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Building - Part II (the old version)


This and the first post are about the previous iteration of my website. Additionally, When I originally made this post, my domain was I've since changed it to, and have updated all references to reflect this change.


In Part I, I setup a VPS instance of Ubuntu Server 20.04, configured a simple firewall, nginx, and the static site generator Hugo. In this post, I make my website reasonably secure using the Electronic Frontier Foundation's Certbot to setup ssl, configure server headers, and create a native Tor onion service.



On the certbot website, get the instructions specific to your server software and operating system. In my case, Nginx and Ubunter 20.04. Per the instructions, I installed Certbot through snap, though you can find their alternative installation instructions here.

Check snapd version

First, I made sure I had the latest version of snapd on my VPS:

sudo snap install core; sudo snap refresh core


Then I ran the command to install certbot:

sudo snap install --classic certbot

Prep Command

We need a symlink to properly run the certbot command. I ran the following to do just that:

sudo ln -s /snap/bin/certbot /usr/bin/certbot

Run and Test Certbot

With certbot, you can either simply get a certificate and manually make changes to your Nginx config, or you can let Certbot do all this automaticaly. I opted for the latter. This turns on "HTTPS in a single step", per the instructions. Truly painless.

sudo certbot --nginx

Next, I tested automatic renewel. As stated by the Certbot instructions,

# The Certbot packages on your system come with a cron job or systemd timer that
# will renew your certificates automatically before they expire.
# You will not need to run Certbot again, unless you change your configuration.
# You can test automatic renewal for your certificates by running this command:

sudo certbot renew --dry-run

I can now navigate to and see the lock icon:


Success! I now had an ssl certificate for my site. Next, I wanted to add native Tor support for those using Tor browser.

Adding Tor Support

This section was surprisingly straight-forward. I relied heavily on Seth Simmons's guide (here is the clearnet link; here is the Tor link). I also highly recommend reading the official Tor documentation.


First, I installed Tor:

sudo apt install tor

Edit Tor config

Next, I edited the torrc config file that can be found at /etc/tor/torrc, using vim. I added the following lines.

HiddenServiceDir /var/lib/tor/
HiddenServiceVersion 3
HiddenServicePort 80

The HiddenServiceDir line specifies the directory containing information and cryptographic keys for the onion service. The directory to which HiddenServiceDir is pointing, is readable/writable by the user running the service on my server.

The HiddenServiceVersion line is rather self-explanatory: it indicates we want a v3 onion (hidden) service.

Per the documentation, the HiddenServicePort line indicates the virtual port, i.e., the port that users visiting ttoqkewhxzbgl7uhpbmm34ckgutwdon2ha6s2rwenbk7lpggon5uopid.onion will be using.

Something I will consider implementing in the future: running my onion service over Unix sockets instead of a TCP socket. This is a suggested Tip in the official Tor docs.

I then restarted tor:

sudo systemctl restart tor

Now I needed to add another server block to my Nginx configuration. A couple of things I needed to do:

  • Get the .onion hostname for my v3 onion service, using the concatenate command
  • Then add the .onion hostname to my new Nginx server block
  • Create a separate tor_config.yml file for Hugo, with publishDir set to tor, and baseUrl set to my .onion domain

To get my .onion domain using cat command:

cat /var/lib/tor/

Next, I add this .onion hostname to a new server block in my Nginx config:

server {

    server_name ttoqkewhxzbgl7uhpbmm34ckgutwdon2ha6s2rwenbk7lpggon5uopid.onion

    root /var/www/;
    index index.html;
    error_page 404 = 404.html;
    location / {

    try_files $uri $uri/ =404;



Before restarting Nginx I added a new file, tor_config.yml, with the previously mentioned lines:

baseUrl: http://ttoqkewhxzbgl7uhpbmm34ckgutwdon2ha6s2rwenbk7lpggon5uopid.onion
publishDir: 'tor'

Now I can run the hugo command with the --config switch and passing tor_config.yml as a parameter:

hugo --config tor_config.yml

which gives an output like

                   | EN
  Pages            | 17
  Paginator pages  |  0
  Non-page files   |  0
  Static files     | 19
  Processed images |  0
  Aliases          |  5
  Sitemaps         |  1
  Cleaned          |  0

Total in 133 ms

Finally, I restart Nginx by running the command sudo systemctl restart nginx, and navigate to ttoqkewhxzbgl7uhpbmm34ckgutwdon2ha6s2rwenbk7lpggon5uopid.onion using Tor browser, and I see this:

.onion service

...which means it worked!

Add Server Header for Tor Browser

Additionally, I want users who visit my clearnet site using Tor browser (or Brave browser) to have the option to switch to the .onion domain. That is, I want Tor browser to indicate to the user that there is an ".onion available". Simply adding the following header to the https clearnet server block does the trick:

add_header Onion-Location http://ttoqkewhxzbgl7uhpbmm34ckgutwdon2ha6s2rwenbk7lpggon5uopid.onion$request_url;

Now, when users navigate to my clearnet site using Tor browser, they should see the following:


Add More Server Headers

Now that my website was running on both clearnet and tor, I wanted to make it reasonably secure by adding some headers to my server blocks. To start, I went to the Observatory by Mozilla, which helps people "configure their sites safely and securely".

Observatory by Mozilla

Mozilla Observatory

I checked "Don't include my site in the public results" and "Don't scan with third party scanners". I then click "Scan Me".

My results were poor since I had yet to add any headers to my server blocks, apart from the tor header from the previous section. I spent quite a while reading over documentation that Mozilla makes available, and tried my best to address each issue found in the scan report. I added the following headers:

Their implementation in my Nginx configuration is below:

server {



    # HSTS (ngx_http_headers_module is required) (63072000 seconds)
     add_header Strict-Transport-Security "max-age=63072000" always;

     # Block site from being framed with X-Frame-Options and CSP
     add_header Content-Security-Policy "frame-ancestors 'none'; default-src 'none'; img-src 'self'; script-src 'self'; style-src 'self'; form-action 'none'; base-uri 'none'";
     add_header X-Frame-Options "DENY";

     # Security Headers
     add_header X-Content-Type-Options "nosniff" always;
     add_header X-XSS-Protection "1; mode=block";

     # Privacy Headers
     add_header Referrer-Policy "no-referrer";
     add_header Permissions-Policy "accelerometer=(), camera=(), geolocation=(), gyroscope=(), magnetometer=(), microphone=(), speaker=(),   usb=(), vibrate=(), sync-xhr=()";



I then rescanned my site on the Mozilla Observatory, this time check the box next to "Force a rescan instead of returning cached results". This time, I was greeted with a lovely "A+":


ALL CAPS? All good.

Frustratingly, when I load in Firefox or Brave, the font is all caps:


Upon inspection, I came across the following error:


So, my Content Security Policy (as you can see from my Nginx configuration above) does not specify a font-src parameter. Thus, the fallback default-src 'none' is used, and the Hugo Terminal theme font isn't loaded, leaving me with all caps!


Fortunately, this was an easy fix. I simply went back to the Content Security Policy in my Nginx configuration, and added font-src 'self'. Then, after running sudo systemctl restart nginx once more, the correct font loads and the error is gone.

  • NOTE: When loading both the clearnet and onion sites in Tor browser, I did not encounter the ALL CAPS issue. I'm unsure why this is so, but plan to investigate it further if time permits.

Conclusion - Next Steps

That concludes Part II of how I created this website. A couple of issues I'd like to explore further:

  • Serving my onion service over Unix sockets instead of a TCP socket

  • Address other miscellaneous browser console errors, most of which relate to the content security policy header

  • Add LaTeX support for math/physics/technical-related posts

If you've made it this far, thanks for taking the time. Contact me via Twitter or email if you have questions or comments.