Setting up HTTPS support with Let's Encrypt

:exclamation: This guide is only for existing installs where HTTPS is not enabled. Following the official setup guide automatically enables HTTPS by default.

So you’d like to add https to your Discourse absolutely free, courtesy of our friends at Let’s Encrypt?

:bell: Is everything else on your site ready for HTTPS?

Before you start, please bear in mind that for HTTPS to work properly, every single resource on the page must be HTTPS compatible. Consider your CDN, your social logins, your logo files, any third party JavaScript, images, fonts, or css — these all must be available over HTTPS!

Note: ./discourse-setup will enable Let’s Encrypt. And as of March 2017, you can run it again, and press return a few times and enter your email address ; the script will include the required templates and insert your email address as required. Unless you are an expert sysadmin and know a reason not to do that, you should run discourse-setup rather than read any further. (If you installed Discourse a long time ago, you might still have to edit app.yml by hand.)

Note: If your Discourse is accessed via some reverse proxy (e.g., Cloudflare) this will not work.

For the next few steps, you will be editing the app.yml file for your Discourse instance:

cd /var/discourse
nano containers/app.yml

1. Add web.ssl.template.yml and web.letsencrypt.ssl.template.yml to templates

:warning: Is Discourse the only website on your server?

If you are already using web.socketed.template.yml, because you host other websites via port 80 on the same server, stop. You should be using a Let’s Encrypt client on the host system; the validation will fail as the client used is unable to bind to the necessary sockets.

templates:
  - "templates/web.template.yml"
  - "templates/web.ssl.template.yml"
  - "templates/web.letsencrypt.ssl.template.yml"

2. Expose port 443

expose:
  - "80:80"
  - "443:443"

3. Add email account to register with Let’s Encrypt

env:
  LETSENCRYPT_ACCOUNT_EMAIL: 'you@example.com'

4. Rebuild your container

./launcher rebuild <container name>

After that completes, load the site in your browser using https:// – it should “just work!” :tada:

5. Adjust your dependencies for HTTPS

  • Check that all shared resources such as images, logos, third party JavaScript dependencies, etc, are all linked via https:// and not http://

  • Check all your social logins and make sure they are pointing to the https:// and not http:// versions of your site’s authentication URLs.

  • If you are using a CDN, you will need to switch your CDN to use https:// and not http:// to pull resources.

  • If your browser does not show any warnings in its f12 console in the security about insecure assets:

    … you are now ready to force HTTPS by going to

    Admin :arrow_right: site settings :arrow_right: force https

How does it work?

The template uses https://github.com/Neilpang/acme.sh which is

Simplest shell script for LetsEncrypt free Certificate client

Simple and Powerful, you only need 3 minutes to learn.

Pure written in bash, no dependencies to python , acme-tiny or LetsEncrypt official client. Just one script, to issue, renew your certificates automatically.

Probably it’s the smallest&easiest&smartest shell script to automatically issue&renew the free certificates from LetsEncrypt.

web.letsencrypt.ssl.template.yml adds a startup script to your container that

  1. Issues a Let’s Encrypt cert using the standalone mode. It boots a standalone server that listens on port 80 but this happens before nginx is up so port 80 is free.
  2. Installs the cert into the right directory that nginx expects. At the same time, it adds a cron job that runs a daily cert renewal check. This will automatically renew your cert. Nothing happens if cert has not expired. If the certificate does expire, you’ll get an email about it from Let’s Encrypt at the email address you provided during setup.
  3. Switches the script to use the webroot plugin with /var/www/discourse/public as the directory. This will allow us to use nginx as the server that handles domain validation. Zero downtime during cert renewal!

Debugging

Check logs for cert related errors

./launcher logs <container name>

Then look for any errors mentioning letsencrypt or SSL.

Did the cert files get written OK?

ls -l /var/discourse/shared/standalone/ssl on the host server

You should have a certificate .cer and key .key file for your domain, and they should have ~3k filesize.

-rw-r--r-- 1 root root  424 May 18 03:22 dhparams.pem
-rw-r--r-- 1 root root 3823 May 18 04:24 discourse.example.com.cer
-rw-r--r-- 1 root root 3243 May 18 04:24 discourse.example.com.key

Manually reissue the cert

./launcher enter app
sv stop nginx
/usr/sbin/nginx -c /etc/nginx/letsencrypt.conf
LE_WORKING_DIR=/shared/letsencrypt DEBUG=1 /shared/letsencrypt/acme.sh --issue -d example.com -k 4096 -w /var/www/discourse/public
LE_WORKING_DIR=/shared/letsencrypt /shared/letsencrypt/acme.sh --installcert -d example.com --fullchainpath /shared/ssl/example.com.cer --keypath /shared/ssl/example.com.key --reloadcmd "sv reload nginx"
/usr/sbin/nginx -c /etc/nginx/letsencrypt.conf -s stop

Delete the old cert files and try rebuilding again

rm -rf /var/discourse/shared/standalone/ssl
rm -rf /var/discourse/shared/standalone/letsencrypt
./launcher rebuild app

Limitations

Though the Let’s Encrypt certificate is valid and safe for encrypting data, it does not certify that the site is owned by a particular organization. Firefox will complain that the certificate “does not supply ownership information.” This is a limitation of how Let’s Encrypt works. For more information see: Adding Ownership Information? - #8 by tialaramex - Help - Let's Encrypt Community Support.

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I’ve followed all these steps and https is enabled for my site, but I don’t have the option to force https at all. What could be the reason?

… you are now ready to force HTTPS by going to
Admin :arrow_right: site settings :arrow_right: force https

1 Like

It’s now enabled by default. If you installed Discourse after May of 2019 you don’t need to do any of this.

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