Getting a SSL certificate from Let’s Encrypt

Using Certbot from the CLI.

Installing certbot

$ sudo apt-get install software-properties-common
$ sudo add-apt-repository ppa:certbot/certbot
$ sudo apt-get update
$ sudo apt-get install certbot

Obtaining a certificate

Starting certbot is next:

certbot certonly --webroot -w /var/www/ -d

The website tells me, that my server architecture (Ubuntu 17.04) does not provide automated installation. It worked after some configuration changes for nginx (the challenge is written into a hidden directory within the webroot) in /etc/nginx/global/common.conf:

location ^~ /.well-known/acme-challenge/ {
    default_type "text/plain";
    root /var/www/;

location = /.well-known/acme-challenge/ {
    return 404;

It was a good idea to create a simple textfile within this directory and trying to access it via the browser.

Configuring ngnix to use the certificate

file /etc/nginx/snippets/

ssl_certificate /etc/letsencrypt/live/;
ssl_certificate_key /etc/letsencrypt/live/;
openssl dhparam -out /etc/ssl/certs/dhparam.pem 2048

File /etc/nginx/snippets/ssl-params.conf:

# from
# and

ssl_protocols TLSv1 TLSv1.1 TLSv1.2;
ssl_prefer_server_ciphers on;
ssl_ecdh_curve secp384r1;
ssl_session_cache shared:SSL:10m;
ssl_session_tickets off;
ssl_stapling on;
ssl_stapling_verify on;
resolver valid=300s;
resolver_timeout 5s;
# disable HSTS header for now
#add_header Strict-Transport-Security "max-age=63072000; includeSubDomains; preload";
add_header X-Frame-Options DENY;
add_header X-Content-Type-Options nosniff;

ssl_dhparam /etc/ssl/certs/dhparam.pem;


My very own mail server (exim4)

Installing (apt-get install exim4) and configuring (dpkg-reconfigure exim4-config) the server. I decided not to split the configuration into multiple files within the /etc/exim4/conf.d directory, so the single config file /etc/exim4/exim4.conf.template is used instead! The default configuration seems to listen on port 25 only. Adding the lines

daemon_smtp_ports = 25 : 465 : 587
tls_on_connect_ports = 465

enables the TCP ports 465 and 587 as well, some mail programs need it this way.

In a subsequent step, the mail server is configured for TLS. A self signed certificate is generated by executing /usr/share/doc/exim4-base/examples/exim-gencert. MAIN_TLS_ENABLE = yes in the TLS section of /etc/exim4/exim4.conf.template enables it. In the same file, the sections with plain_saslauthd_server and login_saslauthd_server need to be uncommented.

Allowed email users are added to exim4 using /usr/share/doc/exim4-base/examples/exim-adduser. The password file /etc/exmin4/passwd should be protected: chown root:Debian-exim /etc/exim4/passwdfollowed by chmod 640 /etc/exim4/passwd. For each of these users a home directory is needed to deliver the mail (calling adduser <name> on Ubuntu).

Configuring SASL by installing it (apt-get install sasl2-bin) and editing START=yes in /etc/default/saslauthd. Finally, exim4 needs to be a member in the sail group: adduser Debian-exim sasl. The server needs a restart: systemctl restart saslauthd.

At the end, updating (update-exim4.conf) and restarting (systemctl restart exim4) might be a good idea. The update converts the config template and auto-generates the configuration to /var/lib/exim4/config.autogenerated where it is read by exim4 itself.

For exim4 to work, the firewall should open TCP ports 25 and 587 (SSL).

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