Config Generator:

Nginx is a reverse proxy, allowing a single port to host multiple websites.

Global configurations

Global configuration (http block-level) can be placed inside /etc/nginx/conf.d/*.conf.


# tls.conf
# Configure TLS security (requires setting parameters in server blocks to activate)

# You must generate a dhparam.pem file.
# You must set ssl_certificate, ssl_certificate_key, and ssl_trusted_certificate.
# You must NOT use add_header inside your server {} block at all.

ssl_session_cache shared:SSL:10M;
ssl_session_timeout 180m;
ssl_session_tickets off;

# Secure SSL config -
ssl_protocols TLSv1.2 TLSv1.3;
ssl_dhparam /etc/ssl/certs/dhparam.pem;  # Must generate this manually

# Already set in /etc/nginx/nginx.conf
# ssl_prefer_server_ciphers on;

# SSL OSCP Stapling
ssl_stapling on;
ssl_stapling_verify on;

# Force SSL to this domain (+subdomains) for 6 months (+ preload list)
add_header Strict-Transport-Security "max-age=15768000; includeSubDomains; preload" always;

Security Headers

There are several headers used for security, which can be set by Nginx or by your application. The following global configuration file will set a default if upstream has not provided one.

# security_headers.conf
# Ensure HTTP headers that are important for security are set.
# We set some defaults which can be overridden by the upstream server.

# You must use proxy_hide_header/uwsgi_hide_header to hide the upstream
#   headers for all headers that we list below.
# You must NOT use add_header inside your server {} block at all.

map $upstream_http_referrer_policy $referrer_policy {
    default $upstream_http_referrer_policy;
    '' "strict-origin-when-cross-origin";

map $upstream_http_x_content_type_options $x_content_type_options {
    default $upstream_http_x_content_type_options;
    '' "nosniff";

map $upstream_http_x_frame_options $x_frame_options {
    default $upstream_http_x_frame_options;
    '' "DENY";

map $upstream_http_x_xss_protection $x_xss_protection {
    default $upstream_http_x_xss_protection;
    '' "1; mode=block";

add_header Referrer-Policy $referrer_policy always;
add_header X-Content-Type-Options $x_content_type_options always;
add_header X-Frame-Options $x_frame_options always;
add_header X-XSS-Protection $x_xss_protection always;

Note:: X-XSS-Protection has been superseded with Content Security Policies (CSPs)

Note: X-Frame-Options has been superseded with the frame-ancestors CSP

TODO: Deny the use of browser features (Feature Policies)

TODO: Deny the use of cross-site features (Content Security Policies)


Servers can be configured inside /etc/nginx/sites-available/, but a symlink should be created inside /etc/nginx/sites-enabled/ for them to become active.

Default Server - Redirect to HTTPS

server {
    listen {{ public_ipv4 }}:80 default_server;
    listen [{{ public_ipv6 }}]:80 default_server;

    # Redirect all HTTP requests to HTTPS with a 301 Moved Permanently response.
    return 301 https://$host$request_uri;

Default Server - Prevent non-SNI Traffic

# HTTPS default server for non-SNI requests
# Prevents an otherwise random public server certificate being leaked
# Also captures SNI requests where we are not hosting that domain here
server {
    listen {{ public_ipv4 }}:443 default_server;
    listen [{{ public_ipv6 }}]:443 default_server;
    server_name _;
    ssl_certificate /etc/ssl/certs/ssl-cert-snakeoil.pem;
    ssl_certificate_key /etc/ssl/private/ssl-cert-snakeoil.key;
    return 444;

A HTTPS Server

server {
    listen {{ public_ipv4 }}:443 ssl http2;
    listen [{{ public_ipv6 }}]:443 ssl http2;
    server_name {{ domain }};
    charset utf-8;

    # Check if this certificate is really served for this server_name
    if ($host != $server_name) {
        return 444;

    # Certificate
    ssl_certificate /etc/letsencrypt/live/{{ domain }}/fullchain.pem;
    ssl_certificate_key /etc/letsencrypt/live/{{ domain }}/privkey.pem;
    ssl_trusted_certificate /etc/letsencrypt/live/{{ domain }}/chain.pem;

    # Lets Encrypt SSL Cert renewal
    location ~ /.well-known/acme-challenge {
        allow all;
        root /var/www/letsencrypt;
  • Ubuntu's Nginx configuration does a lot of things itself including: sendfile, tcp_nopush, tcpnodelay, keepalive_timeout, gzip, basic SSL configuration.
  • Doing listen [::]:443 ipv6only=off does not seem to work well (maybe due to use of IP addresses on other servers?). It is also Linux-only.

Serving Files & Upstream Proxies

uWSGI Proxy

upstream uwsgicluster {
    server unix:///run/uwsgi/app/APP_NAME/socket;

server {

    # Proxying connections to application servers
    location / {
        include         uwsgi_params;
        uwsgi_pass      uwsgicluster;

        uwsgi_param     Host $host;
        uwsgi_param     X-Real-IP $remote_addr;
        uwsgi_param     X-Forwarded-For $proxy_add_x_forwarded_for;
        uwsgi_param     X-Forwarded-Host $server_name;
        uwsgi_param     X-Forwarded-Proto $scheme;
        uwsgi_param     X-Forwarded-Port $server_port;

        # Correct handling of fallbacks for HTTP headers
        uwsgi_hide_header   Referrer-Policy;
        uwsgi_hide_header   X-Content-Type-Options;
        uwsgi_hide_header   X-Frame-Options;
        uwsgi_hide_header   X-XSS-Protection;

HTTP Proxy

server {

    # Proxying connections to application servers
    location / {
        proxy_pass         http://localhost:8080;
        # Required to rewrite "Location" header for Jenkins
        proxy_redirect     http://localhost:8080 https://{{ domain }};
        proxy_read_timeout 60;
        proxy_http_version 1.1;

        proxy_set_header   Host $host;
        proxy_set_header   X-Real-IP $remote_addr;
        proxy_set_header   X-Forwarded-For $proxy_add_x_forwarded_for;
        proxy_set_header   X-Forwarded-Host $server_name;
        proxy_set_header   X-Forwarded-Proto $scheme;
        proxy_set_header   X-Forwarded-Port $server_port;

        # Correct handling of fallbacks for HTTP headers
        proxy_hide_header  Referrer-Policy;
        proxy_hide_header  X-Content-Type-Options;
        proxy_hide_header  X-Frame-Options;
        proxy_hide_header  X-XSS-Protection;

Serving Static Files

server {

    # Serve static files
    rewrite ^/robots.txt /static/$request_uri last;
    location /static/ {
        alias /var/www-data/static/;
        disable_symlinks if_not_owner;  # Extra-security
        gzip_static on;

        # Performance
        # access_log off;
        open_file_cache         max=1000;
        open_file_cache_errors  on;

A neat command to compress static files: find -L . -type f ! -iname "*.gz" ! -iname "*.png" ! -iname "*.jpg" ! -iname "*.jpeg" ! -iname "*.gif" ! -iname "*.webp" ! -iname "*.heif" -exec gzip --best -kf "{}" \;


  • sendfile - directly from kernel to network socket - covered by Ubuntu, but consider adding sendfile_max_chunk
    • Note that this does not work with gzip!
  • open_file_cache - do not recheck filesystem for file on every request
  • gzip - covered by Ubuntu for HTML only...
  • gzip_static - do not compress on the fly, serve pre-generated .gz files
  • limit_req - consider for rate limiting number-of-requests by IP
  • (limit_conn - consider for rate limiting number-of-requests by connections - alternative to above?)
  • limit_rate - consider for limiting a individual request by limiting the network speed
# Rate limit all requests for a server by IP address
limit_req_zone $binary_remote_addr zone=myzone:10m rate=1r/s;

server {

    limit_req_status 429;
    limit_req zone=myzone burst=60 nodelay;

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