Install SSL certificate on Laravel site - Ubuntu/Apache

SSL certificate may seem to you like unnecessary thing on blogs, tutorial sites, company pages .. well any page that does not involve checkout form or some sensitive data. But, the truth is that they became a standard if you take care about SEO.

Recently Google published in this post that it will start to index HTTPS pages by default, and favor sites which have valid certificates. Translated to plain English, this means, you will lose Google ranks if your site is not served over HTTPS and Google finds some other site in the same niche which uses certificate. After you see how easy it is to implement certificate for your site, you will ask yourself how come you didn't do that earlier.

We will install FREE SSL certificate from Comodo in this tutorial. This certificate is fully functional and verified for 90 days, enough time to validate it. After you set this one up, you can switch it with paid one in matter of seconds. 

SSL certificate types

There are three basic types of certificates: 

  • Domain Validated Certificate - DV
  • Organization Validated Certificate - OV
  • Extended Validation Certificate - EV

DV certificates are ones that are checked against domain registry or issuer of certificate. There is no organization behind this, you can buy it and install on your website without any company paper. OV certificate requires organization authentication by real agents against business registries in countries of origin. In browser user will see green/gray padlock for sites with DV and OV certificates. OV will provide slightly more information about certificate if user clicks on that padlock.

EV certificates are most trusted ones and they include complete validation of company, hence they are the most expensive. When it comes to online transactions and e-commerce they are a standard. In browser user will see green line with company name and country code of the company. 

For more details about certificates you can checkout this  great article from Symantec.

In this tutorial we will install free DV certificate from Comodo and it will cover one domain or one subdomain. It will be valid for both versions: with www and without. Once when you apply for free certificate for one domain/subdomain you will not be able to  apply again with different subdomain, you will need to buy certificate.

Getting Free Certificate

Visit and click through FREE SSL button. There you will find certificate application form. First thing you will notice is that it is asking you for Certificate Signing Request (CSR). That request contains details about domain, administrator and other not required stuff. 

I am using Ubuntu 14.04 LTS and apache in this tutorial. So you will need to visit your server and type following: 

openssl req -new -newkey rsa:2048 -nodes -keyout server-name.key -out server-name.csr

This command will start process of creating two files: the private key file for the decryption of SSL certificate and CSR which is used for applying for new SSL certificate.

When you are asked about Common Name enter fully qualified domain name for site you are securing. If it is subdomain, enter that subdomain. In my case it was: After this fill out other required details and you will get these two files. Enter real e-mail address, cause Comodo will deliver certificate to your Inbox.

Copy content of server-name.csr file into Comodo form.

For other form details I selected Apache-ModSSL and SHA2. Now wait a couple of minutes until you receive files from Comodo.

Installing certificate

Now you need to copy all certificate files into /etc/ssl/ which is like default route for certs, or you can copy them to some different directory. In my case I will use /etc/ssl/tuts/. That folder will contain all files I got from Comodo and .key file I generated on my server.

Configuring Apache virtual host for SSL

Now visit /etc/apache2/sites-available/ where Apache keeps virtual host configurations. There you will find default-ssl.conf file. You can copy that file into new one:

cp default-ssl.conf your-site-secure.conf

There you need to modify a couple of keys. 
<IfModule mod_ssl.c>
	<VirtualHost *:443>
		ServerAdmin [email protected]

		DocumentRoot /var/www/html/

		# Available loglevels: trace8, ..., trace1, debug, info, notice, warn,
		# error, crit, alert, emerg.
		# It is also possible to configure the loglevel for particular
		# modules, e.g.
		#LogLevel info ssl:warn

		ErrorLog ${APACHE_LOG_DIR}/error.log
		CustomLog ${APACHE_LOG_DIR}/access.log combined

		# For most configuration files from conf-available/, which are
		# enabled or disabled at a global level, it is possible to
		# include a line for only one particular virtual host. For example the
		# following line enables the CGI configuration for this host only
		# after it has been globally disabled with "a2disconf".
		#Include conf-available/serve-cgi-bin.conf

		#   SSL Engine Switch:
		#   Enable/Disable SSL for this virtual host.
		SSLEngine on

		#   A self-signed (snakeoil) certificate can be created by installing
		#   the ssl-cert package. See
		#   /usr/share/doc/apache2/README.Debian.gz for more info.
		#   If both key and certificate are stored in the same file, only the
		#   SSLCertificateFile directive is needed.
		SSLCertificateFile	/etc/ssl/certs/example_com.crt
		SSLCertificateKeyFile /etc/ssl/certs/example.key

		#   Server Certificate Chain:
		#   Point SSLCertificateChainFile at a file containing the
		#   concatenation of PEM encoded CA certificates which form the
		#   certificate chain for the server certificate. Alternatively
		#   the referenced file can be the same as SSLCertificateFile
		#   when the CA certificates are directly appended to the server
		#   certificate for convinience.
		SSLCertificateChainFile /etc/ssl/certs/

		#   Certificate Authority (CA):
		#   Set the CA certificate verification path where to find CA
		#   certificates for client authentication or alternatively one
		#   huge file containing all of them (file must be PEM encoded)
		#   Note: Inside SSLCACertificatePath you need hash symlinks
		#		 to point to the certificate files. Use the provided
		#		 Makefile to update the hash symlinks after changes.
		#SSLCACertificatePath /etc/ssl/certs/
		#SSLCACertificateFile /etc/apache2/ssl.crt/ca-bundle.crt

		#   Certificate Revocation Lists (CRL):
		#   Set the CA revocation path where to find CA CRLs for client
		#   authentication or alternatively one huge file containing all
		#   of them (file must be PEM encoded)
		#   Note: Inside SSLCARevocationPath you need hash symlinks
		#		 to point to the certificate files. Use the provided
		#		 Makefile to update the hash symlinks after changes.
		#SSLCARevocationPath /etc/apache2/ssl.crl/
		#SSLCARevocationFile /etc/apache2/ssl.crl/ca-bundle.crl

		#   Client Authentication (Type):
		#   Client certificate verification type and depth.  Types are
		#   none, optional, require and optional_no_ca.  Depth is a
		#   number which specifies how deeply to verify the certificate
		#   issuer chain before deciding the certificate is not valid.
		#SSLVerifyClient require
		#SSLVerifyDepth  10

		#   SSL Engine Options:
		#   Set various options for the SSL engine.
		#   o FakeBasicAuth:
		#	 Translate the client X.509 into a Basic Authorisation.  This means that
		#	 the standard Auth/DBMAuth methods can be used for access control.  The
		#	 user name is the `one line' version of the client's X.509 certificate.
		#	 Note that no password is obtained from the user. Every entry in the user
		#	 file needs this password: `xxj31ZMTZzkVA'.
		#   o ExportCertData:
		#	 This exports two additional environment variables: SSL_CLIENT_CERT and
		#	 SSL_SERVER_CERT. These contain the PEM-encoded certificates of the
		#	 server (always existing) and the client (only existing when client
		#	 authentication is used). This can be used to import the certificates
		#	 into CGI scripts.
		#   o StdEnvVars:
		#	 This exports the standard SSL/TLS related `SSL_*' environment variables.
		#	 Per default this exportation is switched off for performance reasons,
		#	 because the extraction step is an expensive operation and is usually
		#	 useless for serving static content. So one usually enables the
		#	 exportation for CGI and SSI requests only.
		#   o OptRenegotiate:
		#	 This enables optimized SSL connection renegotiation handling when SSL
		#	 directives are used in per-directory context.
		#SSLOptions +FakeBasicAuth +ExportCertData +StrictRequire
		<FilesMatch "\.(cgi|shtml|phtml|php)$">
				SSLOptions +StdEnvVars
		<Directory /usr/lib/cgi-bin>
				SSLOptions +StdEnvVars

		#   SSL Protocol Adjustments:
		#   The safe and default but still SSL/TLS standard compliant shutdown
		#   approach is that mod_ssl sends the close notify alert but doesn't wait for
		#   the close notify alert from client. When you need a different shutdown
		#   approach you can use one of the following variables:
		#   o ssl-unclean-shutdown:
		#	 This forces an unclean shutdown when the connection is closed, i.e. no
		#	 SSL close notify alert is send or allowed to received.  This violates
		#	 the SSL/TLS standard but is needed for some brain-dead browsers. Use
		#	 this when you receive I/O errors because of the standard approach where
		#	 mod_ssl sends the close notify alert.
		#   o ssl-accurate-shutdown:
		#	 This forces an accurate shutdown when the connection is closed, i.e. a
		#	 SSL close notify alert is send and mod_ssl waits for the close notify
		#	 alert of the client. This is 100% SSL/TLS standard compliant, but in
		#	 practice often causes hanging connections with brain-dead browsers. Use
		#	 this only for browsers where you know that their SSL implementation
		#	 works correctly.
		#   Notice: Most problems of broken clients are also related to the HTTP
		#   keep-alive facility, so you usually additionally want to disable
		#   keep-alive for those clients, too. Use variable "nokeepalive" for this.
		#   Similarly, one has to force some clients to use HTTP/1.0 to workaround
		#   their broken HTTP/1.1 implementation. Use variables "downgrade-1.0" and
		#   "force-response-1.0" for this.
		BrowserMatch "MSIE [2-6]" \
				nokeepalive ssl-unclean-shutdown \
				downgrade-1.0 force-response-1.0
		# MSIE 7 and newer should be able to use keepalive
		BrowserMatch "MSIE [17-9]" ssl-unclean-shutdown


Main modifications are related to: ServerAdmin, DocumentRoot, SSLEngine, SSLCertificateFile, SSLCertificateKeyFile and SSLCertificateChainFile. Based on Apache configuration you may need to add ServerName key under ServerAdmin.

Now you should enable ssl mod for apache with:

a2enmod ssl

After this reload web server

service apache2 reload

Now you should enable that new ssl configuration, so from site-available directory do:

a2ensite your-site-secure.conf

And again reload web server.


Testing HTTPS

After all these commands, SSL should be installed. Visit your site with https and test are resources loading normally. For sure you will need to modify many paths for resources/assets so site can load them over https. Make sure that each page loads resources over secure connection, or encryption will be broken, and some browsers will display warning.

Laravel part

In previous versions of Laravel some application based redirects were required, but in new versions you only need to insert 2 lines into .htaccess file.

<IfModule mod_rewrite.c>
    <IfModule mod_negotiation.c>
        Options -MultiViews

    RewriteEngine On

    # Force SSL
    RewriteCond %{HTTPS} off
    RewriteRule (.*) https://%{HTTP_HOST}%{REQUEST_URI} [R=301,L]

    # Redirect Trailing Slashes If Not A Folder...
    RewriteCond %{REQUEST_FILENAME} !-d
    RewriteRule ^(.*)/$ /$1 [L,R=301]

    # Handle Front Controller...
    RewriteCond %{REQUEST_FILENAME} !-d
    RewriteCond %{REQUEST_FILENAME} !-f
    RewriteRule ^ index.php [L]

 Only new part are these 2 lines, which force redirects to https.

Congratulations! Now your site uses SSL certificate.

Closing points

If you are using Google Webmaster Tools you will need to create new property which uses https. 

Also regenerate sitemap so it uses secure version of your site. 

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