Using Letsencrypt


update: Because of API change, the command line now should have additional ‘-f account_key.json’.

The full example command is:

$simp_le -d -f key.pem -f cert.pem -f fullchain.pem -f account_key.json

Let’s Encrypt entered public beta 2 days ago. It also happened that I have a SSL certificate that just expired a few days ago. I took this opportunity to try out LetsEncrypt.

Let’s Encrypt basically use ACME protocol to validate you own(and have control of) the domain, then issue you SSL certificate.

I used simp_le instead of official LetsEncrypt client since it’s simpler to use and it’s written by one of official client developers.

I will use as an example for the domain name.

The client must be able to write files to the directory that can be publicly accessed from the address:

For static site, there’s no problem as the client just writes files to ‘document root’/.well-known/acme-challenge. But for dynamic site like ones I have, my ‘document root’ is not fixed.

I have one site that use Nginx as reverse proxy, it pass all web requests to a backend server except those that request ‘/static/’. In this case for simp_le to write files that can be accessed from ‘/.well-known/acme-challenge/’, I have to either add an exception to Nginx or handle requests to ‘/.well-known/acme-challenge’ from backend server.

To add an exception to handle ‘/.well-known/acme-challenge’, add this before the ‘location /’ line in nginx server config:

location /.well-known/ {
    root   /var/www/;

Then use ‘/var/www/’as path during simp_le client invocation.

$simp_le -d -f key.pem -f cert.pem -f fullchain.pem

For backend server handling, it depends on the type of server but basically just add a handler for URL: ‘/.well-known/acme-challenge/*’ that return static files. I use Tornado as an example:

In urls section. add a handler:

(r'/.well-known/acme-challenge/(.*)', tornado.web.StaticFileHandler, {'path': '/var/www/sites/example_com/server/.well-known/acme-challenge/'}),

Then use ‘/var/www/sites/example_com/server’ as path during simp_le client invocation.

$simp_le -d -f key.pem -f cert.pem -f fullchain.pem

If there’s no error, you should get 3 files: key.pem, cert.pem, and fullchain.pem. Put them in a certain location, for example: ‘/var/www/’, then configure Nginx to use them:

ssl on;
ssl_certificate /var/www/;
ssl_certificate_key /var/www/;
ssl_stapling on;
ssl_stapling_verify on;
ssl_trusted_certificate /var/www/;

I use Haproxy in front of Nginx, for Haproxy, do a:

cat cert.pem fullchain.pem. key.pem >

Then put in the Haproxy’s certificate directory.

I got a few sites that use letsencrypt ssl certificates now. Since this is so easy and cost no money, I will use letscrypt for all my sites (after the current ssl certificates expire).