How to setup HTTP Strict Transport Security With Lighttpd Web Server

HTTP Strict Transport Security (HSTS) is a security feature that lets your web site tell client browsers that it should only be communicated with using HTTPS only. How can I setup HSTS using lighttpd web server on Linux or Unix-like system?

You need to use the setenv module (mod_setenv) for lighttpd. It allows influencing the environment external applications are spawned in and the response headers the server sends to the clients. You must configure ssl certificates for lighttpd before setting up HSTS headers.

Configuring HTTP Strict Transport Security for lighttpd

You need to edit lighttpd.conf file located in /etc/ directory:
$ sudo vi /etc/lighttpd/lighttpd.conf
For FreeBSD unix, enter:
$ sudo vi /usr/local/etc/lighttpd/lighttpd.conf
Add mod_setenv module:

server.modules += ( "mod_setenv" )

Syntax for HSTS

setenv.add-response-header = ( "Strict-Transport-Security" => "max-age=SECONDS"  )


Set Strict-Transport-Securit header i.e. push HSTS policy by sending the following HTTP response header from secure (HTTPS) websites:

# Set HSTS for six months including all subdomains
setenv.add-response-header = ( "Strict-Transport-Security" => "max-age=15768000; includeSubdomains"  )

The time is set six months (15768000 is in seconds). If you have multiple setenv.add-response-header, use the following syntax (note +=):

## Setting up two headers ###
setenv.add-response-header = ( "X-Whom" => "lighttpd-aws-us-east" )
setenv.add-response-header += ( "Strict-Transport-Security" => "max-age=15768000; includeSubdomains"  )

Save and close the file. Restart the lighttpd web-server as follows:
$ sudo systemctl restart lighttpd
$ sudo service lighttpd restart
$ sudo /usr/local/etc/rc.d/lighttpd restart

Verify HSTS working

Type the following curl command to see HTTP headers:
$ curl -I https://your-domain-name-here/
$ curl -I

Sample outputs:

Fig.01: Verify HTTP Strict Transport Security (HSTS) header with curl command


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