Securing your application with HTTPS

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In this section you’ll learn how to secure you application with https

If you’d like to take advantage of HTTPS in your Node application, the first step is getting a private key and a certificate. The private key is, essentially, a “secret” needed to decrypt data sent between the server and client. The private key is kept in a file on the server in a place where it can’t be easily accessed by untrusted users. In this section, you’ll generate what’s called a self-signed certificate. These kinds of SSL certificates can’t be used in production websites because browsers will display a warning message when a page is accessed with an untrusted certificate, but it’s useful for development and testing encrypted traffic.

To generate a private key, you’ll need OpenSSL, which will already be installed on your system if you installed Node. To generate a private key, which we’ll call key.pem, open up a command-line prompt and enter the following:

openssl genrsa 1024 > key.pem

In addition to a private key, you’ll need a certificate. Unlike a private key, a certificate can be shared with the world; it contains a public key and information about the certificate holder. The public key is used to encrypt traffic sent from the client to the server.

The private key is used to create the certificate. Enter the following to generate a certificate called key-cert.pem:

openssl req -x509 -new -key key.pem > key-cert.pem

Now that you’ve generated your keys, put them in a safe place. In the HTTPS server in the following listing we reference keys stored in the same directory as our server script, but keys are more often kept elsewhere, typically ~/.ssh. The following code will create a simple HTTPS server using your keys.

var https = require('https');
var fs = require('fs');

var options = {
    key: fs.readFileSync('./key.pem'),
    cert: fs.readFileSync('./key-cert.pem')

https.createServer(options, function (req, res) {
    res.end("hello world\n");

Once the HTTPS server code is running, you can connect to it securely using a web browser. To do so, navigate to https://localhost:3000/ in your web browser. Because the certificate used in our example isn’t backed by a Certificate Authority, a warning will be displayed. You can ignore this warning here, but if you’re deploying a public site, you should always properly register with a Certificate Authority (CA) and get a real, trusted certificate for use with your server.

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