last modified: 2018-02-04


  • I use Debian, version 8.7 (why?)

  • Vi is used as a text editor in the following

Why nginx?

When I was introduced to nginx a long time ago, it was as a convenient replacement for Apache Web Server: lighter, faster.

Indeed, nginx can help you direct the traffic received by your domain to the html / php / js files or Java apps sitting on your server.

But it can do more than being a web server. Nginx is a "reverse proxy", quite a barbaric term. I’d describe it as a tool doing useful stuff between your firewall and your web app. For security, it helps you with:

  • dealing with SSL certificates

  • help you mitigate DDOS attacks, and generally, controlling traffic in an easier way than using iptables

  • hide the server from view

So I suppose you could do much of what nginx does via iptable and whatever app server you use, but concentring stuff in nginx makes it easier.

why nginx + glassfish + ssl?

Why a tutorial specifically on nginx used for a glassfish app with ssl certificates?

  • this is my personal use case

  • there are no tutorials on it, though this file on github does 99% of the job (and we’ll use it here).

So, this tutorial assumes you have created certificates with letsencrypt’s certbot, as explained in a previous tutorial.

Let’s start:

installing nginx

sudo apt-get update && sudo apt-get upgrade
sudo apt-get install nginx
sudo vi /etc/nginx/conf.d/

(note: the ".conf" extension is necessary for the file to be loaded in nginx)

Paste the content of this file in

Explanations on the lines of this file:

upstream glassfish_server {
        server fail_timeout=0;

This tells on which port the glassfish server can be reached. Remember that the default port 8080 can be changed to a more random port. See the glassfish installation guide in the same series of tutorials.

    server {
           listen         80;
           return         301 https://$server_name$request_uri;(1)
1 This means you can still be contacted through http, it will simply be redirected to https. Nice!
 ssl_certificate /var/certs/server.crt;
 ssl_certificate_key /var/certs/server.key;

For a ssl certificate created with letsencrypt, these lines should be changed for:

  • ssl_certificate /etc/letsencrypt/live/;

  • ssl_certificate_key /etc/letsencrypt/live/;

That’s it. Restart nginx to load your config:

sudo /etc/init.d/nginx restart

Make sure the port 443 is open in your firewall.

Test your domain can be reached with SSL, with https and a nice green OK in the url bar:

(don’t write, it’s silly but it blocked me a long time…​)

the end

Author of this tutorial: Clement Levallois

All resources on linux security: