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Checking expiration dates for your certbot certificates

Posted by jpluimers on 2021/02/16

I have these two little aliases in my toolbox:

alias "certbot-check-all-by-file=bash <(curl -fsSL --location /etc/letsencrypt/live"
alias "certbot-check-all-by-config=bash <(curl -fsSL --server ISPconfig"

First a big fat warning

do not run just any script downloaded through curl. Plenty of reasons why this is dangerous:

  1. [WayBack] Detecting the use of “curl | bash” server side | Application Security
  2. [WayBack] One way “curl pipe sh” install scripts can be dangerous [proof of concept] / Jordan Eldredge: script content differs depending on user agent
  3. [WayBack] sean cassidy : Don’t Pipe to your Shell: scripts having different behaviour when executed partially
  4. [WayBack] Why using curl | sudo sh is not advised? – Stack Overflow:

    You can proof your scripts against partial execution by putting the whole thing into the body of a function, and executing that function on the last line. If you know a script is defined like that, it’s exactly as secure as downloading and then executing some installer.

The first three can mostly prevented by using your own fork of the script repository, then checking each modification of the script, combined with ensuring your fork location does not throw tricks 1 or 2 on you.

That’s why I run the above alias only from a checkssl fork which I can inspect.

Back to the alias

The aliases use quite a few tricks:

  1. Having curl download a command minimising
    curl -fsSL

    Via: [WayBack] The missing package manager for macOS (or Linux) — The missing package manager for macOS (or Linux)

  2. Running that command through bash as if the download were a file by wrapping wrapping it in parenthesis and a less than sign .
    bash <(curl -fsSL

    Via: [WayBack] linux – Execute bash script from URL – Stack Overflow

  3. Passing arguments to the bash command by appending this to the command just like from the regular command-line:
    bash <(curl -fsSL --location /etc/letsencrypt/live
  4. An alias [WayBack] with double-quotes around the whole statement:
    alias "certbot-check-all-by-file=bash <(curl -fsSL --location /etc/letsencrypt/live"
  5. Either use the certbot configuration file or apache2 (via ISPconfig as the apache2 parameter value is not yet supported) domain configuration:
    alias "certbot-check-all-by-file=bash <(curl -fsSL --location /etc/letsencrypt/live"
    alias "certbot-check-all-by-config=bash <(curl -fsSL --server ISPconfig"

Using source instead of bash

Note that an alternative alias is this one:

alias "certbot-check-all-by-file=(source <(curl -s --location /etc/letsencrypt/live)"

However, that needs an extra set of parenthesis, otherwise you will get bumped out of your current shell.

The reason is that bash runs in a [WayBack] subshell, whereas [WayBack] source (and the equivalent [WayBack] “dot” command .) runs in the current shell, but the script performs a gracefull_exit or error_exit which end in an exit [WayBack] terminating the current shell.

The [WayBack] () parenthesis around the source command ensure it runs in a sub-shell.

In this case, you can still pass the --location /etc/letsencrypt/live parameters, as bash is the only shell allowing this: [WayBack] source – Passing variables to a bash script when sourcing it – Unix & Linux Stack Exchange.


Related [WayBack] Advanced Bash-Scripting Guide topics:

Related cURL options from [WayBack] curl – How To Use:

  • -f: [WayBack] -f, --fail

    (HTTP) Fail silently (no output at all) on server errors. This is mostly done to better enable scripts etc to better deal with failed attempts. In normal cases when an HTTP server fails to deliver a document, it returns an HTML document stating so (which often also describes why and more). This flag will prevent curl from outputting that and return error 22.

    This method is not fail-safe and there are occasions where non-successful response codes will slip through, especially when authentication is involved (response codes 401 and 407).

  • -s: [WayBack] -s, --silent:

    Silent or quiet mode. Don’t show progress meter or error messages. Makes Curl mute. It will still output the data you ask for, potentially even to the terminal/stdout unless you redirect it.

    Use -S, –show-error in addition to this option to disable progress meter but still show error messages.

    See also -v, –verbose and –stderr.

  • -S: [WayBack] -S, --show-errors:

    When used with -s, –silent, it makes curl show an error message if it fails.

  • -L: [WayBack] -L, --location:

    (HTTP) If the server reports that the requested page has moved to a different location (indicated with a Location: header and a 3XX response code), this option will make curl redo the request on the new place. If used together with -i, –include or -I, –head, headers from all requested pages will be shown. When authentication is used, curl only sends its credentials to the initial host. If a redirect takes curl to a different host, it won’t be able to intercept the user+password. See also –location-trusted on how to change this. You can limit the amount of redirects to follow by using the –max-redirs option.

    When curl follows a redirect and the request is not a plain GET (for example POST or PUT), it will do the following request with a GET if the HTTP response was 301, 302, or 303. If the response code was any other 3xx code, curl will re-send the following request using the same unmodified method.

    You can tell curl to not change the non-GET request method to GET after a 30x response by using the dedicated options for that: –post301–post302 and –post303.


Reminder to self: see if JSON output is viable. This commit might help.


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