When designing a website that will handle sensitive information like users’ private or financial data or sensitive company documents, security has got to be the top priority. Our customers should always feel safe – and actually, be safe – when visiting our site. We’re going to walk through the process of purchasing and then applying SSL certificates on a Linux-based web server.
Why do you need SSL certificates?
Imagine that you are sitting in front of your computer in India and considering placing an order through an e-commerce website hosted in the US. If you decide to complete your transaction, messages containing your personal and credit card information will likely travel across networks in many countries. Without SSL certificates, neither you nor the e-commerce server will have any control over the routes they’ll follow: if your connection is not encrypted, anyone at any point along the route will be able to freely read the contents in plain text.
Once customers figure this out (and that won’t take long), they won’t be back.
Using the Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure (HTTPS) for a browser session guarantees that the website you are accessing has been authenticated by a third party Certification Authority (CA). According to the Internet-Draft of the SSL Protocol, SSL is meant “to provide privacy and reliability between two communicating applications.”
An “authority” for SSL certificates is an entity which issues digital SSL certificates to organizations or people after validating them. Certification authorities have to keep detailed records of what they have issued and the information used to issue it and are audited regularly to make sure that they are following defined procedures. Well-known commercial authorities include GeoTrust and GlobalSign. A new free, automated, and reliable Certification Authority called Let’s Encrypt is just now in the process of getting started. They will definitely be worth a look once they’re fully up and running.
How SSL Works
SSL works through a series of quick messages sent back and forth between your browser and the web server.
- A browser attempts to connect to a web site secured with SSL.
- The browser requests that the web server identify itself.
- The server sends the browser a copy of its SSL Certificate.
- The browser checks whether it trusts the SSL Certificate. If so, it sends a message to the server.
- The server sends back a digitally signed acknowledgment to start an SSL encrypted session.
- Encrypted data is shared between the browser.
Purchase and install an SSL certificate
To purchase and properly apply an SSL certificate, you will need to generate a Certificate Signing Request (CSR) for the web server you plan to secure. The CSR contains your certificate-application information.
First, install Open-SSL on your server. This is done through your Linux package manager. For a Distro using RPM, you can install it with yum:
yum install openssl openssl-devel
Now create a RSA key for your Apache server. We are going to place our key in a new directory in our user’s home folder
mkdir ~/domain.com.ssl/ cd ~/domain.com.ssl/
Type the following command to generate a private key and CSR.
openssl genrsa -out ~/domain.com.ssl/domain.com.key 2048 openssl req -new -key ~/domain.com.ssl/domain.com.key -out ~/domain.com.ssl/domain.com.csr
When creating a CSR you must enter the information to be displayed in the certificate. The following characters are not accepted: <>~ ! @ # $ % ^ * / \ ( ) ?.,&
Country Name (2 letter code) [AU]: US State or Province Name (full name) [Some-State]: California Locality Name (eg, city) : Oakland Organization Name (eg, company) [Internet Widgits Pty Ltd]: MyCompany Ltd Organizational Unit Name (eg, section) : IT Common Name (eg, YOUR name) : mydomain.com Email Address :email@example.com Leave the challenge password blank (press enter)
Now, from the web site of the SSL certificates vendor you choose, select a certificate type. You can choose from:
- Single domain SSL certificates: for a single site only.
- Multiple domain SSL certificates: a single certificate that can be used to protect multiple websites (these obviously cost more than single site certificates).
- Wildcard SSL certificates: to include subdomains.
Finally, apply the certificates on your web server by editing your Apache virtual host configuration (and restarting Apache).
<VirtualHost 192.168.0.1:443> DocumentRoot /var/www/html2 ServerName www.yourdomain.com SSLEngine on SSLCertificateFile /path/to/your_domain_name.crt SSLCertificateKeyFile /path/to/your_private.key SSLCertificateChainFile /path/to/DigiCertCA.crt </VirtualHost>
To learn more about training material on all-things security, visit Cloud Academy Security Library or for more an in-depth training on SSL/TLS best practices, take a look at Best Practices for Deploying SSL/TLS hands-on Lab.
Azure Security: Best Practices You Need to Know
When it comes to Azure Security best practices, where do you begin? In a lot of ways, Azure is very similar to any other data center. But with that said, Azure can also be very different. Securing Azure can pose many unique challenges. The security of resources hosted in Azure is of the...
Cloud Computing Solutions: 7 Trends for the Future
The world of cloud computing is in a state of flux. Not long ago, the cloud was considered an emerging technology, known only to IT specialists. Today it is a part of everyday life – 96% of businesses use the cloud in one form or another, and this number only looks set to grow. Whether ...
AWS Security Groups: Instance Level Security
Instance security requires that you fully understand AWS security groups, along with patching responsibility, key pairs, and various tenancy options. As a precursor to this post, you should have a thorough understanding of the AWS Shared Responsibility Model before moving onto discussi...
7 Key Cybersecurity Threats to Cloud Computing
When businesses consider cloud computing, one of the major advantages often cited is the fact that it can make your business more secure. In fact, in recent years many businesses have chosen to migrate to the cloud specifically for its security benefits. So, it might surprise you to lea...
DevSecOps: How to Secure DevOps Environments
Security has been a friction point when discussing DevOps. This stems from the assumption that DevOps teams move too fast to handle security concerns. This makes sense if Information Security (InfoSec) is separate from the DevOps value stream, or if development velocity exceeds the band...
Top 10 Things Cybersecurity Professionals Need to Know
There has been an increase in data breaches over the recent years. With almost 143 million Americans who have had their data compromised in data breaches. These breaches include all sorts of sensitive data, including financial information, election controversies, social security, just t...
AWS Fundamentals: Understanding Compute, Storage, Database, Networking & Security
If you are just starting out on your journey toward mastering AWS cloud computing, then your first stop should be to understand the AWS fundamentals. This will enable you to get a solid foundation to then expand your knowledge across the entire AWS service catalog. It can be both d...
The Convergence of DevOps
IT has changed over the past 10 years with the adoption of cloud computing, continuous delivery, and significantly better telemetry tools. These technologies have spawned an entirely new container ecosystem, demonstrated the importance of strong security practices, and have been a catal...
How DevOps Increases System Security
The perception of DevOps and its role in the IT industry has changed over the last five years due to research, adoption, and experimentation. Accelerate: The Science of Lean Software and DevOps by Gene Kim, Jez Humble, and Nicole Forsgren makes data-backed predictions about how DevOps p...
New Security & Compliance Service: AWS Security Hub
This morning’s Andy Jassy keynote was followed by the announcement of over 20 new services across a spectrum of AWS categories, including those in Security and Compliance, Database, Machine Learning, and Storage. One service that jumped out to me was the AWS Security Hub, currently...
Interview: Q&A with John Visneski
Security is a top priority for organizations of all types, with research firm IDC projecting 10% spending growth to $91 billion dollars in 2018. For leadership, security is important considering the cost, regulation, and reputation at stake when breaches occur. According to a joint ...
Building Security Teams in a Competitive Talent Market: These Are The Droids You’re Looking for
John Visneski is the Head of Security and DPO at The Pokemon Company International. If you missed the webinar we organized in collaboration with John Visneski you can still watch it on demand, simply click here. The reasoning behind the popularity of this perspective is clear, if no...