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Select the appropriate numbers separated by commas and/or spaces, or leave input
blank to select all options shown (Enter 'c' to cancel): 1  << Choose Site to Install Let's Encrypt
Obtaining a new certificate
Performing the following challenges:
http-01 challenge for www.itzgeek.net
Waiting for verification...
Cleaning up challenges
Deploying Certificate to VirtualHost /etc/nginx/conf.d/www.itzgeek.net.conf

Please choose whether or not to redirect HTTP traffic to HTTPS, removing HTTP access.
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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.
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Select the appropriate number [1-2] then [enter] (press 'c' to cancel): 2  << Redirect HTTP to HTTPS
Redirecting all traffic on port 80 to ssl in /etc/nginx/conf.d/www.itzgeek.net.conf

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Congratulations! You have successfully enabled https://www.itzgeek.net

You should test your configuration at:
https://www.ssllabs.com/ssltest/analyze.html?d=www.itzgeek.net
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IMPORTANT NOTES:
 - Congratulations! Your certificate and chain have been saved at:
   /etc/letsencrypt/live/www.itzgeek.net/fullchain.pem
   Your key file has been saved at:
   /etc/letsencrypt/live/www.itzgeek.net/privkey.pem
   Your cert will expire on 2019-10-28. 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


Redirect non-www HTTP requests to www HTTPS with Nginx (optional)

We will now configure Nginx server to redirect the traffic comes for non-www HTTP site to the WW HTTPS site, I.e., http://itzgeek.net >> https://www.itzgeek.net.

Here, we will edit the same configuration file that we created for HTTP version of the site.

sudo nano /etc/nginx/conf.d/www.itzgeek.net.conf

Add the below information at the end of the file.

# Redirect NON-WWW HTTP to WWW HTTPS

server {
    if ($host = itzgeek.net) {
        return 301 https://www.itzgeek.net$request_uri;
    }


   server_name itzgeek.net;
    listen 80;
    return 404;

}

Restart the Nginx service.

sudo systemctl restart nginx

Verify Let’s Encrypt Certificate

Verify the Let’s Encrypt certificate by visiting your website.

http://your-http-web-site

OR

https://your-https-web-site

You should get HTTPS version of your site now.

Let's Encrypt SSL Certificate with Nginx on Debian 10
Let’s Encrypt SSL Certificate with Nginx on Debian 10

Test SSL Certificate

Test your SSL certificate for any issues and its security ratings by going to the below URL.

https://www.ssllabs.com/ssltest/analyze.html?d=www.itzgeek.net
Test SSL Certifcate
Test SSL Certificate

Renew Let’s Encrypt Certificate

Let’s Encrypt certificates have a validity of 90 days, and it is highly advisable to renew your certificates before they expire. Thanks to the built-in scheduler entry /etc/cron.d/certbot which runs twice a day to renew certificates which are about to expire.

But, I recommend you to run a below command to simulate automatic renewal of your certificate.

sudo certbot renew --dry-run

Output:

Saving debug log to /var/log/letsencrypt/letsencrypt.log

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Processing /etc/letsencrypt/renewal/www.itzgeek.net.conf
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Cert not due for renewal, but simulating renewal for dry run
Plugins selected: Authenticator nginx, Installer nginx
Renewing an existing certificate
Performing the following challenges:
http-01 challenge for www.itzgeek.net
Waiting for verification...
Cleaning up challenges

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
new certificate deployed with reload of nginx server; fullchain is
/etc/letsencrypt/live/www.itzgeek.net/fullchain.pem
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- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
** DRY RUN: simulating 'certbot renew' close to cert expiry
**          (The test certificates below have not been saved.)

Congratulations, all renewals succeeded. The following certs have been renewed:
  /etc/letsencrypt/live/www.itzgeek.net/fullchain.pem (success)
** DRY RUN: simulating 'certbot renew' close to cert expiry
**          (The test certificates above have not been saved.)
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

IMPORTANT NOTES:
 - 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 the output confirms that the renewal is working properly, then the automatic renewal will happen as expected.

Conclusion

That’s All. I hope you learned how to Setup Let’s Encrypt SSL Certificate with Nginx on Debian 10. Share your feedback in the comments section.

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