Building a Build Process: Securing Subversion’s Connection via TLS

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This is part of a larger series in building a proper build process. For more information and additional series links, check out the introductory post.

Alright, I just couldn’t take the guilt. I can’t abide Subversion and Apache being set up without defaulting to https and a TLS encrypted connection. We’ll remedy this below.

Install The Required Packages

On the CentOS server, login as root and type the following in the terminal to install packages:

    yum install mod_ssl openssl

These packages may already be installed; don’t worry if yum tells you that it has nothing to do.

Use OpenSSL to Generate a Self-Signed Certificate

Navigate to the certificate store by heading to:

cd /etc/pki/ca

Next, we’ll need to create a strong private key (2048-bit encryption):

openssl genrsa -out ca.key 2048

Then, we generate a CSR (Certificate Signing Request):

openssl req -new -key ca.key -out ca.csr

You’ll then have to enter the following fields:

  • 2-digit country code (e.g. US)
  • State or Province full name (e.g. Maryland)
  • Locality / City (e.g. Baltimore)
  • Organization Name (e.g. Microsoft or Sean Killeen)
  • Org Unit Name / Section (e.g. Subversion Test)
  • Common Name (your new hostname, eg scm.seankilleen)
  • Email Address (e.g. [email protected])
  • A challenge password
  • An optional company name

The next step is to use the CSR to generate the actual certificate:

openssl x509 –req –days 365 –in ca.csr –signkey ca.key –out ca.crt

Then, copy the certificate files into the TLS certs location that we’ll use later:

cp ca.crt /etc/pki/tls/certs
cp ca.key /etc/pki/tls/private/ca.key
cp /etc/pli/tls/private/ca.csr

Modify Apache’s Configuration to offer SSL

Open the file for editing:

gedit +/SSLCertificateFile /etc/httpd/conf.d/ssl.conf

Find the line referencing “SSLCertificateFile” and change it to the location of your key file. It should look like this when you’re done:

SSLCertificateFile /etc/pki/tls/certs/ca.crt

A few lines after that, you’ll edit the SSLCertificateKeyFile:

SSLCertificateKeyFile /etc/pki/tls/private/ca.key

Save the file and close it.

Next, restart apache – from the console:

/etc/init.d/httpd restart

Redirect Non-SSL connections to the SSL Connection

To do this, we need to edit the apache configuration file.

gedit /etc/httpd/conf/httpd.conf

Towards the bottom of the file, the <VirtualHosts> configuration can be found. Paste the following lines at the bottom of the file:

NameVirtualHost *:80
NameVirtualHost *:443

<VirtualHost *:80>
        <Directory /var/www>
            AllowOverride All
        DocumentRoot /var/www
        ServerName localhost
<VirtualHost *:443>
        SSLEngine on
        SSLCertificateFile /etc/pki/tls/certs/ca.crt
        SSLCertificateKeyFile /etc/pki/tls/private/ca.key
        <Directory /var/www>
            AllowOverride All
        DocumentRoot /var/www
        ServerName localhost

Now point your browser to https://[your ip or host name] and you’ll see that the site loads under an http connection. NOTE: you may get an error about the certificate, but this is because it does not come from a CA and thus is not “trusted” by your computer. The encryption is still TLS 1.0 256-bit encryption.

Enforce SSL/TLS Only (Redirect http to https)

I put this in a separate section because I wanted the additions to be compartmentalized.

To use mod_rewrite to redirect any http requests to https, change the VirtualHost *:80 to the following:

<VirtualHost *:80>
    RewriteEngine On
    RewriteCond %{HTTPS} off
    RewriteRule (.*) https://%{HTTP_HOST}%{REQUEST_URI}
    <Directory /var/www>
        AllowOverride All
        DocumentRoot /var/www
        ServerName localhost

Configure the Firewall to Allow Port 443 Connections

On the console:

iptables –A INPUT –p tcp –dport 443 –j ACCEPT
/sbin/service iptables save
iptables –L –v

Now, try heading to http:[your ip or hostname]/svn, and watch it redirect to https.


Feedback Welcome!

I’d love to hear any comments on this series. Find it useful? Think there’s a better way to implement the technique or something I should have mentioned? Please drop a line in the comments to help me improve the series!


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