How to Install Let’s Encrypt SSL Certificate with Apache on Ubuntu

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This tutorial covers installing SSL certificate from scratch on an Apache server running on Ubuntu.

Published in: Linux

This step-by-step tutorial will show you how to install Let’s Encrypt SSL certificate for an Apache server running on Ubuntu 18.04. I’ve created a droplet on DigitalOcean for this example but the steps should be similar AWS and other environments.

Install Apache 2

Login to your droplet with root (or use sudo with all the following commands).

Check if any Ubuntu packages are outdated.

apt update

Upgrade the outdated packages to the latest version.

apt upgrade

Install Apache2

apt install apache2

Start the Apache Server

systemctl start apache2

Check if the Apache server is running

systemctl status apache2

Enable the mod_rewrite package for Apache

sudo a2enmod rewrite

Restart Apache

systemctl restart apache2

Install PHP

Install PHP and restart the Apache server.

apt install php libapache2-mod-php
systemctl restart apache2
php —version

Install the CURL package

Install Curl and restart Apache server

apt install curl
apt install php7.2-curl
systemctl restart apache2

Install Let’s Encrypt on Apache

Install the certbot client that will help us automatically manage (install, renew or revoke) the SSL certificates on the Apache server.

Install Certbot

Install the certbot client and the plugin.

sudo apt update
sudo apt-get install software-properties-common
sudo add-apt-repository universe
sudo add-apt-repository ppa:certbot/certbot
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install certbot python-certbot-apache

Install Certbot DNS Plugin

Install the certbot DNS plugin for DigitalOcean. This will automatically add the _acme-challenge TXT DNS records to your domain that are required for authentication. The records are also removed after the certificates are installed.

sudo apt-get install python3-certbot-dns-digitalocean

This will only work if you are using the DigitalOcean Name Servers with your domain.

Create DigitalOcean Credentials File

Go to your DigitalOcean account’s dashboard, choose API and choose “Generate New Token”. Copy the token to your clipboard. Inside the terminal, create a new directory ~/.ssh and create a new file to save the credentials.

vi ~/.ssh/digitalocean.ini

Paste the following line in the credentials file. Replace 1234 with your actual token value.

dns_digitalocean_token = 1234

Save the file and then run chmod to restrict access to the file.

chmod 600 ~/.ssh/digitalocean.ini

Install SSL Certificates

Replace labnol.org with your domain name. This command will install the wildcard SSL certificate for all subdomains and the main domain.

certbot certonly --dns-digitalocean
    --dns-digitalocean-credentials ~/.ssh/digitalocean.ini
    --dns-digitalocean-propagation-seconds 60
    -d "*.labnol.org" -d labnol.org

If the certificate is successfully installed, it will add the certificate and chain in the following directory

/etc/letsencrypt/live/labnol.org/

Test the SSL Certificate

Go to ssllabs.com to test if your new SSL certificate is correctly installed on your domain.

Configure Apache to Use SSL Certificate

Now that the SSL Certificate is installed, we need to enable SSL for the Apache server on Ubuntu.

Enable the SSL module for Apache

OpenSSL is installed with Ubuntu but it is disabled by default. Enable the SSL module and restart Apache to apply the changes.

sudo a2enmod ssl
sudo service apache2 restart

Update Apache Configuration File

Open the default virtual host configuration file /etc/apache2/sites-enabled/000-default.confand paste the following lines. Replace labnol with your own domain name.

<VirtualHost *:80>
	RewriteEngine On
	RewriteRule ^(.*)$ https://%{HTTP_HOST}$1 [R=301,L]
</VirtualHost>
<VirtualHost _default_:443>
	ServerAdmin amit@labnol.org
	ServerName labnol.org
	DocumentRoot /var/www/html

	ErrorLog ${APACHE_LOG_DIR}/error.log
	CustomLog ${APACHE_LOG_DIR}/access.log combined

	SSLEngine on
	SSLCertificateFile /etc/letsencrypt/live/labnol.org/fullchain.pem
	SSLCertificateKeyFile /etc/letsencrypt/live/labnol.org/privkey.pem
</VirtualHost>

Save the file and restart Apache. The SSLCertificateFile and SSLCertificateKeyFile files were saved by certbot in the /etc/letsencrypt/live directory.

Adjust the Firewall

In some cases, you may have to enable Apache on SSL port 443 manually with the following command.

sudo ufw allow "Apache Secure"

Restart Apache. All your HTTP traffic will automatically redirect to the HTTPS version with a 301 permanent redirect.

sudo service apache2 restart

Verify Auto Renewal Process

Your Let’s Encrypt SSL certificate will auto-expire every 90 days. Go to the /etc/cron.d/ folder and you should see a certbot file. This cron job will automatically renew your SSL certificate if the expiration is within 30 days.

You can also run the following command to verify if the renewal process is correctly setup.

sudo certbot renew --dry-run

Good luck!

Published in: Linux

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Amit Agarwal

Amit Agarwal is a Google Developer Expert in GSuite and Google Apps Script. He holds an engineering degree in Computer Science (I.I.T.) and is the first professional blogger in India. Read more on Lifehacker and YourStory

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