With an upcoming version of Firefox set to warn users when they’re browsing on a site without SSL encryption enabled, I figured it wouldn’t hurt to get it all set up for this domain - kindofblue.com - as an experiment. I knew that with Let’s Encrypt, the SSL certificates are free. It just requires a bit of work to get them set up.

Luckily, at DigitalOcean - where I host this site/domain - they have this handy guide for getting HTTPS set up with LetsEncrypt (for Ubuntu Linux). Since I’m using the same HTTP server (nginx), I was able to follow along without needing any extra help.

I did have to adjust my DNS setup at Namecheap, since I had a wildcard (*) catch-all domain record. Once all I had was my necessary DNS entries (minus the wildcard), I followed along with the instructions pretty much as given.

Here’s the quick version of the setup instructions:

# add certbot repository
sudo add-apt-repository ppa:certbot/certbot

# update package list
sudo apt-get update

# install the python certbot client
sudo apt-get install python-certbot-nginx

Next, make sure that you have an nginx configuration file with the proper domains listed. In my case it was in the file /etc/nginx/sites-available/kindofblue.com where the config included:

server {
  server_name kindofblue.com www.kindofblue.com;

They then explain to make sure that if you’re using a firewall, to allow both HTTP and HTTPS traffic through. Their example is with the ufw utility, but I double checked that I’m allowing both kinds of traffic through with the firewall I’m using, iptables:

$ sudo iptables -L
Chain INPUT (policy ACCEPT)
target     prot opt source               destination
ACCEPT     tcp  --  anywhere             anywhere             tcp dpt:http
ACCEPT     tcp  --  anywhere             anywhere             tcp dpt:https

We now need to get a certificate using the certbot client (again, using my own domain as example):

sudo certbot --nginx -d kindofblue.com -d www.kindofblue.com

You’ll be asked a few questions, but the process is quite quick. When it asks for the HTTPS settings, I asked it to make all non-HTTPS requests redirect to the HTTPS domain. If you look in your appropriate nginx configuration file, it should look like this:

# Redirect non-https traffic to https
if ($scheme != "https") {
  return 301 https://$host$request_uri;
} # managed by Certbot

If that section is still commented out, then you’ll need to uncomment and then restart nginx with: sudo service nginx restart

Once that’s done, and there were no hiccups in any of the steps above, you should now be serving your site securely. So now, this blog is now served only over HTTPS! This was so much easier than I had expected it to be. And as a part of the certbot setup, it installs a recurring task to update the certificate when needed - since Let’s Encrypt certs only last for 3 months at a time.

Once I get everything set up and going with Lists of Bests, then I’ll sort of know what I’m doing.