How Do I Configure the Remote Web Server to Use HSTS?


Heather Bennett

How Do I Configure the Remote Web Server to Use HSTS?

When it comes to securing your website and protecting your users’ data, one important aspect to consider is enabling HTTP Strict Transport Security (HSTS) on your remote web server. HSTS is a security feature that instructs web browsers to only communicate with your website over secure HTTPS connections, preventing any potential downgrade attacks.

What is HSTS?

HSTS is a web security policy mechanism that allows websites to declare themselves accessible only via secure connections. Once a browser receives an HSTS header from a website, it will automatically convert any HTTP requests for that domain into HTTPS requests for a specified period of time. This ensures that all communication between the browser and the server remains encrypted and secure.

Configuring HSTS on Your Remote Web Server

To configure HSTS on your remote web server, follow these steps:

  1. Accessing Server Configuration:
  2. If you have access to the server configuration files, you can directly modify them. Locate the virtual host configuration file of your website.

  3. Enabling Mod Headers:
  4. If not already enabled, make sure the Apache module “headers” is enabled.

    You can do this by executing the following command:

    a2enmod headers
  5. Edit Virtual Host Configuration:
  6. Edit the virtual host configuration file using a text editor of your choice.

  7. Add HSTS Header:
  8. Add the following line within the <VirtualHost> tags:

    Header always set Strict-Transport-Security "max-age=31536000; includeSubDomains; preload"

    This header sets the HSTS policy for your website, specifying a maximum age of one year (in seconds) and including all subdomains. The “preload” directive indicates that your website should be included in browser preload lists for HSTS.

  9. Save the Configuration File:
  10. Save the changes to the configuration file and exit the text editor.

  11. Restart Apache:
  12. To apply the changes, restart Apache by executing:

    service apache2 restart
  13. Verify HSTS Configuration:
  14. You can verify if HSTS is enabled on your website by visiting it in a web browser and checking for the presence of the “Strict-Transport-Security” header in the server response headers. You can use browser developer tools or online tools like to check this.

Considerations and Best Practices

While enabling HSTS provides enhanced security for your website, there are a few considerations and best practices to keep in mind:

  • HSTS Preload List: Submitting your website to be included in browser preload lists ensures that browsers automatically enforce HTTPS connections from the first visit. However, this process is irreversible, so make sure your site is fully functional over HTTPS before submitting it.
  • Certificate Validity: Ensure that you have a valid SSL/TLS certificate installed on your web server. Browsers will only accept HSTS headers from secure HTTPS connections.
  • Testing: Test your website thoroughly after enabling HSTS to ensure all resources are loaded securely. Mixed content warnings and loading issues may arise if some resources are not available over HTTPS.
  • Backup Configuration: Always keep a backup of your server configuration files before making any changes. This allows you to revert back in case of any unexpected issues.


Enabling HSTS on your remote web server is an essential step towards securing your website and protecting user data. By following the steps outlined in this article, you can easily configure HSTS and ensure that all communication with your website is encrypted over secure HTTPS connections.

Remember: Prioritize the security of your website by implementing recommended security measures like HSTS, always staying up to date with web security best practices.

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