Mongoose SSL guide

SSL is a protocol that makes web communication secure. To enable SSL in mongoose, 2 steps are required:

  1. Create valid SSL certificate file
  2. Append SSL certificate file path to the listening_ports option

Below is the mongoose.conf file snippet for typical SSL setup:

document_root     www_root         # Serve files in www_root directory
listening_ports   80,443:cert.pem  # Listen on ports 80 and 443

How to create SSL certificate file

SSL certificate file is a text file that must contain at least two sections:

  1. A private key
  2. A certificate

Both sections should be chunks of text in PEM format. When PEM file is opened in a text editor, it looks like this:


Two aforementioned sections are clearly seen. Typically, those section are bigger then in the example shown. The text between the BEGIN and END is the text representation of binary data, a private key and a certificate. Therefore, in order to create a certificate file,

If the certificate chain in used, a chain file also needs to be converted into PEM format and appended to the certificate file.

How SSL works

SSL is a protocol that can encrypt communication between two parties. If third party observes all messages passed by, it would be very hard for the third party (though not impossible) to decrypt the communication.

The idea is based on so-called public key encryption. Communicating parties have two keys: a public key and a private key. A public key is advertised to everybody, and it is contained in a certificate. A private key is kept secret. Security algorithm works in a way that anybody can encrypt a message using public key, and only private key can decrypt it.

This is why web server needs both private key and certificate: private key is used to decrypt incoming messages, and certificate is used to tell the public key to the other party. When communication starts, parties exchange their public keys, and keep private keys to themselves. Man-in-the-middle who observes the communication is unable to decrypt the messages cause private keys are required for decryption.

Encryption algorithms are built on top of hard mathematical problem, which makes it very expensive for man-in-the-middle to compute private keys. For example, RSA algorithm is based on a mathematical problem of factorization. It is easy to generate two very large prime numbers P and Q and make a product P * Q. But given a product, it is very hard to recover these two prime numbers - this is called factorization.

Author(s): Monika Florek-Jasinska , Raphael Schaller
autogenerated on Thu Jun 25 2020 03:46:05