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Nginx Admin's Handbook

My notes on NGINX administration basics, tips & tricks, caveats, and gotchas.

Meme


Hi-diddle-diddle, he played on his
fiddle and danced with lady pigs.
Number three said, "Nicks on tricks!
I'll build my house with EN-jin-EKS!".
The Three Little Pigs: Who's Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf?


Pull Requests MIT License

Created by trimstray and contributors


Table of Contents

Other chapters

Introduction



Before you start playing with NGINX please read an official Beginner’s Guide. It's a great introduction for everyone.

Nginx (/ˌɛndʒɪnˈɛks/ EN-jin-EKS, stylized as NGINX or nginx) is an open source HTTP and reverse proxy server, a mail proxy server, and a generic TCP/UDP proxy server. It is originally written by Igor Sysoev. For a long time, it has been running on many heavily loaded Russian sites including Yandex, Mail.Ru, VK, and Rambler. At this moment some high-profile companies using NGINX include Cisco, DuckDuckGo, Facebook, GitLab, Google, Twitter, Apple, Intel, and many more. In the April 2019 it was the most commonly used HTTP server (see Netcraft survey).

NGINX is a fast, light-weight and powerful web server that can also be used as a:

  • fast HTTP reverse proxy
  • reliable load balancer
  • high performance caching server
  • full-fledged web platform

Generally, it provides the core of complete web stacks and is designed to help build scalable web applications. When it comes to performance, NGINX can easily handle a huge amount of traffic. The other main advantage of the NGINX is that allows you to do the same thing in different ways.

Unlike traditional servers, NGINX doesn't rely on threads to handle requests and it was written with a different architecture in mind - one which is much more suitable for nonlinear scalability in both the number of simultaneous connections and requests per second.

NGINX is also known as a Apache Killer (mainly because of its lightness and much less RAM consumption). It is event-based, so it does not follow Apache's style of spawning new processes or threads for each web page request. Generally, it was created to solve the C10K problem.

For me, it is a one of the best and most important service that I used in my SysAdmin career.


These essential documents should be the main source of knowledge for you:

In addition, I would like to recommend three great docs focuses on the concept of the HTTP protocol:

If you love security keep your eye on this one: Cryptology ePrint Archive. It provides access to recent research in cryptology and explores many subjects of security (e.g. Ciphers, Algorithms, SSL/TLS protocols). I also recommend to read Bulletproof SSL and TLS. Yep, it's definitely the most comprehensive book about deploying TLS for me.

An obligatory source of knowledge is also the OWASP Cheat Sheet Series. You should ought treat it as an excellent security guidance. And, finally, Burp Scanner - Issue Definitions introduces you to the web apps and security vulnerabilities. It's a great listing contains the definitions of all issues that can be detected by this tool and a really good source to start with.

Prologue

When I was studying architecture of HTTP servers I became interested in NGINX. As I was going through research, I kept notes. I found a lot of information about it but I've never found one guide that covers the most important things in a suitable form. I was a little disappointed.

I was interested in everything: NGINX internals, functions, security best practices, performance optimisations, tips & tricks, hacks and rules, but for me some of the documents treated the subject lightly.

Of course, NGINX Official Documentation is the best place but I know that we also have other great resources:

These are definitely the best assets for us and in the first place you should seek help there. Moreover, in order to improve your knowledge please see Books chapter. It contains top literature on NGINX.

Why I created this handbook

For me, however, there hasn't been a truly in-depth and reasonably simple cheatsheet which describe a variety of configurations and important cross-cutting topics for HTTP servers. I think, the configuration you provided should work without any talisman. That's why I created this repository.

This handbook is a set of rules and recommendations for the NGINX HTTP server. It also contains the best practices, helpers, notes and papers. Many of them refer to external resources.

There are a lot of things you can do to improve NGINX server and this guide will attempt to cover as many of them as possible.

With this handbook you will explore the many features and capabilities of the NGINX. You'll find out, for example, how to testing the performance or how to resolve debugging problems. You will learn configuration guidelines, security design patterns, ways to handle common issues and how to stay out of them. I explained here a few best tips to avoid pitfalls and configuration mistakes.

I added set of guidelines and examples has also been produced to help you administer of the NGINX. They give us insight into NGINX internals also.

Mostly, I apply the rules presented here on the NGINX working as a reverse proxy. However, does not to prevent them being implemented for NGINX as a standalone server.

Who this handbook is for

If you do not have the time to read hundreds of articles (just like me) this multipurpose handbook may be useful. I created it in the hope that it will be useful especially for System Administrators and Experts of Web-based applications.

This handbook does not get into all aspects of NGINX. What's more, some of the things described in this guide may be rather basic because most of us do not configure NGINX every day and it is easy to forget about basic/trivial things. On the other hand that also discusses heavyweight topics for advanced users so there is something for everyone.

I did my best to make this handbook a single and consistent. It's organized in an order that makes logical sense to me. I think it can also be a good complement to official documentation. Of course, I still have a lot to improve and to do. I hope you enjoy and have fun with it.

Before you start

Remember about the following most important things:

Do not follow guides just to get 100% of something. Think about what you actually do at your server!

Blindly deploying of the rules described here can damage your web application!

Copy-and-paste is not the best way to learn. Think twice before adopting rules from this handbook.

These guidelines provides (in some places) recommendations for very restrictive setup.

There are no settings that are perfect for everyone.

Always think about what is better and more important for you: security or compatibility.

The only correct approach is to understand your exposure, measure and tune.


Contributing & Support

A real community, however, exists only when its members interact in a meaningful way that deepens their understanding of each other and leads to learning.

If you find something which doesn't make sense, or something doesn't seem right, please make a pull request and please add valid and well-reasoned explanations about your changes or comments.

Before adding a pull request, please see the contributing guidelines.

If this project is useful and important for you, you can bring positive energy by giving some good words or supporting this project. Thank you!

What needs to be done? Look at the following ToDo list:

New chapters:

  • Bonus Stuff
  • HTTP Basics
  • SSL/TLS Basics
  • Reverse Proxy
  • Caching
  • Core modules
  • 3rd party modules
  • Web Application Firewall
  • ModSecurity
  • Debugging

Existing chapters:

Introduction
  • Prologue
  • Why I created this handbook
  • Who this handbook is for
  • Before you start
  • Contributing & Support
  • _RSS Feed & Updates
  • Checklist to rule them all
Bonus Stuff
  • Fully automatic installation
  • Static error pages generator
Books
  • ModSecurity 3.0 and NGINX: Quick Start Guide
  • Cisco ACE to NGINX: Migration Guide
External Resources
  • Nginx official
    • Nginx Forum
    • Nginx Mailing List
    • NGINX-Demos
  • Presentations & Videos
    • NGINX: Basics and Best Practices
    • NGINX Installation and Tuning
    • Nginx Internals (by Joshua Zhu)
    • Nginx internals (by Liqiang Xu)
    • How to secure your web applications with NGINX
    • Tuning TCP and NGINX on EC2
    • Extending functionality in nginx, with modules!
    • Nginx - Tips and Tricks.
    • Nginx Scripting - Extending Nginx Functionalities with Lua
    • How to handle over 1,200,000 HTTPS Reqs/Min
    • Using ngx_lua / lua-nginx-module in pixiv
  • Cheatsheets & References
    • Nginx configurations for most popular CMS/CMF/Frameworks based on PHP
  • Performance & Hardening
    • Memorable site for testing clients against bad SSL configs
  • Config parsers
    • Quick and reliable way to convert NGINX configurations into JSON and back
    • Parses nginx configuration with Pyparsing
  • Config managers
    • Ansible role to install and manage nginx configuration
    • Ansible Role - Nginx
    • Ansible role for NGINX
    • Puppet Module to manage NGINX on various UNIXes
  • Static analyzers
    • nginx-minify-conf
  • Comparison reviews
    • NGINX vs. Apache (Pro/Con Review, Uses, & Hosting for Each)
    • Web cache server performance benchmark: nuster vs nginx vs varnish vs squid
  • Builder tools
    • Nginx-builder
  • Benchmarking tools
    • wrk2
    • httperf
    • slowloris
    • slowhttptest
    • GoldenEye
  • Debugging tools
    • strace
    • GDB
    • SystemTap
    • stapxx
    • htrace.sh
  • Security & Web testing tools
    • Burp Suite
    • w3af
    • nikto
    • ssllabs-scan
    • http-observatory
    • testssl.sh
    • sslyze
    • cipherscan
    • O-Saft
    • Arjun
    • Corsy
    • XSStrike
  • Other stuff
    • OWASP Cheat Sheet Series
    • Mozilla Web Security
    • Application Security Wiki
    • OWASP ASVS 4.0
    • The System Design Primer
    • awesome-scalability
    • Web Architecture 101
HTTP Basics
  • Features and architecture
  • HTTP/2
  • URI vs URL
  • HTTP Headers
    • Header compression
  • HTTP Methods
  • Request
    • Request line
      • Methods
      • Request URI
      • HTTP version
    • Request header fields
    • Message body
    • Generate requests
  • Response
    • Status line
      • HTTP version
      • Status codes and reason phrase
    • Response header fields
    • Message body
  • HTTP client
  • Back-End web architecture
SSL/TLS Basics
  • TLS versions
  • TLS handshake
  • Cipher suites
  • Diffie-Hellman key exchange
  • Certificates
    • Single-domain
    • Multi-domain
    • Wildcard
    • Wildcard SSL doesn't handle root domain?
NGINX Basics
  • Configuration syntax
    • Comments
    • End of lines
    • Variables, Strings, and Quotes
    • Directives, Blocks, and Contexts
    • External files
    • Measurement units
    • Regular expressions with PCRE
    • Enable syntax highlighting
  • Connection processing
    • Event-Driven architecture
    • Multiple processes
    • Simultaneous connections
    • HTTP Keep-Alive connections
    • sendfile, tcp_nodelay, and tcp_nopush
  • Server blocks logic
    • Matching location
      • if in location
      • Nested locations
    • rewrite vs return
    • try_files directive
    • if, break and set
    • root vs alias
    • internal directive
    • External and internal redirects
    • Allow and deny
    • uri vs request_uri
  • Log files
    • Conditional logging
    • Manually log rotation
  • Reverse proxy
    • Passing requests
    • Trailing slashes
    • Processing headers
    • Passing headers
      • Importance of the Host header
      • Redirects and X-Forwarded-Proto
      • A warning about the X-Forwarded-For
      • Improve extensibility with Forwarded
  • Load balancing algorithms
    • Backend parameters
    • Upstream servers with SSL
    • Round Robin
    • Weighted Round Robin
    • Least Connections
    • Weighted Least Connections
    • IP Hash
    • Generic Hash
    • Fair module
    • Other methods
  • Rate Limiting
    • Variables
    • Directives, keys, and zones
    • Burst and nodelay parameters
  • Core modules
    • ngx_http_geo_module
  • 3rd party modules
    • ngx_set_misc
    • ngx_http_geoip_module
Helpers
  • Installing from source
    • Automatic installation for RHEL/Debian/BSD
    • Compiler and linker
      • Debugging Symbols
    • SystemTap
      • stapxx
    • Separation and improvement of installation methods
    • Installation Nginx on CentOS 7
    • Installation OpenResty on CentOS 7
    • Installation Tengine on Ubuntu 18.04
    • Installation Nginx on FreeBSD 11.3
    • Installation Nginx on FreeBSD 11.3 (from ports)
  • Monitoring
    • CollectD, Prometheus, and Grafana
      • nginx-vts-exporter
    • CollectD, InfluxDB, and Grafana
    • Telegraf, InfluxDB, and Grafana
  • Testing
    • Build OpenSSL 1.0.2-chacha version
    • Send request and show response headers
    • Send request with http method, user-agent, follow redirects and show response headers
    • Send multiple requests
    • Testing SSL connection
    • Testing SSL connection with SNI support
    • Testing SSL connection with specific SSL version
    • Testing SSL connection with specific cipher
    • Verify 0-RTT
    • Load testing with ApacheBench (ab)
      • Standard test
      • Test with Keep-Alive header
    • Load testing with wrk2
      • Standard scenarios
      • POST call (with Lua)
      • Random paths (with Lua)
      • Multiple paths (with Lua)
      • Random server address to each thread (with Lua)
      • Multiple json requests (with Lua)
      • Debug mode (with Lua)
      • Analyse data pass to and from the threads
      • Parsing wrk result and generate report
    • Load testing with locust
      • Multiple paths
      • Multiple paths with different user sessions
    • TCP SYN flood Denial of Service attack
    • HTTP Denial of Service attack
  • Debugging
    • Show information about processes
    • Check memory usage
    • Show open files
    • Check segmentation fault messages
    • Dump configuration
    • Get the list of configure arguments
    • Check if the module has been compiled
    • Show the most requested urls with http methods
    • Show the most accessed response codes
    • Calculating requests per second with IP addresses and urls
    • Check that the gzip_static module is working
    • Which worker processing current request
    • Capture only http packets
    • Extract User Agent from the http packets
    • Capture only http GET and POST packets
    • Capture requests and filter by source ip and destination port
    • Server Side Include (SSI) debugging
    • Dump a process's memory
    • GNU Debugger (gdb)
      • Dump configuration from a running process
      • Show debug log in memory
      • Core dump backtrace
    • SystemTap cheatsheet
      • stapxx
  • Errors & Issues
    • Common errors
  • Configuration snippets
    • Nginx server header removal
    • Custom log formats
    • Log only 4xx/5xx
    • Restricting access with client certificate
    • Restricting access by geographical location
      • GeoIP 2 database
    • Custom error pages
    • Dynamic error pages with SSI
    • Limiting the rate of requests per IP with geo and map
    • Using trailing slashes
    • Properly redirect all HTTP requests to HTTPS
    • Adding and removing the www prefix
    • Proxy/rewrite and keep the original URL
    • Proxy/rewrite and keep the part of original URL
    • Proxy/rewrite without changing the original URL (in browser)
    • Modify 301/302 response body
    • Redirect POST request with payload to external endpoint
    • Route to different backends based on HTTP method
    • Redirect users with certain IP to special location
    • Allow multiple cross-domains using the CORS headers
    • Set correct scheme passed in X-Forwarded-Proto
    • Tips and methods for high load traffic testing (cheatsheet)
    • Location matching examples
    • Passing requests to the backend
      • The HTTP backend server
      • The uWSGI backend server
      • The FastCGI backend server
      • The memcached backend server
      • The Redis backend server
    • HTTPS traffic to upstream servers
    • TCP and UDP load balancing
    • Lua snippets
    • nginscripts snippets
  • Other snippets
    • Recreate base directory
    • Create a temporary static backend
    • Create a temporary static backend with SSL support
    • Generate password file with htpasswd command
    • Generate private key without passphrase
    • Generate CSR
    • Generate CSR (metadata from existing certificate)
    • Generate CSR with -config param
    • Generate private key and CSR
    • Generate ECDSA private key
    • Generate private key with CSR (ECC)
    • Generate self-signed certificate
    • Generate self-signed certificate from existing private key
    • Generate self-signed certificate from existing private key and csr
    • Generate multidomain certificate
    • Generate wildcard certificate
    • Generate certificate with 4096 bit private key
    • Generate DH public parameters
    • Display DH public parameters
    • Convert DER to PEM
    • Convert PEM to DER
    • Verification of the private key
    • Verification of the public key
    • Verification of the certificate
    • Verification of the CSR
    • Check whether the private key and the certificate match
    • TLSv1.3 and CCM ciphers
Base Rules
  • Format, prettify and indent your Nginx code
  • Never use a hostname in a listen or upstream directive
  • Making a rewrite absolute (with scheme)
  • Use return directive for URL redirection (301, 302)
  • Configure log rotation policy
  • Don't duplicate index directive, use it only in the http block
Debugging
  • Improve debugging by disable daemon, master process, and all workers except one
  • Use core dumps to figure out why NGINX keep crashing
  • Use mirror module to copy requests to another backend
  • Dynamic debugging with echo module
  • Dynamic debugging with SSI
Performance
  • Avoid multiple index directives
  • Use $request_uri to avoid using regular expressions
  • Use try_files directive to ensure a file exists
  • Don't pass all requests to the backend - use try_files
  • Use return directive instead of rewrite for redirects
  • Enable PCRE JIT to speed up processing of regular expressions
  • Set proxy timeouts for normal load and under heavy load
  • Configure kernel parameters for high load traffic
  • Activate the cache for connections to upstream servers
Hardening
  • Keep NGINX up-to-date
  • Use only the latest supported OpenSSL version
  • Prevent Replay Attacks on Zero Round-Trip Time
  • Enable OCSP Stapling
  • Prevent caching of sensitive data
  • Set properly files and directories permissions (also with acls) on a paths
  • Implement HTTPOnly and secure attributes on cookies
Reverse Proxy
  • Use pass directive compatible with backend protocol
  • Be careful with trailing slashes in proxy_pass directive
  • Set and pass Host header only with $host variable
  • Set properly values of the X-Forwarded-For header
  • Don't use X-Forwarded-Proto with $scheme behind reverse proxy
  • Always pass Host, X-Real-IP, and X-Forwarded headers to the backend
  • Use custom headers without X- prefix
  • Always use $request_uri instead of $uri in proxy_pass
  • Set proxy buffers and timeouts
Others
  • Define security policies with security.txt

If you have any idea, send it back to me or add a pull request.

RSS Feed & Updates

GitHub exposes an RSS/Atom feed of the commits, which may also be useful if you want to be kept informed about all changes.

Checklist to rule them all

This checklist contains all rules (70) from this handbook.

Generally, I think that each of these principles is important and should be considered. I separated them into four levels of priority to help guide your decision.

PRIORITY NAME AMOUNT DESCRIPTION
high critical 28 definitely use this rule, otherwise it will introduce high risks of your NGINX security, performance, and other
medium major 24 it's also very important but not critical, and should still be addressed at the earliest possible opportunity
low normal 12 there is no need to implement but it is worth considering because it can improve the NGINX working and functions
info minor 6 as an option to implement or use (not required)

Remember, these are only guidelines. My point of view may be different from yours so if you feel these priority levels do not reflect your configurations commitment to security, performance or whatever else, you should adjust them as you see fit.

RULE CHAPTER PRIORITY
Define the listen directives with address:port pair
Prevents soft mistakes which may be difficult to debug.
Base Rules high
Prevent processing requests with undefined server names
It protects against configuration errors, e.g. traffic forwarding to incorrect backends.
Base Rules high
Never use a hostname in a listen or upstream directive
While this may work, it will comes with a large number of issues.
Base Rules high
Configure log rotation policy
Save yourself trouble with your web server: configure appropriate logging policy.
Base Rules high
Use HTTP/2
HTTP/2 will make our applications faster, simpler, and more robust.
Performance high
Always keep NGINX up-to-date
Use newest NGINX package to fix vulnerabilities, bugs, and to use new features.
Hardening high
Run as an unprivileged user
Use the principle of least privilege. This way only master process runs as root.
Hardening high
Protect sensitive resources
Hidden directories and files should never be web accessible.
Hardening high
Hide upstream proxy headers
Don't expose what version of software is running on the server.
Hardening high
Force all connections over TLS
Protects your website especially for handle sensitive communications.
Hardening high
Use min. 2048-bit private keys
2048 bits private keys are sufficient for commercial use.
Hardening high
Keep only TLS 1.3 and TLS 1.2
Use TLS with modern cryptographic algorithms and without protocol weaknesses.
Hardening high
Use only strong ciphers
Use only strong and not vulnerable cipher suites.
Hardening high
Use more secure ECDH Curve
Use ECDH Curves with according to NIST recommendations.
Hardening high
Use strong Key Exchange with Perfect Forward Secrecy
Establishes a shared secret between two parties that can be used for secret communication.
Hardening high
Defend against the BEAST attack
The server ciphers should be preferred over the client ciphers.
Hardening high
HTTP Strict Transport Security
Tells browsers that it should only be accessed using HTTPS, instead of using HTTP.
Hardening high
Reduce XSS risks (Content-Security-Policy)
CSP is best used as defence-in-depth. It reduces the harm that a malicious injection can cause.
Hardening high
Control the behaviour of the Referer header (Referrer-Policy)
The default behaviour of referrer leaking puts websites at risk of privacy and security breaches.
Hardening high
Provide clickjacking protection (X-Frame-Options)
Defends against clickjacking attack.
Hardening high
Prevent some categories of XSS attacks (X-XSS-Protection)
Prevents to render pages if a potential XSS reflection attack is detected.
Hardening high
Prevent Sniff Mimetype middleware (X-Content-Type-Options)
Tells browsers not to sniff MIME types.
Hardening high
Reject unsafe HTTP methods
Only allow the HTTP methods for which you, in fact, provide services.
Hardening high
Prevent caching of sensitive data
It helps to prevent critical data (e.g. credit card details, or username) leaked.
Hardening high
Use pass directive compatible with backend protocol
Set pass directive only to working with compatible backend layer protocol.
Reverse Proxy high
Set properly values of the X-Forwarded-For header
Identify clients communicating with servers located behind the proxy.
Reverse Proxy high
Don't use X-Forwarded-Proto with $scheme behind reverse proxy
Prevent pass incorrect value of this header.
Reverse Proxy high
Always use $request_uri instead of $uri in proxy_pass
You should always pass unchanged URI to the backend layer.
Reverse Proxy high
Organising Nginx configuration
Well organised code is easier to understand and maintain.
Base Rules medium
Format, prettify and indent your Nginx code
Formatted code is easier to maintain, debug, and can be read and understood in a short amount of time.
Base Rules medium
Use reload option to change configurations on the fly
Graceful reload of the configuration without stopping the server and dropping any packets.
Base Rules medium
Use return directive for URL redirection (301, 302)
The by far simplest and fastest because there is no regexp that has to be evaluated.
Base Rules medium
Maintaining SSL sessions
Improves performance from the clients’ perspective.
Performance medium
Use exact names in a server_name directive where possible
Helps speed up searching using exact names.
Performance medium
Avoid checks server_name with if directive
It decreases NGINX processing requirements.
Performance medium
Use $request_uri to avoid using regular expressions
By default, the regex is costly and will slow down the performance.
Performance medium
Use try_files directive to ensure a file exists
Use it if you need to search for a file, it saving duplication of code also.
Performance medium
Use return directive instead of rewrite for redirects
Use return directive to more speedy response than rewrite.
Performance medium
Enable PCRE JIT to speed up processing of regular expressions
NGINX with PCRE JIT is much faster than without it.
Performance medium
Activate the cache for connections to upstream servers
Nginx can now reuse its existing connections (keepalive) per upstream.
Performance medium
Disable unnecessary modules
Limits vulnerabilities, improve performance and memory efficiency.
Hardening medium
Hide Nginx version number
Don't disclose sensitive information about NGINX.
Hardening medium
Hide Nginx server signature
Don't disclose sensitive information about NGINX.
Hardening medium
Use only the latest supported OpenSSL version
Stay protected from SSL security threats and don't miss out new features.
Hardening medium
Prevent Replay Attacks on Zero Round-Trip Time
0-RTT is disabled by default but you should know that enabling this option creates a significant security risks.
Hardening medium
Mitigation of CRIME/BREACH attacks
Disable HTTP compression or compress only zero sensitive content.
Hardening medium
Deny the use of browser features (Feature-Policy)
A mechanism to allow and deny the use of browser features.
Hardening medium
Control Buffer Overflow attacks
Prevents errors are characterised by the overwriting of memory fragments of the NGINX process.
Hardening medium
Mitigating Slow HTTP DoS attacks (Closing Slow Connections)
Prevents attacks in which the attacker sends HTTP requests in pieces slowly.
Hardening medium
Set and pass Host header only with $host variable
Use of the $host is the only one guaranteed to have something sensible.
Reverse Proxy medium
Always pass Host, X-Real-IP, and X-Forwarded headers to the backend
It gives you more control of forwarded headers.
Reverse Proxy medium
Enable DNS CAA Policy
Allows domain name holders to indicate to CA whether they are authorized to issue digital certificates.
Others medium
Separate listen directives for 80 and 443
Help you maintain and modify your configuration.
Base Rules low
Use only one SSL config for the listen directive
The most of the SSL changes will affect only the default server.
Base Rules low
Use geo/map modules instead of allow/deny
Provides the perfect way to block invalid visitors.
Base Rules low
Set global root directory for unmatched locations
Specifies the root directory for an undefined locations.
Base Rules low
Don't duplicate index directive, use it only in the http block
Watch out for duplicating the same rules.
Base Rules low
Adjust worker processes
You can adjust this value to maximum throughput under high concurrency.
Performance low
Make an exact location match to speed up the selection process
Exact location matches are often used to speed up the selection process.
Performance low
Use limit_conn to improve limiting the download speed
Limits NGINX download speed per connection.
Performance low
Be careful with trailing slashes in proxy_pass directive
Incorrect setting could end up with some strange url.
Reverse Proxy low
Use custom headers without X- prefix
The use of custom headers with X- prefix is discouraged.
Reverse Proxy low
Tweak passive health checks
Improve behaviour of the passive health checks.
Load Balancing low
Define security policies with security.txt
Helps make things easier for companies and security researchers.
Others low
Map all the things...
Map module provides a more elegant solution for clearly parsing a big list of regexes.
Base Rules info
Use custom log formats
This is extremely helpful for debugging specific location directives.
Debugging info
Use debug mode to track down unexpected behaviour
There's probably more detail than you want, but that can sometimes be a lifesaver.
Debugging info
Improve debugging by disable daemon, master process, and all workers except one
This simplifies the debugging and lets test configurations rapidly.
Debugging info
Use core dumps to figure out why NGINX keep crashing
Enable core dumps when your NGINX instance receive an unexpected error or when it crashed.
Debugging info
Don't disable backends by comments, use down parameter
Is a good solution to marks the server as permanently unavailable.
Load Balancing info

Bonus Stuff

Here you'll find a few of the different things I've worked and which included to this repository. I hope that these extras will be useful to you.

Reports: blkcipher.info

Many of these recipes have been applied to the configuration of my private website.

An example configuration is in configuration examples chapter. It's also based on this version of printable high-res hardening cheatsheets.

SSL Labs

Read about SSL Labs grading here (SSL Labs Grading 2018).

Short SSL Labs grades explanation:

A+ is clearly the desired grade, both A and B grades are acceptable and result in adequate commercial security. The B grade, in particular, may be applied to configurations designed to support very wide audiences (for old clients).

I finally got A+ grade and following scores:

  • Certificate = 100%
  • Protocol Support = 100%
  • Key Exchange = 90%
  • Cipher Strength = 90%

Look also at the following recommendations. In my opinion, the right configuration of NGINX should give the following SSL Labs scores:

  • Recommended

    • A/A+
    • Certificate: 100/100
    • Protocol Support: 95/100
    • Key Exchange: 90/100
    • Cipher Strength: 90/100
  • Perfect but restrictive

    • A+
    • Certificate: 100/100
    • Protocol Support: 100/100
    • Key Exchange: 100/100
    • Cipher Strength: 100/100

blkcipher_ssllabs_preview

Mozilla Observatory

Read about Mozilla Observatory here and about Observatory Scoring Methodology.

I also got the highest note on the Observatory:

blkcipher_mozilla_observatory_preview

Printable hardening cheatsheets

I created two versions of printable posters with hardening cheatsheets (High-Res 5000x8800) based on recipes from this handbook:

For *.xcf and *.pdf formats please see this directory.

  • A+ with all 100%’s on @ssllabs and 120/100 on @mozilla observatory:

    It provides the highest scores of the SSL Labs test. Setup is very restrictive with 4096-bit private key, only TLS 1.2, and also modern strict TLS cipher suites (non 128-bits).

nginx-hardening-cheatsheet-100p

  • A+ on @ssllabs and 120/100 on @mozilla observatory with TLS 1.3 support:

    It provides less restrictive setup with 2048-bit private key, TLS 1.3 and 1.2, and also modern strict TLS cipher suites (128/256-bits). The final grade is also in line with the industry standards. Recommend using this configuration.

nginx-hardening-cheatsheet-tls13

Fully automatic installation

I created a set of scripts for unattended installation of NGINX from the raw, uncompiled code. It allows you to easily install, create a setup for dependencies (like zlib or openssl), and customized with installation parameters.

For more information please see Installing from source - Automatic installation chapter.

Static error pages generator

I created a simple to use generator for static pages with errors to replace the default error pages that comes with any web server like NGINX.

For more information please see HTTP Static Error Pages Generator.

Books

Nginx Essentials

Authors: Valery Kholodkov

Excel in Nginx quickly by learning to use its most essential features in real-life applications.

  • Learn how to set up, configure, and operate an Nginx installation for day-to-day use
  • Explore the vast features of Nginx to manage it like a pro, and use them successfully to run your website
  • Example-based guide to get the best out of Nginx to reduce resource usage footprint

This short review comes from this book or the store.

Nginx Cookbook

Authors: Derek DeJonghe

You’ll find recipes for:

  • Traffic management and A/B testing
  • Managing programmability and automation with dynamic templating and the NGINX Plus API
  • Securing access through encrypted traffic, secure links, HTTP authentication subrequests, and more
  • Deploying NGINX to AWS, Azure, and Google cloud-computing services
  • Using Docker to deploy containers and microservices
  • Debugging and troubleshooting, performance tuning, and practical ops tips

This short review comes from this book or the store.

Nginx HTTP Server

Authors: Martin Fjordvald, Clement Nedelcu

Harness the power of Nginx to make the most of your infrastructure and serve pages faster than ever.

  • Discover possible interactions between Nginx and Apache to get the best of both worlds
  • Learn to exploit the features offered by Nginx for your web applications
  • Get your hands on the most updated version of Nginx (1.13.2) to support all your web administration requirements

This short review comes from this book or the store.

Nginx High Performance

Authors: Rahul Sharma

Optimize NGINX for high-performance, scalable web applications.

  • Configure Nginx for best performance, with configuration examples and explanations
  • Step-by-step tutorials for performance testing using open source software
  • Tune the TCP stack to make the most of the available infrastructure

This short review comes from this book or the store.

Mastering Nginx

Authors: Dimitri Aivaliotis

Written for experienced systems administrators and engineers, this book teaches you from scratch how to configure Nginx for any situation. Step-by-step instructions and real-world code snippets clarify even the most complex areas.

This short review comes from this book or the store.

ModSecurity 3.0 and NGINX: Quick Start Guide

Authors: Faisal Memon, Owen Garrett, Michael Pleshakov

Learn in this ebook how to get started with ModSecurity, the world’s most widely deployed web application firewall (WAF), now available for NGINX and NGINX Plus.

This short review comes from this book or the store.

Cisco ACE to NGINX: Migration Guide

Authors: Faisal Memon

This ebook provides step-by-step instructions on replacing Cisco ACE with NGINX and off-the-shelf servers. NGINX helps you cut costs and modernize.

In this ebook you will learn:

  • How to migrate Cisco ACE configuration to NGINX, with detailed examples
  • Why you should go with a software load balancer, and not hardware

This short review comes from this book or the store.

External Resources

Nginx official

  ▪️ Nginx Project
  ▪️ Nginx Documentation
  ▪️ Nginx Wiki
  ▪️ Nginx Admin's Guide
  ▪️ Nginx Pitfalls and Common Mistakes
  ▪️ Development guide
  ▪️ Nginx Forum
  ▪️ Nginx Mailing List
  ▪️ Nginx Read-only Mirror
  ▪️ NGINX-Demos

Nginx distributions

  ▪️ OpenResty
  ▪️ The Tengine Web Server

Comparison reviews

  ▪️ NGINX vs. Apache (Pro/Con Review, Uses, & Hosting for Each)
  ▪️ Web cache server performance benchmark: nuster vs nginx vs varnish vs squid

Cheatsheets & References

  ▪️ agentzh's Nginx Tutorials
  ▪️ Introduction to nginx.conf scripting
  ▪️ Nginx discovery journey
  ▪️ Nginx Guts
  ▪️ Nginx Cheatsheet
  ▪️ Nginx Tutorials, Linux Sysadmin Configuration & Optimizing Tips and Tricks
  ▪️ Nginx boilerplate configs
  ▪️ Awesome Nginx configuration template
  ▪️ Nginx Quick Reference
  ▪️ A collection of resources covering Nginx and more
  ▪️ A collection of useful Nginx configuration snippets
  ▪️ Nginx configurations for most popular CMS/CMF/Frameworks based on PHP
  ▪️ Boilerplate configuration for nginx and certbot with docker-compose

Performance & Hardening

  ▪️ Nginx Tuning For Best Performance by Denji
  ▪️ Nginx Optimization: understanding sendfile, tcp_nodelay and tcp_nopush
  ▪️ TLS has exactly one performance problem: it is not used widely enough
  ▪️ SSL/TLS Deployment Best Practices
  ▪️ SSL Server Rating Guide
  ▪️ How to Build a Tough NGINX Server in 15 Steps
  ▪️ Top 25 Nginx Web Server Best Security Practices
  ▪️ Nginx Secure Web Server
  ▪️ Strong ciphers for Apache, Nginx, Lighttpd and more
  ▪️ Strong SSL Security on Nginx
  ▪️ Enable cross-origin resource sharing (CORS)
  ▪️ NAXSI - WAF for Nginx
  ▪️ ModSecurity for Nginx
  ▪️ Transport Layer Protection Cheat Sheet by OWASP
  ▪️ Security/Server Side TLS by Mozilla
  ▪️ Applied Crypto Hardening
  ▪️ Browser support tables for modern web technologies
  ▪️ Memorable site for testing clients against bad SSL configs

Presentations & Videos

  ▪️ NGINX: Basics and Best Practices
  ▪️ NGINX Installation and Tuning
  ▪️ Nginx Internals (by Joshua Zhu)
  ▪️ Nginx internals (by Liqiang Xu)
  ▪️ How to secure your web applications with NGINX
  ▪️ Tuning TCP and NGINX on EC2
  ▪️ Extending functionality in nginx, with modules!
  ▪️ Nginx - Tips and Tricks.
  ▪️ Nginx Scripting - Extending Nginx Functionalities with Lua
  ▪️ How to handle over 1,200,000 HTTPS Reqs/Min
  ▪️ Using ngx_lua / lua-nginx-module in pixiv
  ▪️ NGINX Conf 2014
  ▪️ NGINX Conf 2015
  ▪️ NGINX Conf 2016
  ▪️ NGINX Conf 2017
  ▪️ NGINX Conf 2018 | Deep Dive Track
  ▪️ NGINX Conf 2018 | Keynotes and Sessions

Playgrounds

  ▪️ NGINX Rate Limit, Burst and nodelay sandbox

Config generators

  ▪️ nginxconfig - Nginx config generator on steroids.
  ▪️ ssl-config-generator - Mozilla SSL Configuration Generator.
  ▪️ nginx-config-builder - is a python library for building nginx configuration files programatically.

Config parsers

  ▪️ crossplane - quick and reliable way to convert NGINX configurations into JSON and back.
  ▪️ nginxparser - parses nginx configuration with Pyparsing.

Config managers

  ▪️ ansible-role-nginx - asible role to install and manage nginx configuration.
  ▪️ ansible-role-nginx - installs and configures the latest version of Nginx.
  ▪️ ansible-role-nginx - installs NGINX, NGINX Plus, the NGINX Amplify agent, and more.
  ▪️ puppet-nginx - puppet module to manage NGINX on various UNIXes.

Static analyzers

  ▪️ gixy - is a tool to analyze Nginx configuration to prevent security misconfiguration and automate flaw detection.
  ▪️ nginx-config-formatter - Nginx config file formatter/beautifier written in Python.
  ▪️ nginxbeautifier - format and beautify Nginx config files.
  ▪️ nginx-minify-conf - creates a minified version of a Nginx configuration.

Log analyzers

  ▪️ GoAccess - is a fast, terminal-based log analyzer (quickly analyze and view web server statistics in real time).
  ▪️ Graylog - is a leading centralized log management for capturing, storing, and enabling real-time analysis.
  ▪️ Logstash - is an open source, server-side data processing pipeline.

Performance analyzers

  ▪️ ngxtop - parses your Nginx access log and outputs useful, top-like, metrics of your Nginx server.

Builder tools

  ▪️ Nginx-builder - is a tool for building deb or rpm package NGINX from the source code.

Benchmarking tools

  ▪️ ab - is a single-threaded command line tool for measuring the performance of HTTP web servers.
  ▪️ siege - is an http load testing and benchmarking utility.
  ▪️ wrk - is a modern HTTP benchmarking tool capable of generating significant load.
  ▪️ wrk2 - is a constant throughput, correct latency recording variant of wrk.
  ▪️ vegeta - HTTP load testing tool and library.
  ▪️ bombardier - is a HTTP(S) benchmarking tool.
  ▪️ gobench - is a HTTP/HTTPS load testing and benchmarking tool.
  ▪️ hey - is a HTTP load generator, ApacheBench (ab) replacement, formerly known as rakyll/boom.
  ▪️ boom - is a script you can use to quickly smoke-test your web app deployment.
  ▪️ httperf - the httperf HTTP load generator.
  ▪️ JMeter™ - is designed to load test functional behavior and measure performance.
  ▪️ Gatling - is a powerful open-source load and performance testing tool for web applications.
  ▪️ locust - is an easy-to-use, distributed, user load testing tool.
  ▪️ slowloris - low bandwidth DoS tool. Slowloris rewrite in Python.
  ▪️ slowhttptest - application layer DoS attack simulator.
  ▪️ GoldenEye - GoldenEye Layer 7 (KeepAlive+NoCache) DoS test tool.

Debugging tools

  ▪️ strace - is a diagnostic, debugging and instructional userspace utility (linux syscall tracer) for Linux.
  ▪️ GDB - allows you to see what is going on `inside' another program while it executes.
  ▪️ SystemTap - provides infrastructure to simplify the gathering of information about the running Linux system.
  ▪️ stapxx - simple macro language extensions to SystemTap.
  ▪️ htrace.sh - is a simple Swiss Army knife for http/https troubleshooting and profiling.

Security & Web testing tools

  ▪️ Burp Suite - is a graphical tool for testing Web application security.
  ▪️ w3af - is a Web Application Attack and Audit Framework.
  ▪️ nikto - web server scanner which performs comprehensive tests.
  ▪️ ssllabs-scan - client for SSL Labs APIs, designed for automated and/or bulk testing.
  ▪️ http-observatory - Mozilla HTTP Observatory.
  ▪️ testssl.sh - checks a server's service on any port for the support of TLS/SSL ciphers.
  ▪️ sslyze - is a fast and powerful SSL/TLS server scanning library.
  ▪️ cipherscan - is a very simple way to find out which SSL ciphersuites are supported by a target.
  ▪️ O-Saft - OWASP SSL advanced forensic tool.
  ▪️ Arjun - HTTP parameter discovery suite.
  ▪️ Corsy - CORS misconfiguration scanner.
  ▪️ XSStrike - most advanced XSS scanner.

Development

  ▪️ Sample ebook generated from NGINX source code.
  ▪️ Programming in Lua (first edition)
  ▪️ Scripting Nginx with Lua
  ▪️ Emiller’s Guide To Nginx Module Development
  ▪️ Emiller’s Advanced Topics In Nginx Module Development
  ▪️ NGINX Tutorial: Developing Modules
  ▪️ An Introduction To OpenResty (nginx + lua) - Part 1
  ▪️ An Introduction To OpenResty - Part 2 - Concepts
  ▪️ An Introduction To OpenResty - Part 3
  ▪️ OpenResty (Nginx) with dynamically generated certificates
  ▪️ Programming OpenResty

Online tools

  ▪️ SSL Server Test by SSL Labs
  ▪️ SSL/TLS Capabilities of Your Browser
  ▪️ Test SSL/TLS (PCI DSS, HIPAA and NIST)
  ▪️ SSL analyzer and certificate checker
  ▪️ Test your TLS server configuration (e.g. ciphers)
  ▪️ Scan your website for non-secure content
  ▪️ Public Diffie-Hellman Parameter Service/Tool
  ▪️ Analyse the HTTP response headers by Security Headers
  ▪️ Analyze your website by Mozilla Observatory
  ▪️ CAA Record Helper
  ▪️ Linting tool that will help you with your site's accessibility, speed, security and more
  ▪️ Service to scan and analyse websites
  ▪️ Tool from above to either encode or decode a string of text
  ▪️ Online translator for search queries on log data
  ▪️ Online regex tester and debugger: PHP, PCRE, Python, Golang and JavaScript
  ▪️ Online tool to learn, build, & test Regular Expressions
  ▪️ Online Regex Tester & Debugger
  ▪️ nginx-regex-tester
  ▪️ A web app for encryption, encoding, compression and data analysis
  ▪️ Nginx location match tester
  ▪️ Nginx location match visible

Other stuff

  ▪️ Web technology for developers
  ▪️ OWASP Cheat Sheet Series
  ▪️ Mozilla Web Security
  ▪️ Application Security Wiki
  ▪️ OWASP ASVS 4.0
  ▪️ OWASP Top 10 Proactive Controls 2018.
  ▪️ Transport Layer Security (TLS) Parameters
  ▪️ TLS Redirection (and Virtual Host Confusion)
  ▪️ TLS Security 6: Examples of TLS Vulnerabilities and Attacks
  ▪️ Guidelines for Setting Security Headers
  ▪️ Secure your web application with these HTTP headers
  ▪️ Security HTTP Headers
  ▪️ Analysis of various reverse proxies, cache proxies, load balancers, etc.
  ▪️ How HTTPS works ...in a comic!
  ▪️ Regular-Expressions
  ▪️ HTTPS on Stack Overflow: The End of a Long Road
  ▪️ The Architecture of Open Source Applications - Nginx
  ▪️ BBC Digital Media Distribution: How we improved throughput by 4x
  ▪️ The C10K problem by Dan Kegel
  ▪️ The Secret To 10 Million Concurrent Connections
  ▪️ High Performance Browser Networking
  ▪️ The System Design Primer
  ▪️ awesome-scalability
  ▪️ Web Architecture 101
  ▪️ Learn where some of the network sysctl variables fit into the Linux/Kernel network flow
  ▪️ jemalloc vs tcmalloc vs dlmalloc
  ▪️ GLB: GitHub’s open source load balancer

What's next?

Go back to the Table of Contents or read the next chapters:



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