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Letsencrypt kung-fu

Let’s encrypt CLI client is by far the most shittiest software ever invented, there is probably no doubt about it, but sadly, it’s the only interface that is supported, and unless you want to pay money for SSL certificate you need to live with that.

First of all – yes, their client (without asking or telling you) WILL run sudo and WILL use root and most likely WILL install garbage on your server that you don’t want to have there. If you never used letsencrypt client before, run it on testing VM first, before it desecrates your favorite web server with random garbage you don’t want there.

The letsencrypt client is written for dumb people, and it is based on undocumented black magic that I will try to uncover here a bit. The client basically works with a component called “certbot” which is a software that run on your server and does something to prove that you really own the domains for which you want to generate your SSL certificate. Because letsencrypt staff doesn’t want to bother you with technicalities they created this crap of a software to deal with them for you, in their own way, like it or not. It uses so called ACME (Automatic Certificate Management Environment) protocol to verify that you are owner. This thing is not a rocket science, and in a nutshell all it does is publish some data used to prove your ownership through your webserver, usually located on webroot/.well_known, their counter-party server will try to locate these by accessing your.domain/.well_known and in order to make it possible to verify your domain without modifications to your webserver, all you need to do is to create a central webroot and then make a symlink from all domain webroots to this one (just ln -s /var/www/letsencryptshite/.well_known /var/www/your.uber.tld/.well_known).

Once you do that, always pass these 2 parameters to their “software”:

I also strongly recommend you to maintain a comma separated list of all domains for which you want to get your certificate and store it somewhere like /etc/letsencrypt/domains because you will need to provide this list very often.

Now a little cheat sheet:

Renewing all domains

This can even be in your cron

You may need to restart / reload your web server after doing this, since the certificate will be overwritten, and Apache seems to be caching it somehow.

Adding or remove a domain and regenerate certificate

Modify your /etc/letsencrypt/domains list and run

Common locations:

/etc/letsencrypt – root of this thing’s config

/etc/letsencrypt/live – symlinks to current certificates, that’s where you can find chains for your domains

Example apache config that uses letsencrypt cert