Generate a Signed SSL Certificate with Dehydrated

Date: 2018-08-12

Update: 2021-01-18

If your website doesn’t use SSL (HTTPS), then it should! Without SSL, someone on the network can see exactly what a user is doing on the site. For security, a trusted third party has to vouch for your public SSL key so that users know they are talking to your site. This page gives you easy-mode Linux commands to set up SSL with the following steps:

  1. Use the Dehydrated client to:
    1. Prove to the Let’s Encrypt that you own $domain by putting a certain files in http://$domain/.well-known/acme-challenge/.
    2. Generate an SSL certificate.
    3. Get it signed by Let’s Encrypt.
  2. Install the new certificate.

Table of Contents

Initial Setup

Create “Well-Known” Directory

On your webserver, create the directory to host http://$domain/.well-known/acme-challenge/.

ssh $domain
mkdir -p "$public_html/.well-known/acme-challenge"

Did that last command need root privileges? Let’s use sudo to create it and give our non-root user ownership so we don’t have to run dehydrated as root.

sudo mkdir -p "$public_html/.well-known/acme-challenge"
sudo chown $USER:$USER "$public_html/.well-known/acme-challenge"

Now make sure it works:

echo "hello world" > "$public_html/.well-known/acme-challenge/hello.txt"
chmod a+r "$public_html/.well-known/acme-challenge/hello.txt"
curl "$domain/.well-known/acme-challenge/hello.txt"
rm "$public_html/.well-known/acme-challenge/hello.txt"

Did “hello world” print on the terminal? If so, great! If not, please make it work before proceeding.

Get Dehydrated Client

Next grab the Dehydrated client. Ideally you should run this on your server, but it’s not strictly necessary.

cd $HOME/Downloads/
git clone
cd dehydrated

Create Config Files

Next we need 2 config files to tell dehydrated what domain you own (domains.txt) and what “well-known” directory you’ll use to prove it (

echo "$domain www.$domain" > domains.txt
echo "WELLKNOWN=$public_html/.well-known/acme-challenge" >

Recurring Process

You’ll want to regenerate a new certificate every 2 months so it doesn’t expire (after 3 months).

Run Dehydrated

If on your webserver, just run:

git pull  # stay up to date
./dehydrated -c -f

If running from your local machine, make $public_html accessible via sshfs first.

mkdir -p public_html
sshfs $domain:$public_html public_html
echo "WELLKNOWN='$PWD/public_html/.well-known/acme-challenge'" >
git pull  # stay up to date
./dehydrated -c -f
fusermount -u public_html

Install Certificate (lighttpd)

cat "certs/$domain/cert.pem" "certs/$domain/privkey.pem" > mynewcert.pem
sudo install -m 640 -o root -g root mynewcert.pem "/etc/lighttpd/certs/$domain.pem"
rm mynewcert.pem

Install Certificate (CPanel)

I haven’t used CPanel for a while, but my process used to be: Navigate to http://$domain/cpanel, login, click SSL/TLS, click Install and Manage SSL, select the domain, and then copy/paste the cert.pem and privkey.pem files into the Certificate and Private Key fields. The file contents can quickly be copied using the first two xsel commands.

cat "certs/$domain/cert.pem" | xsel -b
cat "certs/$domain/privkey.pem" | xsel -b
echo 'nothing to see here' | xsel -b  # Clear the clipboard selection.

Those xsel commands don’t work on a webserver, but you can just as easily cat via ssh from your local machine:

ssh $domain cat "path/to/dehydrated/certs/$domain/cert.pem" | xsel -b`