HTTPS-only and HSTS

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HTTPS with EPrints

See the following page for How_to_use_EPrints_with_HTTPS.

This page describes how to configure EPrints so that all content, not just login pages, is served over HTTPS.

Google Best Practices for HTTPS

That following are the best practice specified by Google (

  • HSTS Headers on HTTPS
  • No “Mixed Content” warnings/errors
  • Links point to HTTPS locations
  • 301 Redirects from HTTP to HTTPS


To summarize how HSTS works, if a browser (Chrome, Firefix, IE) sees the HSTS header in the HTTPS response, and there are no certificate errors or mixed content warnings or anything (if it is green), then the next time a user of that browser requests the HTTP page of that site, the browser will modify the request from an HTTP to a HTTPS request. The browser will remember that setting for as long as you specify “max-age” to be. This means that even with HSTS, it is still possible to request and receive content over HTTP. To close that down, a server redirect is necessary, so those browsers that haven’t seen the HSTS header in the past that happen to try to go to HTTP will get that initial redirect to HTTPS.

Implementing HTTPS-only with HSTS on an EPrints repository

Changes to /cfg.d/

Initialize the following variables to be the https URL (i.e., https://YOUR-REPOSITORY-DOMAIN)

 $c->{host} = "YOUR-REPOSITORY-DOMAIN"; 
 $c->{http_url} = 'https://YOUR-REPOSITORY-DOMAIN';
 $c->{http_cgiurl} = 'https://YOUR-REPOSITORY-DOMAIN/cgi';
 $c->{base_url} = "https://$c->{host}";

Changes to /cfg/lang/en/templates/default.xml, and /cfg/lang/en/static .XPAGE files

Remove any hard coded links to HTTP
If you have Google Search included as an XPAGE file, call on the Google API (and any other APIs) using HTTPS.

Changes to apache conf files

Add the HSTS header

Add a new include apache-ssl CONF file to the folder /REPOID/cfg/ that has the HSTS header. The max-age variable is a time in seconds for how long the HSTS settings should be remembered by the browser. 15780000 is six months, which is a long time, you may want to set it to a shorter time while testing.

Header set Strict-Transport-Security "max-age=15780000"

Include this file from the core apache conf file for the secure port (443) in /etc/

A new file is required because API:bin/generate apacheconf overwrites any of the conf files that were already being included.

Add 301 redirects to secure port from HTTP (port 80)

The generate_apacheconf would ideally have some new flags, something like “--sslonly” and “--hsts” , which would generate the correct apache config files for a repository that follows the Google best practice of HTTPS-only with HSTS, but it does not. Thus, one way to introduce the redirect is to overwrite one of the files that are generated by /bin/generate_apacheconf, /cfg/apache/REPOID.conf. This means that you will have to re-apply this redirect (by overwriting the conf file again with the redirect) if/when you need to re-run generate_apacheconf.

Modify the default port 80 response of Apache to redirect to the secure port, by modifying /cfg/apache/REPOID.conf to:

<VirtualHost *:80>
RedirectPermanent / https://YOUR-REPOSITORY-DOMAIN/