Infographic – SSL vs TLS: What is the Difference?

Published: October 9th, 2015

SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) and TLS (Transport Layer Security) are foundations of security on the Internet.  However, between colloquial usage and the relationship between these security protocols, there is a lot of confusion regarding how they are related, how they are different, and what to use in what situation.

For a detailed analysis of these differences and similarities, see: TLS versus SSL: What is the Difference?

The following infographic simplifies and summarizes the comparison.

SSL versus TLS: The Differences and Similarities

SSL versus TLS infographic

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Cyber Communication Security: SSL vs. TLS

TLS: Transport Layer Security

SSL: Secure Sockets Layer

SSL and TLS are protocols for data encryption and authentication between a client and a computer server. They create a secure connection for private communication across an unsecure network.

While SSL and TLS are not the only protocols of their kind, they are the two most common protocols for communications of sensitive data such as passwords, personal information, financial information, etc.

Protect your company’s systems from cyberattack, secure your communication, and stay HIPAA compliant using the right security protocol.

Protocol Overview

SSL v3.0 laid the foundation for TLS v1.0

Both use similar ciphers and message digests (though there are newer and better ciphers that are only available with newer versions of TLS such as TLS v1.0 and or v1.2).

Differences in how the secure communications are established are also evident and make TLS v1.0 (and higher) clearly stronger than SSL v3.0.

Which protocol is used – TLS v1.x or SSL v3.0 – is determined by a negotiation between the client and server, based on what software is installed on each and how each is configured.

SSL v3.0

  • Was exploited by the POODLE attack and is now obsolete

TLS v1.2

  • The newest, most widely-used TLS protocol
  • Enables better use of more secure ciphers
  • Features enhanced negotiation of the encrypted connections

Server Connection – How It Works

  • By Port (explicit) – “SSL”
    • Client connects to a secure port like:
      • 443 for https (secure web)
      • 993 for secure IMAP
      • 995 for secure POP

Note: Even though this explicit method can be called “SSL” in many places, it still may use TLS v1.0+ or SSL v3.0 for the actual connection, depending on what is negotiated.

  • By Protocol (implicit) – “TLS”
    • Client reaches out to an insecure server with a “handshake” and begins secure communication once the connection is successful (“client hello” and “server hello” messages are exchanged)
      • If the handshake proves to be unsuccessful, the connection is severed
      • This handshake is often called “STARTTLS”

If the client and server support multiple protocols, they must negotiate to agree upon which one they will use (note: websites that use SSL v3.0 have outdated security and should be updated ASAP).

Configuration – Which Protocol to Use

Server Configuration

  • Use the latest version of TLS and configure it properly
    • Extremely strong security (made even more secure with a high-quality security certificate)
  • Stay away from SSL v3.0 as it does not provide the proper level of security
    • Use only strong ciphers (especially if the server requires compliance)

Program Configuration

  • In terms of explicit vs. implicit connections, both SSL and TLS are fine options for program configuration (as long as they are supported by the server)
    • However, TLS should be used for the actual protocol

If no SSL to TLS protocol is selected, your connection to the server becomes easily accessible to prying eyes.

HIPAA Compliance – Requirements

SSL – SSL v3.0 must not be used (must be disabled along with SSL v2.0)

TLS – TLS v1.0 is allowed (newer versions are better)—

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