Enze "Alex" Liu

Computer Security and Privacy Researcher

Setup a Website with Apache and Letsencrypt on Ubuntu


How to use the Apache web server to install and configure a website

How To Use Certbot Standalone Mode to Retrieve Let’s Encrypt SSL Certificates

Enable a Website with Apache

Installing apache on Ubuntu

sudo apt-get install apache2 -y
sudo systemctl enable apache2

Create HTML files for your website

Make a directory for the source code of website example.com and setup permissions.

sudo mkdir -p /var/www/example-com
sudo chown -R $USER:$USER /var/www/example-com
sudo chmod -R 755 /var/www/example-com

Create the first HTML file for example.com

touch /var/www/example-com/index.html

Create an Apache configuration file for your website

Create an Apache configuration for website example.com.

sudo vim /etc/apache2/sites-available/example-com.conf

Add the following text to example-com.conf.

ServerAdmin admin@example.com # Define the email of the admin
ServerName example.com # The domain
ServerAlias www.example.com # Redirect www.example.com to example.com
DocumentRoot /var/www/example-com/ # Root dir of HTML docs.
ErrorLog ${APACHE_LOG_DIR}/error.log # Where log files are stored. Default ${APACHE_LOG_DIR} is /var/log/apache2
CustomLog ${APACHE_LOG_DIR}/access.log combined 

Enable your site:

sudo a2ensite test.conf

Reload Apache

sudo systemctl reload apache2

Test the syntax of Apache files

apachectl configtest

(Optionally) Get a Cert with LetsEncrypt

Install Letsencrypt Certbot

sudo add-apt-repository ppa:certbot/certbot
sudo apt-get update
sudo ufw allow 80

Get a cert for website example.com.

# You might need to stop apache first, run the following to stop apache
# sudo systemctl stop apache2
sudo certbot certonly --standalone --preferred-challenges http -d example.com
# Restart apache2 with the following command
# sudo systemctl restart apache2

When running the command, you will be prompted to enter an email address and agree to the terms of service. After doing so, you should see a message telling you the process was successful and where your certificates are stored:

 - 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

Check the files are generated properly:

sudo ls /etc/letsencrypt/live/example.com
# Output should be: cert.pem  chain.pem  fullchain.pem  privkey.pem

Add cert data to your website’s configuration file (/etc/apache2/sites-available/example-com.conf):

SSLEngine on
SSLCertificateFile      /etc/letsencrypt/live/example.com/cert.pem
SSLCertificateKeyFile /etc/letsencrypt/live/example.com/privkey.pem
SSLCertificateChainFile /etc/letsencrypt/live/example.com/fullchain.pem

Renew cert for a website:

sudo certbot certonly --force-renew --preferred-challenges http -d example.com

When prompted How would you like to authenticate with the ACME CA?, choose Spin up a temporary webserver (standalone)

Once again, you might have to stop apache2 temporarily.