Adding TLS certificates in CHT 4.x

How to add TLS certificates to your docker hosted CHT 4.x instance

By default, CHT 4.x will create a self-signed certificate for every deployment. These instructions are for changing to either a pre-existing certificate or automatically creating and renewing a Certbot based certificate using ACME, like Let’s Encrypt.

This guide assumes you’ve already met the hosting requirements, specifically around Docker being installed.

Pre-existing certificate

To load your certificates into your CHT instance, we’ll be creating an interstitial container called cht-temp-tls which will enable you to copy your local certificate files into the native docker volume.


You have two files locally on your workstation in the directory you’re currently in:

  • key.pem - the private key for your TLS certificate
  • cert.pem - both the public and any interstitial keys concatenated into one file

Also, be sure you have started your CHT instance once and all your volumes are created.

Loading the certificate

  1. Find the name of your cht-ssl volume with this call:

    docker volume ls --filter "name=cht-ssl"

    It is very likely that cht_cht-ssl is the name of our cht-ssl volume.

  2. Using the volume name found in step 1, start a container called temp which allow us to copy files into the docker volume:

    docker run -d --rm --name temp -v cht_cht-ssl:/etc/nginx/private/ alpine tail -f /dev/null
  3. Copy the two pem files into the volume via the temporary container:

    docker cp key.pem temp:/etc/nginx/private/.
    docker cp cert.pem temp:/etc/nginx/private/.
  4. Stop the temp container:

    docker kill temp

Your certificates are now safely stored in the native docker volume. Restart your CHT instance the way you started it, being sure to set the correct CERTIFICATE_MODE and SSL_VOLUME_MOUNT_PATH per the prerequisites.

Certbot certificate

This Feature available on CHT 4.2.0 or later

If you have a deployment with a static, public IP and a domain name pointing to that IP, you can have Certbot automatically create free TLS certificates by using their Docker image.

Assuming your CHT instance is running with the default self signed cert. Be sure to change to your domain first though:

Assuming your CHT instance is already running with the default self-signed cert:

  1. Edit the CHT’s environment file at /home/ubuntu/cht/upgrade-service/.env so this line is present:
    This will ensure the script that certbot uses to deploy the certificates is available for use.
  2. Restart your CHT instance to ensure the new CERTIFICATE_MODE value takes effect:
    cd /home/ubuntu/cht/upgrade-service/
    docker stop $(docker ps --filter "name=^cht*" -q)
    docker stop $(docker ps --filter "name=^upgrade-service*" -q)
    docker compose up --detach
  3. Create certbot compose and env files by copying and pasting this code:
    mkdir -p /home/ubuntu/cht/certbot
    cd /home/ubuntu/cht/certbot
    cat > docker-compose.yml << EOF
    version: '3.9'
          container_name: certbot
          hostname: certbot
          image: certbot/certbot
            - ssl-storage:/etc/nginx/private/
            - ssl-storage:/var/log/letsencrypt/
          command: certonly --debug --deploy-hook /etc/nginx/private/ --webroot -w /etc/nginx/private/certbot/ --domain \$DOMAIN --non-interactive --key-type rsa --agree-tos --register-unsafely-without-email \$STAGING
          name: \${CHT_SSL_VOLUME}
          external: true
    cat > .env << EOF
    Certbot only lets you create the identical certificates 5 times per 7 days. If you’re unsure of how this works you can change STAGING= to STAGING=--staging in the /home/ubuntu/cht/certbot/.env file to do repeated tests. Be sure to change this back to STAGING= when you’re ready to create production certificates.
  4. Generate certs:
    cd /home/ubuntu/cht/certbot
    docker compose up
  5. Run this command to find the name of your CHT ngnix container:
    docker ps --filter "name=nginx"  --format '{{ .Names }}'
  6. Assuming the name is cht_nginx_1 from the prior step, reload your nginx config with this command:
    docker exec -it cht_nginx_1 nginx -s reload
  7. Attempt to renew your certificates once a week by adding this cronjob via crontab -e. Certbot will only renew them as needed:
    0 0 * * 0 cd /home/ubuntu/cht/certbot&&docker compose up




When proxying to HTTPS from HTTP (for example where an ingress does TLS termination in an SNI environment and then the traffic is proxied to an HTTPS service (eg, haproxy)), not including a servername for a request to the HTTPS server (eg, produces the following error:

"RequestError: Error [ERR_TLS_CERT_ALTNAME_INVALID]: Hostname/IP does not match certificate's altnames:
Host: is not in the cert's altnames:"

The addition of servername resolves this error by providing routing information. See docs for tls.connect(options[, callback]): “Server name for the SNI (Server Name Indication) TLS extension. It is the name of the host being connected to, and must be a host name, and not an IP address.”.

A servername parameter may be added to all requests to the haproxy/couchdb by setting the environment variable ADD_SERVERNAME_TO_HTTP_AGENT to true.

A similar change can be made for the http clients used in the application by setting PROXY_CHANGE_ORIGIN to true. This sets the changeOrigin parameter of all the http-proxy clients to true, which “changes the origin of the host header to the target URL”. See http-proxy: options.