Random notes from a security-aware software engineer, open-source advocate and occasional lecturer.

Setting up a Weechat Relay Behind NGinx

For some time now, Weechat supports a relay protocol which enables other clients like android apps or web interfaces to connect to Weechat and its attached networks.

While you can just expose the Weechat relay to the internet, have it secured with its own SSL certificate and open yet another port in your firewall, I have to admit that I am not very comfortable with that option:

  1. I have one more application exposed to direct attacks. While I think the folks from Weechat do a great job, everyone can make mistakes and it is yet another risk.
  2. I have to manage SSL certificates in another location. This is my laziness, but I think it’s nice to have everything at one place.
  3. I have Nginx running anyway. Nginx is capable of acting as reverse proxy for WebSocket connections and hence for a Weechat relay. So, why not use it.

I am assuming that internal communication on my server is secure. If it’s not, all is lost anyway. That is why my plan is to not bother at all with SSL certificates in Weechat. In short, I am going to have Nginx terminate the SSL connections.

Nginx Configuration

I am assuming a proper SSL configuration already exists for Nginx. Hence I am not going into details on this. That may be an article for another time. For now, I will just recommend the Qualys SSL Server Test to check if SSL is properly set-up.

For Nginx we now want to add a proxy configuration that forwards all connections to port 9001 which we will later use for the Weechat relay.

It is important that we pass on the HTTP Upgrade and Connection headers since we have WebSocket connections. For more details about this, have a look at the Nginx documentation.

Now, here is the configuration:

# Set connection header based on upgrade header
map $http_upgrade $connection_upgrade {
    default upgrade;
    '' close;

# Proxy for Weechat relay
server {
    listen      443 ssl http2;

    ssl_certificate_key /path/to/ssl/key;
    ssl_certificate     /path/to/ssl/cert;

    location / {
        proxy_http_version 1.1;
        proxy_set_header Upgrade $http_upgrade;
        proxy_set_header Connection $connection_upgrade;
        proxy_read_timeout 4h;

This should be enough to make Nginx work as proxy. Now test your configuration:

nginx -t

And finally restart Nginx to load the new configuration:

systemctl restart nginx.service

Weechat Relay Configuration

Now let’s configure the Weechat relay. For this, set the following properties in Weechat:

/set yourpassword
/set ""
/relay add ipv4.weechat 9001

This will set your relay password and will create a new relay that is listening to localhost port 9001.

Connect to Relay

You now should be ready to connect to your relay. Make sure to set-up your client to connect to your domain, port 443. On port 9001, no external connections are allowed. Additionally, make sure to set the connection type to WebSocket.

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