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Posts Tagged ‘AES256’

SMTP TLS: All About Secure Email Delivery over TLS

Monday, October 2nd, 2017

TLS stands for “Transport Layer Security” and is the successor of “SSL” (Secure Socket Layer). TLS is one of the standard ways that computers on the Internet transmit information over an encrypted channel. In general, when one computer connects to another computer and uses TLS, the following happens:

  1. Computer A connects to Computer B (no security)
  2. Computer B says “Hello” (no security)
  3. Computer A says “Lets talk securely over TLS” (no security)
  4. Computer A and B agree on how to do this (secure)
  5. The rest of the conversation is encrypted (secure)

In particular:

  • The meat of the conversation is encrypted
  • Computer A can verify the identity of Computer B (by examining its SSL certificate, which is required for this dialog)
  • The conversation cannot be eavesdropped upon (without Computer A knowing)
  • The conversation cannot be modified by a third party
  • Other information cannot be injected into the conversation by third parties.

Basic email security starts with SMTP TLS

TLS (and SSL) is used for many different reasons on the Internet and helps make the Internet a more secure place, when used. One of the popular uses of TLS is with SMTP for transmitting email messages between servers in a secure manner.  See also:

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What Level of SSL or TLS is Required by HIPAA?

Tuesday, January 13th, 2015

SSL and TLS are not actually monolithic encryption entities that you either use or do not use to connect securely to email servers, web sites, and other systems.  SSL and TLS are evolving protocols which have many nuances to how they may be configured.  The “version” of the protocol you are using and the nuances of the configuration directly affect the security achievable through your connections.

Some people use the terms SSL and TLS interchangeably, but TLS (version 1.0 and beyond) is actually the successor of SSL (version 3.0). … see SSL versus TLS – what is the difference?  In 2014 we have seen that SSL v3 is very weak and should not be used going forward by anyone (see the POODLE attacks, for example), TLS v1.0 or higher should be used.

Among the many configuration nuances of SSL and TLS, which “ciphers” are permitted have the greatest impact on security.  A “cipher” defines the specific encryption algorithm to be used,  the secure hashing (message fingerprinting / authentication) algorithm to be used, and other related things.   Some ciphers that have long been used, such as RC4, have become weak over time and should not be used in secure environments.

Given these nuances, people are often at a loss as to what is specifically needed for HIPAA compliance or any kind of effective level TLS security.

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