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Posts Tagged ‘AES256’

What Level of SSL or TLS is Required for HIPAA Compliance?

Thursday, January 2nd, 2020

SSL and TLS are not monolithic encryption entities that you use or do not use to securely connect to email servers, websites, and other systems. SSL and TLS are evolving protocols with many nuances to how they may be configured. The “version” of the protocol and the ciphers used directly impact the level of security achievable through your connections.

Some people use the terms SSL and TLS interchangeably, but TLS (version 1.0 and beyond) is the successor of SSL (version 3.0). See SSL versus TLS – what is the difference? In 2014 we saw that SSL v3 was very weak and should not be used going forward by anyone; TLS v1.0 or higher must be used.

Among the many configuration nuances of TLS, the protocol versions supported (e.g., 1.0, 1.1, 1.2, and 1.3) and which “ciphers” are permitted significantly impact security. A “cipher” specifies the encryption algorithm, the secure hashing (message fingerprinting / authentication) algorithm to be used, and other related things such as how encryption keys are negotiated. Some ciphers that have long been used, such as RC4, have weakened over time and should never be used in secure environments. Other ciphers protect against people who record a secure conversation from being able to decrypt it in the future if somehow the server’s private keys are compromised (perfect forward secrecy).

Given the many choices of ciphers and TLS protocol versions, people are often at a loss as to what is specifically needed for HIPAA compliance. Simply “turning on TLS” without configuring it appropriately is likely to leave your transmission encryption non-compliant.

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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, “Let’s 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)
  • A third party cannot modify the conversation
  • Third parties cannot inject other information into the conversation.

TLS and SSL are used for many different reasons on the internet and help make the internet a more secure place. One of the popular uses of TLS is SMTP for securely transmitting email messages between servers. See also:

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