ACME

The ACME Issuer type represents a single account registered with the Automated Certificate Management Environment (ACME) Certificate Authority server. When you create a new ACME Issuer, cert-manager will generate a private key which is used to identify you with the ACME server.

Certificates issued by public ACME servers are typically trusted by client’s computers by default. This means that, for example, visiting a website that is backed by an ACME certificate issued for that URL, will be trusted by default by most client’s web browsers. ACME certificates are typically free.

Solving Challenges

In order for the ACME CA server to verify that a client owns the domain, or domains, a certificate is being requested for, the client must complete “challenges”. This is to ensure clients are unable to request certificates for domains they do not own and as a result, fraudulently impersonate another’s site. As detailed in the RFC8555, cert-manager offers two challenge validations - HTTP01 and DNS01 challenges.

HTTP01 challenges are completed by presenting a computed key, that should be present at a HTTP URL endpoint and is routable over the internet. This URL will use the domain name requested for the certificate. Once the ACME server is able to get this key from this URL over the internet, the ACME server can validate you are the owner of this domain. When a HTTP01 challenge is created, cert-manager will automatically configure your cluster ingress to route traffic for this URL to a small web server that presents this key.

DNS01 challenges are completed by providing a computed key that is present at a DNS TXT record. Once this TXT record has been propagated across the internet, the ACME server can successfully retrieve this key via a DNS lookup and can validate that the client owns the domain for the requested certificate. With the correct permissions, cert-manager will automatically present this TXT record for your given DNS provider.

Configuration

Creating a Basic ACME Issuer

All ACME Issuers follow a similar configuration structure - a clients email, a server URL, a privateKeySecretRef, and one or more solvers. Below is an example of a simple ACME issuer:

apiVersion: cert-manager.io/v1
kind: ClusterIssuer
metadata:
  name: letsencrypt-staging
spec:
  acme:
    # You must replace this email address with your own.
    # Let's Encrypt will use this to contact you about expiring
    # certificates, and issues related to your account.
    email: user@example.com
    server: https://acme-staging-v02.api.letsencrypt.org/directory
    privateKeySecretRef:
      # Secret resource that will be used to store the account's private key.
      name: example-issuer-account-key
    # Add a single challenge solver, HTTP01 using nginx
    solvers:
    - http01:
        ingress:
          class: nginx

Solvers come in the form of dns01 and http01 stanzas. For more information on how to configure these solver types, visit their respective documentation - DNS01, HTTP01.

Use an Alternative Certificate Chain

On January 11th 2021, Let’s Encrypt will change over to using its own ISRG Root CA. This will replace the cross-signed certificates by Identrust. This change over needs no changes to your cert-manager configuration, any renewed or new certificates issued after this date will use the new CA root.

Let’s encrypt currently already signs certificates using this CA and offers them as “alternative certificate chain” via ACME. In this release cert-manager adds support for accessing these alternative chains in the issuer config. The new preferredChain option will allow you to specify a CA’s common name for the certificate to be issued by. If there is a certificate available matching that request it will present you that certificate. Note that this is a Preferred option, if none is found matching the request it will give you the default certificate as before. This makes sure you still get your certificate renewed once the alternative chain gets removed on the ACME issuer side.

You can already today get certificates from the ISRG Root by using:

apiVersion: cert-manager.io/v1
kind: Issuer
metadata:
  name: letsencrypt
spec:
  acme:
    server: https://acme-v02.api.letsencrypt.org/directory
    preferredChain: "ISRG Root X1"

If you prefer to keep the IdenTrust chain you can do that by setting the option to DST Root CA X3:

apiVersion: cert-manager.io/v1
kind: Issuer
metadata:
  name: letsencrypt
spec:
  acme:
    server: https://acme-v02.api.letsencrypt.org/directory
    preferredChain: "DST Root CA X3"

Note that this Root CA is expiring soon, Let’s Encrypt will keep this certificate chain active until September 29 2021.

This feature is not Let’s Encrypt exclusive, if your ACME server supports signing by multiple CAs you can use preferredChain with the value of the Common Name in the Issuer part of the certificate.

External Account Bindings

cert-manager supports using External Account Bindings with your ACME account. External Account Bindings are used to associate your ACME account with an external account such as a CA custom database. This is typically not needed for most cert-manager users unless you know it is explicitly needed.

External Account Bindings require three fields on an ACME Issuer which represents your ACME account. These fields are:

  • keyID - the key ID or account ID of which your external account binding is indexed by the external account manager
  • keySecretRef - the name and key of a secret containing a base 64 encoded URL string of your external account symmetric MAC key
  • keyAlgorithm - the MAC algorithm used to sign the JSON web string containing your External Account Binding when registering the account with the ACME server

Note: In most cases, the MAC key must be encoded in base64URL. The following command will base64-encode a key and convert it to base64URL:

$ echo 'my-secret-key' | base64 -w0 | sed -e 's/+/-/g' -e 's/\//_/g' -e 's/=//g'

You can then create the Secret resource with:

$ kubectl create secret generic eab-secret --from-literal \
  secret={base64 encoded secret key}

An example of an ACME issuer with an External Account Binding is as follows.

apiVersion: cert-manager.io/v1
kind: ClusterIssuer
metadata:
  name: my-acme-server-with-eab
spec:
  acme:
    email: user@example.com
    server: https://my-acme-server-with-eab.com/directory
    externalAccountBinding:
      keyID: my-keyID-1
      keySecretRef:
        name: eab-secret
        key: secret
      keyAlgorithm: HS256
    privateKeySecretRef:
      name: example-issuer-account-key
    solvers:
    - http01:
        ingress:
          class: nginx

Reusing an ACME Account

You may want to reuse a single ACME account across multiple clusters. This might especially be useful when using EAB. If the disableAccountKeyGeneration field is set, cert-manager will not create a new ACME account and use the existing key specified in privateKeySecretRef. Note that the Issuer/ClusterIssuer will not be ready and will continue to retry until the Secret is provided.

apiVersion: cert-manager.io/v1
kind: ClusterIssuer
metadata:
  name: my-acme-server-with-existing-acme-account
spec:
  acme:
    email: user@example.com
    disableAccountKeyGeneration: true
    privateKeySecretRef:
      name: example-issuer-account-key

Adding Multiple Solver Types

You may want to use different types of challenge solver configurations for different ingress controllers, for example if you want to issue wildcard certificates using DNS01 alongside other certificates that are validated using HTTP01.

The solvers stanza has an optional selector field, that can be used to specify which Certificates, and further, what DNS names on those Certificates should be used to solve challenges.

There are three selector types that can be used to form the requirements that a Certificate must meet in order to be selected for a solver - matchLabels, dnsNames and dnsZones. You can have any number of these three selectors on a single solver.

Match Labels

The matchLabel selector requires that all Certificates match all of the labels that are defined in the string map list of that stanza. For example, the following Issuer will only match on Certificates that have the labels "user-cloudflare-solver": "true" and "email": "user@example.com".

apiVersion: cert-manager.io/v1
kind: ClusterIssuer
metadata:
  name: letsencrypt-staging
spec:
  acme:
    ...
    solvers:
    - dns01:
        cloudflare:
          email: user@example.com
          apiKeySecretRef:
            name: cloudflare-apikey-secret
            key: apikey
      selector:
        matchLabels:
          "use-cloudflare-solver": "true"
          "email": "user@example.com"

DNS Names

The dnsNames selector is a list of exact DNS names that should be mapped to a solver. This means that Certificates containing any of these DNS names will be selected. If a match is found, a dnsNames selector will take precedence over a dnsZones selector. If multiple solvers match with the same dnsNames value, the solver with the most matching labels in matchLabels will be selected. If neither has more matches, the solver defined earlier in the list will be selected.

The following example will solve challenges of Certificates with DNS names example.com and *.example.com for these domains.

Note: dnsNames take an exact match and do not resolve wildcards, meaning the following Issuer will not solve for DNS names such as foo.example.com. Use the dnsZones selector type to match all subdomains within a zone.

apiVersion: cert-manager.io/v1
kind: ClusterIssuer
metadata:
  name: letsencrypt-staging
spec:
  acme:
    ...
    solvers:
    - dns01:
        cloudflare:
          email: user@example.com
          apiKeySecretRef:
            name: cloudflare-apikey-secret
            key: apikey
      selector:
        dnsNames:
        - 'example.com'
        - '*.example.com'

DNS Zones

The dnsZones stanza defines a list of DNS zones that can be solved by this solver. If a DNS name is an exact match, or a subdomain of any of the specified dnsZones, this solver will be used, unless a more specific dnsNames match is configured. This means that sys.example.com will be selected over one specifying example.com for the domain www.sys.example.com. If multiple solvers match with the same dnsZones value, the solver with the most matching labels in matchLabels will be selected. If neither has more matches, the solver defined earlier in the list will be selected.

In the following example, this solver will resolve challenges for the domain example.com, as well as all of its subdomains *.example.com.

apiVersion: cert-manager.io/v1
kind: ClusterIssuer
metadata:
  name: letsencrypt-staging
spec:
  acme:
    ...
    solvers:
    - dns01:
        cloudflare:
          email: user@example.com
          apiKeySecretRef:
            name: cloudflare-apikey-secret
            key: apikey
      selector:
        dnsZones:
        - 'example.com'

All Together

Each solver is able to have any number of the three selector types defined. In the following example, the DNS01 solver will be used to solve challenges for domains for Certificates that contain the DNS names a.example.com and b.example.com, or for test.example.com and all of its subdomains (e.g. foo.test.example.com).

For all other challenges, the HTTP01 solver will be used only if the Certificate also contains the label "use-http01-solver": "true".

apiVersion: cert-manager.io/v1
kind: ClusterIssuer
metadata:
  name: letsencrypt-staging
spec:
  acme:
    ...
    solvers:
    - http01:
        ingress:
          class: nginx
      selector:
        matchLabels:
          "use-http01-solver": "true"
    - dns01:
        cloudflare:
          email: user@example.com
          apiKeySecretRef:
            name: cloudflare-apikey-secret
            key: apikey
      selector:
        dnsNames:
        - 'a.example.com'
        - 'b.example.com'
        dnsZones:
        - 'test.example.com'
Last modified January 1, 0001