Installing SSL Support for an OpenACS service

Debian Users: apt-get install openssl before proceeding.

  1. Make sure is installed for AOLserver.

  2. Uncomment this line from config.tcl.

    #ns_param   nsopenssl       ${bindir}/
  3. Prepare a certificate directory for the service.

    [$OPENACS_SERVICE_NAME etc]$ mkdir /var/lib/aolserver/$OPENACS_SERVICE_NAME/etc/certs
    [$OPENACS_SERVICE_NAME etc]$ chmod 700 /var/lib/aolserver/$OPENACS_SERVICE_NAME/etc/certs
    mkdir /var/lib/aolserver/$OPENACS_SERVICE_NAME/etc/certs
    chmod 700 /var/lib/aolserver/$OPENACS_SERVICE_NAME/etc/certs
  4. It takes two files to support an SSL connection. The certificate is the public half of the key pair - the server sends the certificate to browser requesting ssl. The key is the private half of the key pair. In addition, the certificate must be signed by Certificate Authority or browsers will protest. Each web browser ships with a built-in list of acceptable Certificate Authorities (CAs) and their keys. Only a site certificate signed by a known and approved CA will work smoothly. Any other certificate will cause browsers to produce some messages or block the site. Unfortunately, getting a site certificate signed by a CA costs money. In this section, we'll generate an unsigned certificate which will work in most browsers, albeit with pop-up messages.

    Use an OpenSSL perl script to generate a certificate and key.

    Debian users: use /usr/lib/ssl/misc/ instead of /usr/share/ssl/CA

    macOS users: use perl /System/Library/OpenSSL/misc/ -newcert instead of /usr/share/ssl/CA

    [$OPENACS_SERVICE_NAME certs]$ perl /usr/share/ssl/misc/CA -newcert
    Using configuration from /usr/share/ssl/openssl.cnf
    Generating a 1024 bit RSA private key
    writing new private key to 'newreq.pem'
    Enter PEM pass phrase:

    Enter a pass phrase for the CA certificate. Then, answer the rest of the questions. At the end you should see this:

    Certificate (and private key) is in newreq.pem

    newreq.pem contains our certificate and private key. The key is protected by a passphrase, which means that we'll have to enter the pass phrase each time the server starts. This is impractical and unnecessary, so we create an unprotected version of the key. Security implication: if anyone gets access to the file keyfile.pem, they effectively own the key as much as you do. Mitigation: don't use this key/cert combo for anything besides providing ssl for the web site.

    [root misc]# openssl rsa -in newreq.pem -out keyfile.pem
    read RSA key
    Enter PEM pass phrase:
    writing RSA key

    To create the certificate file, we take the combined file, copy it, and strip out the key.

    [$OPENACS_SERVICE_NAME certs]$ cp newreq.pem certfile.pem
    [root misc]# emacs certfile.pem

    Strip out the section that looks like

    Proc-Type: 4,ENCRYPTED
    DEK-Info: DES-EDE3-CBC,F3EDE7CA1B404997
    (11 lines omitted)
    -----END RSA PRIVATE KEY-----
  5. If you start up using the etc/daemontools/run script, you will need to edit this script to make sure the ports are bound for SSL. Details of this are in the run script.