Let's Encrypt - ACME on AppEngine

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Let's Encrypt - ACME on AppEngine

What is this?

This is a bit of process that I use to get TLS keys to use on AppEngine using Let’s Encrypt.

Update

I have a streamlined process described below, removing dependencies on Node and Javascript, and reducing the amount of user-input needed, as described in my next post.

Why’s it matter?

There are a number of quirks in Let’s Encrypt and TLS on AppEngine that make it more difficult to automate the process. This helps ease the problem, as best we can at the moment.

Let’s get started!

First of all, the limitations. In the usual course one would run Let’s Encrypt on the web-server where the certificate will be used. This is not (yet) an option for AppEngine.

The relevant Google Code issue for AppEngine is #12535.

In the mean time, we can use the

1
--manual
process for validating a server.

The
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--manual
Validation process

Running

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letsencrypt certonly --manual ...
produces a response to a challenge that Let’s Encrypt will perform of the web-server to verify that we, the ones requesting a signed TLS certificate, indeed own the server.

The

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letsencrypt
command above will print something like:

Make sure your web server displays the following content at http://www.example.com/.well-known/acme-challenge/KmgmF6qZl6XCHmQMRyb4Uge-lP1-jvFF-C4LhKfxmXk before continuing:

KmqMF6qZl6XCHmQMRyb4Uge-rP1-jvFF-C4LhKfxmXk.7YEye9w3fzcAYQGTbPSwhDyqBumUaUCNDouAgx4Diu0

Press ENTER to continue

So the challenge we have to meet to get our signed certificate is to serve the above file and content on our Google App Engine.

Serving the Challenge-Response

To separate out the ACME part of our service from the rest, one can use App Engine’s modules.

By using modules we speed up the deploy process, circumvent any continuous integration, and minimize any exposure across the system.

To set up a module, one needs a

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dispatch.yaml
, something like this:

Then one needs a

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module.yaml
, something like this:

The directory setup looks like this:

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2
3
4
dispatch.yaml
acme/
acme/module.yaml
acme/challenges/

To set up the module and dispatch one must run, once,

$

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appcfg.py update module.yaml -A appengine-example-project

$

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appcfg.py update_dispatch dispatch.yaml -A appengine-example-project

Getting a new key

So to mostly-automate the process I have created a couple

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gulp
tasks, as seen in the next code snippet.

On reflection, I realized I am taking for granted familiarity with Gulp. In short, it is a task runner built on javascript/node. To get that up and running you’ll need node, a

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package.json
and a
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gulpfile.js
, but that’s beyond the scope of this article. Nonetheless I hope the following proves interesting and sufficiently illustrative of the intended task to be helpful if you are following a similar path.

After making the appropriate changes to the config (which in this task is exposed as a global), one can obtain a signed key by following these steps:

  1. Run
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    gulp acme:gen -t stage
    
    .
  2. Wait for the challenge (i.e. the “
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    Press Enter to continue
    
  3. Run (in another shell)
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    gulp acme:cr -t stage
    
  4. Enter the file-name and challenge and wait for deployment
  5. Press
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    Enter
    
    in the
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    gen
    
    terminal; the certificate and private key ought to be printed to the terminal
  6. Copy the certificate and private key into the corresponding fields of a new key in App Engine’s Cloud Console.

Summary

I hope the above helps shed some light on what might be a somewhat daunting process.

Obviously it’ll be better when AppEngine and Let’s Encrypt talk directly. That requires some engineering on Google’s side, and while the issue #12535 has been accepted, there’s no indication of a timeline.

In the interim, the above is a not–too–onerous process for the 90 days renewal that ACME requires.