Nginx installation guide

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Revision as of 13:10, 12 August 2018 by Vincent (talk | contribs) (Update gzip mime types)


This guide is written for Debian Stretch. Other Debian based distributions should work as well.

While not mandatory, the guide makes use of the following programs to enhance the security of the installation



$ sudo apt install nginx-light libnginx-mod-http-headers-more-filter


nginx_modsite is a script that allows to activate or deactivate a site simply, without having to handle symlinks manually. In Debian, it is distributed in source form as part of the nginx-doc package. The easiest is to download it directly from the source repository:

$ sudo curl -o /usr/local/sbin/nginx_modsite ""
  % Total    % Received % Xferd  Average Speed   Time    Time     Time  Current
                                 Dload  Upload   Total   Spent    Left  Speed
100  4625  100  4625    0     0  12836      0 --:--:-- --:--:-- --:--:-- 12847
$ sudo chmod +x /usr/local/sbin/nginx_modsite


Replace file /etc/nginx/nginx.conf with:

user www-data;
worker_processes auto;
pid /run/;
include /etc/nginx/modules-enabled/*.conf;

events {
  worker_connections 768;
  # multi_accept on;

http {
  # Basic Settings
  sendfile on;
  tcp_nopush on;
  tcp_nodelay on;
  keepalive_timeout 65;
  types_hash_max_size 2048;

  include /etc/nginx/mime.types;
  default_type application/octet-stream;

  # Logging Settings
  access_log /var/log/nginx/access.log;
  error_log /var/log/nginx/error.log;

  # Virtual Host Configs
  include /etc/nginx/conf.d/*.conf;
  include /etc/nginx/sites-enabled/*;


The conf.d folder stores shared configuration shared between all the sites hosted on your server.

Create the following files:

  • /etc/nginx/conf.d/dns.conf
    # DNS resolver
    # It is required for OCSP Stapling. It might also be used if you use a hostname for upstream servers
    # If you don't have a DNS resolver on your machine you can use google public ones instead
  • /etc/nginx/conf.d/gzip.conf
    gzip on;
    # Insert header "Vary: Accept-Encoding" in responses
    gzip_vary on;
    gzip_comp_level 6;
    gzip_proxied any;
    gzip_min_length 500;
  • /etc/nginx/conf.d/php.conf
    See documentation to install PHP.
  • /etc/nginx/conf.d/server_tokens.conf
    # Hide nginx version
    # This doesn't provides any real security but makes hackers life a bit more difficult
    server_tokens off;
    more_clear_headers Server;
  • /etc/nginx/conf.d/ssl.conf
    ssl_protocols TLSv1.2;
    ssl_prefer_server_ciphers on;
    # Cipher list from
    # If you have a version of openssl < 1.1.0, you need to remove X25519 from the list
    ssl_ecdh_curve X25519:secp256k1:secp384r1;
    # Support OSCP Stapling. Check that resolver from in dns.conf is working
    ssl_stapling on;
    ssl_stapling_verify on;
    ssl_trusted_certificate /etc/ssl/certs/ca-certificates.crt;
    # Support SSL session cache
    ssl_session_timeout 1d;
    ssl_session_cache shared:NginxCache:50m;
    ssl_session_tickets off; #


The snippets folder allows you to store bits of configuration that you can later include in virtual hosts configuration.This saves a lot of typing and errors when creating a new site.

  • /etc/nging/conf.d/acme-challenge.conf
    See Let’s Encrypt
  • /etc/nging/conf.d/hsts.conf
    # Activate HTTP Strict Transport Security
    # max-age value is in seconds. 31536000 is 1 year
    add_header Strict-Transport-Security max-age=31536000 always;
  • /etc/nginx/snippets/security-headers.conf
    # Some safe security headers that can almost be used for any site
    add_header X-XSS-Protection "1; mode=block" always;
    add_header X-Content-Type-Options nosniff always;
    # Prevent access from flash and PDF
    add_header X-Permitted-Cross-Domain-Policies none always;
  • /etc/nginx/snippets/x-frame-options-deny.conf
    # Prevent all usages of the website in an iframe.
    # Warning: This might break the site if it uses iframes for internal
    # functionalities. You might want to use the less strict
    # x-frame-options-sameorigin.conf in that case.
    add_header X-Frame-Options DENY always;
    # Prevent usage of the website in an iframe from other domains.
    # Warning: This might break the site if it uses iframes for internal
    # functionalities. You might want to use the less strict
    # x-frame-options-sameorigin.conf in that case.
    add_header X-Frame-Options SAMEORIGIN always;
  • /etc/nginx/snippets/https-permanent-redirect.conf
    # Reply to the browser with a permanent redirect to the secure version of the page
    # Wrapped in a location block so that other snippets (acme-challenge.conf) can override that.
    location / {
        return 301 https://$host$request_uri;
  • /etc/nginx/snippets/listen-http.conf
    Obviously, you need to replace the example IP addresses by the one of your server. You can get the IP of your server with the commands curl and curl
    listen [2001:db8:3:47d0::2e:7]:80;
    listen [2001:db8:3:47d0::2e:7]:443 ssl http2;
    listen ssl http2;
  • /etc/nginx/snippets/ssl.conf
    ssl on;
    ssl_stapling on;



$ sudo apt install apache2-utils

Create Password File

If the folder doesn't exist, you need to create it using

$ sudo mkdir /etc/nginx/htpasswd
$ sudo chmod 710 /etc/nginx/htpasswd
$ sudo chown root:www-data /etc/nginx/htpasswd

The create the user file

$ sudo touch /etc/nginx/htpasswd/generic.htpasswd

If you want different website to have different users, you can create as many password files as you want.

Add User

$ sudo htpasswd /etc/nginx/htpasswd/generic.htpasswd jdoe
New password: 
Re-type new password: 
Adding password for user jdoe

To update a password user, just run the same command.

Nginx will pick the modified file automatically. There is nothing to restart.


To restrict access to a site or part of it, add the following lines to a server or location config

auth_basic "You shall not pass!";
auth_basic_user_file /etc/nginx/htpasswd/generic.htpasswd;


You need to open TCP ports 80 and 443 in your firewall. Assuming that you configured nftables as described, you can edit file /etc/nftables/main_config.conf and add

# Web
add element  inet main  tcp_port_in { 80, 443 }

and activate it using

$ sudo /etc/nftables/reload_main.conf


The httpoxy security flow is a flow targeting CGI scripts using the Proxy HTTP header. It is possible to mitigate it by filtering out this header in fastcgi and proxy calls in Nginx.

Edit files /etc/nginx/fastcgi.conf and /etc/nginx/fastcgi_params and add these lines

fastcgi_param HTTP_PROXY "";

Also edit file /etc/nginx/proxy_params add add these lines

proxy_set_header Proxy "";

/var/www/ permissions

Setting the setgid bit on the /var/www/ allows to make sure that new files are readable by Nginx.

$ sudo chmod 2750 /var/www/
$ sudo chown root:www-data /var/www/

This also revoke the default read permission to user outside the www-data group. They don't need it and some data might not be public here.

New Site

This section shows how to create a new website in your Nginx server. Instructions here a very generic and will need to be adapted for your specific case.

In the following sections, we are showing the conf for a site called You need to replace all occurrences of by the name of the site you want to create.

  1. Create the config file /etc/nginx/sites-available/
    server {
        include snippets/listen-http.conf;
        access_log /var/log/nginx/;
        error_log /var/log/nginx/ info;
        include snippets/acme-challenge.conf;
        include snippets/https-permanent-redirect.conf;
    server {
        include snippets/listen-https.conf;
        access_log /var/log/nginx/;
        error_log /var/log/nginx/ info;
        include snippets/acme-challenge.conf;
        #include snippets/ssl.conf;
        #ssl_certificate      /etc/letsencrypt/live/;
        #ssl_certificate_key  /etc/letsencrypt/live/;
        #include snippets/hsts.conf;
        include snippets/security-headers.conf;
        include snippets/x-frame-options-deny.conf;
        root /var/www/;
  2. Activate the configuration with
    $ sudo nginx_modsite -e
    Would you like to reload the Nginx configuration now? (Y/n) Y
  3. Edit file /usr/local/etc/certmanage/main.json and add the following to the list
        "domains": [""],
        "reload": [["/bin/systemctl", "reload", "nginx.service"]]
  4. Get your certificate
    $ sudo /usr/local/sbin/certmanage
    Renewing certificate for that will expire on 0001-01-01
    Saving debug log to /var/log/letsencrypt/letsencrypt.log
    Starting new HTTPS connection (1):
    Obtaining a new certificate
    Performing the following challenges:
    http-01 challenge for
    Using the webroot path /var/www/acme-challenge for all unmatched domains.
    Waiting for verification...
    Cleaning up challenges
    Generating key (2048 bits): /etc/letsencrypt/keys/1764_key-certbot.pem
    Creating CSR: /etc/letsencrypt/csr/1764_csr-certbot.pem
     - Congratulations! Your certificate and chain have been saved at
       /etc/letsencrypt/live/ Your cert
       will expire on 2022-10-05. To obtain a new or tweaked version of
       this certificate in the future, simply run certbot again. To
       non-interactively renew *all* of your certificates, run "certbot
     - If you like Certbot, please consider supporting our work by:
       Donating to ISRG / Let's Encrypt:
       Donating to EFF:          
    Restarting services:
    systemctl reload nginx.service
  5. Uncomment the ssl related lines in /etc/nginx/sites-available/ and run
    $ sudo systemctl reload nginx.service


Webservers are usually a good target for hackers. A lot of them contain outdated, insecure and misconfigured software and if your server run languages like PHP, the attacker would be able to execute pretty much any action once he cracked your server.

Warning: The rules described here protect against generic attacks on your webserver. If you install some specific software that has it's own authentication (owncoud, roundcube...) you need to create rules for it.


First rule is pretty simple simple. It protect against http authentication (the ugly popups asking your password before you enter the site).

Create file /etc/fail2ban/jail.d/nginx-http-auth.conf

enabled = true
port    = http,https
logpath = /var/log/nginx/*error.log


This rule match 404 errors when bots try to find unsecure software on your server. While it should generally work fine, you should check ban report to make sure you don't lock out legitimate users.

Create file /etc/fail2ban/jail.d/nginx-botsearch.conf

enabled  = true
port     = http,https
logpath  = /var/log/nginx/*error.log
maxretry = 2