Make your Dreamhost site HTTPS-only

Encrypt all the traffic!

Some of the archival Ada Initiative web content is hosted on Dreamhost, and today I re-enabled HTTPS for it now that Let’s Encrypt certificates are available both on Dreamhost and

Here’s how to enable, and insist on, HTTPS connections to sites hosted on Dreamhost:

  1. Log into the panel
  2. Go to Secure Hosting
  3. Click ‘Add Secure Hosting’
  4. Select the domain you want from the dropdown, check the box next to ‘By checking this option you agree to the Let’s Encrypt Terms of Service.’, leave ‘Unique IP’ unchecked, and press ‘Add now’.
  5. Important: wait for an email from Dreamhost telling you the certificate is ready. This seems to take about fifteen minutes or so. The email contains a copy of the certificate but you don’t need to do anything with it, they configure the webserver automatically at about the same time as they send the email.
  6. Once you have received the email, check that your site is available at https://YOUR-URL and that your browswer does not report errors. (If it does, wait around 15 minutes, try again, and if you’re still seeing errors, screenshot them and contact Dreamhost support.)

Now that HTTPS is working on your site, you can then force all HTTP requests to redirect to HTTPS by placing this in the ~/YOUR-URL/.htaccess file:

<IfModule mod_rewrite.c>
# Redirect all insecure requests
RewriteCond %{HTTPS} !=on
RewriteRule ^/?(.*) https://%{SERVER_NAME}/$1 [R=301,L]

# tell web browsers not to even try HTTP on this domain for the next year
# uncomment this only after you've confirmed your site is working on HTTPS, since it commits you to providing it over HTTPS
# Header set Strict-Transport-Security "max-age=31536000" env=HTTPS

Check that visiting http://YOUR-URL now redirects to https://YOUR-URL, and the same should be true of pages underneath http://YOUR-URL.

Feature request for Dreamhost: make a “force HTTPS” option in your standard config.

For more information on Strict-Transport-Security see HTTP Strict Transport Security for Apache, NGINX and Lighttpd and Stack Overflow: How to set HSTS header from .htaccess only on HTTPS.

Bonus round: update absolute links

If your site is a bunch of static HTML files, and you have done a lot of absolute linking to your own webpages, here’s a possible command you could run, replacing with your own domain. I don’t recommend running it unless you know the UNIX command line, and you have a fairly good idea of what find and sed both do:
cp -a ~/$DOMAIN ~/$DOMAIN-backup-before-https-edit
cd ~/$DOMAIN
find -type f -name "*.html" -exec sed -i "s/http:\/\/$DOMAIN/https:\/\/$DOMAIN/g" {} \;

Creative Commons License
Make your Dreamhost site HTTPS-only by Mary Gardiner is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.