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Enhanced Security: AES-256 Encryption for SSL and TLS

Tuesday, December 1st, 2020

AES-256 EncryptionSSL and TLS play critical roles in securing data transmission over the internet, and AES-256 is integral in their most secure configurations. The original standard was known as Secure Sockets Layer (SSL). Although it was replaced by Transport Layer Security (TLS), many in the industry still refer to TLS by its predecessor’s acronym. While TLS can be relied on for securing information at a high level—such as US Government TOP SECRET data—improper or outdated implementations of the standard may not provide much security at all.

Variations in which cipher is used in TLS impact how secure TLS ultimately is. Some ciphers are fast but insecure, while others are slower, require a greater amount of computational resources, and can provide a higher degree of security. Weaker ciphers—such as the early export-grade ciphers—still exist, but they should no longer be used.

The Advanced Encryption Standard (AES), is an encryption specification that succeeded the Data Encryption Standard (DES). AES was standardized in 2001 after a 5 year review, and is currently one of the most popular algorithms used in symmetric-key cryptography. It is often seen as the gold standard symmetric-key encryption technique, with many security-conscious organizations requiring their employees to use AES-256 for all communications. It is also used prominently in TLS.

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TLS 1.0 to 1.2 and NIST TLS Cipher Updates: Email Program and Web Browser Compatibility Issues

Friday, January 10th, 2020

It happens at least every few years: system administrators need to update the security configuration of their servers to keep up with the latest best practices and to close newly found security issues(i.e., via changes to recommended TLS ciphers and protocols).  These updates can be rocky. Change often introduces incompatibilities that prevent certain systems or programs from being able to connect to the updated systems.

(Article updated for January 10th, 2020).

In this article we are going to look at what email program an web browser incompatibilities arise when you migrate from using the “old standard:” TLS v1.0+ and the ciphers recommend by NIST 800-52r1 to using either TLS v1.0+ and the new NIST 800-52r2 ciphers or TLS v1.2+ and the new NIST 800-52r2 ciphers.

Why?

  1. PCI required that servers that need to be PCI compliant use only TLS v1.1+ (which really means v1.2+) by the end of June, 2018.
  2. NIST 800-52r2 updated its recommended cipher list and remove many ciphers from revision 1 that are now considered “weak” and introduced a number of new, better ciphers.  Administrators should be using NIST 800-52r2 cipher support as a best practice.
  3. Organizations that require HIPAA compliance should also follow the NIST guidelines and prepare NIST 800-52r2 support and, where possible, support TLS v1.3 and eventually eliminate pre-TLS 1.2 support. See: What level of TLS is required for HIPAA compliance?

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