External server to encrypt message transport

Since Zettelstore does not encrypt the messages it exchanges with its clients, you may need some additional software to enable encryption.

Public-key encryption

To enable encryption, you probably use some kind of encryption keys. In most cases, you need to deploy a “public-key encryption” process, where your side publish a public encryption key that only works with a corresponding private decryption key. Technically, this is not trivial. Any client who wants to communicate with your Zettelstore must trust the public encryption key. Otherwise the client cannot be sure that it is communication with your Zettelstore. This problem is solved in part with Let's Encrypt, “a free, automated, and open certificate authority (CA), run for the public’s benefit. It is a service provided by the Internet Security Research Group”.

Alternatively, you can buy these keys for public-key encryption at “certificate authorities” or its dealers.

Server software for encryption

The solution of placing a server for encryption in front of an encryption-unaware server is a relatively old one. There are many different alternatives to choose.

First, there are web servers. Business-grade web servers must enable encryption. Most of them allow to forward a request unencrypted to another web server. Some examples:

Other software is also possible. There exists software dedicated for this task of handling the encryption part. Some examples:

Example configuration for Caddy

For the inexperienced owner of a Zettelstore, Caddy is a good option1. Caddy has the capability to automatically fetch appropriately encryption key from Let's Encrypt, without any further configuration. The only requirement of doing this is that the server must be publicly accessible.

Here is the base configuration for the main site for Zettelstore at https://zettelstore.de/:

zettelstore.de {
  reverse_proxy localhost:23123

That's all!

If you want to add some additional content on the server, you could change the configuration as follows:

zettelstore.de {
  file_server * {
    root /var/www/html
  route /manual/* {
    reverse_proxy localhost:23123

This will forwards requests with the prefix “/manual/” to the running Zettelstore. All other requests will be handled by Caddy itself.

In this case you must specify the startup configuration key url-prefix with the value “/manual/”. This is to allow Zettelstore to ignore the prefix while reading web requests and to give the correct URLs with the given prefix when sending a web response.

  1. In fact, the server-based installation procedure of Zettelstore was inspired by Caddy. ↩︎