The smallest of issues

Niall Deakin
05 Jul 19

Where to begin

This may be related to my previous post about Regaining Access to DigitalOcean Droplets, but I think I’ll write up the whole experience, as there seems to be many different issues I encountered (almost randomly).

I stated in that post that I had to reformat my main PC and set up the SSH Keys again in order to access the droplets. But it turns out there was a lot more going on.

As all good developers should do, my websites are encrypted with an SSL certificate; it’s just good and common practice nowadays, and with that, increase the security of the sites. This means reviews and editing the files permissions, and setting up the correct keys and passwords to gain access to the server.

SSL Certificates

There are numerous different providers out there to certify your site; some are free, some are paid, and some may even come from your hosting provider. But that’s not what I’m getting into today.

What I’d like to tell you is to make sure that your site is pointing to the correct directory on your site.

It sounds simple, I know, but I was having issues with redirecting my site to the secure version, and it was a simple matter that my Apache2 config files were pointing to the wrong directory.
It was a quick fix, some tweaking in the config files to make sure every attempt to access the site went to the correct place.

Granted, if you’re not one who plays around with the config files, you should be able to get support from your service provider (if not, feel free to get in touch and I’ll see if I can point you in the right direction).

File Permissions

More often than not, my clients want “WordPress sites”, and sometimes it requires working with other developers or hosting providers who may or may not have things set up correctly. This can be a nightmare at times.

After a lot of research, testing, and hair pulling, I think I’ve got the access permissions set up in a way which is secure and functional.

Ownership of the files

Most servers use www-data for the user and group for their sites. Let’s assume this is the same for you.
Your “website” folder needs to have the owner and group set to www-data. This will allow your website to own these files and folders, to view and make editions (if you’ve allowed it).

You can limit www-data to view only, but then how could you upload files via a media library, for example.

Read/Write Permissions

Here comes the more infuriating part. The read/write permissions for files and folders.

Again, in your website’s folder, I would recommend that the permissions are set to 755 for folders, and 644 for all files within the main site directory.

It would also be beneficial to “hide” any config files (the files that hold connection details) from the public. The www-data user will still be able to access them, but not some randomer whose stumbled across your site.

In Summary

This all came about because I wanted to make my site secure with a certificate. I never gave it much thought for myself, because I was just running a “portfolio site”, but I wanted a way for people to communicate with me.

So I had a contact form, which quick became bombarded with spam, so enter in reCaptcha, then that needed to be on a secure site.
So I install a certificate, only to find it’s not working, that I can’t make changes, and what-not.

None of these were major issues, but all added up, it can cause a lot of work.

Also the fact that I couldn’t use my IDE to access my server using the SSH Keys. I had to in-fact convert that key into a PPK file and use that!
It wasn’t a huge problem, but an inconvenience because of a bug with PhpStorm.

Just some FYI there.

I’m pretty sure I’ll find more bugs as time goes on; from new and old features alike, but hey, who said the life of a developer was boring?

Apache, File Permissions, hosting, Ownership, PPK, Read/Write, Security, server, SSH, SSH Keys, SSL, SSL Certificates