Adopt TLS 1.3 – Kill Two Birds with One Stone


Transport Layer Security (TLS) version 1.3 provides significant business benefits by making applications more secure, improving performance and reducing latency for the client. Changes in how handshake between client and server is designed has decreased site latency – utilizing a faster handshake, and use of Elliptic Curve (EC) based ciphers that allow faster page load time. TLS 1.3 also enforces forward security to prevent a replay of all recorded data if private session keys are compromised.

Transport Level Security – A Quick Recap

Transport Layer Security (TLS) version 1.0, the first standardized version of SSL introduced in 1999, which is based on SSL v3.0. TLS 1.0 is obsolete and vulnerable to various security issues, such as downgrade attacks. Payment Card Industry (PCI) had set a migration deadline of June 30, 2018 to migrate to TLS 1.1 or higher.

TLS 1.1, introduced in 2006, is more secure than TLS 1.0 and protected against certain types of Cipher Block Chaining (CBC) attacks such as BEAST. Some TLS 1.1 implementations are vulnerable to POODLE, a form of downgrade attack. TLS 1.1 also removed certain ciphers such as DES, and RC2 which are vulnerable and broken and introduced support for Forward Secrecy, although it is performance intensive.

TLS 1.2, introduced in 2008, added SHA256 as a hash algorithm and replaced SHA-1, which is considered insecure. It also added support for Advanced Encryption Standard (AES) cipher suites, Elliptic Curve Cryptography (ECC), and Perfect Forward Secrecy (PFS) without a significant performance hit. TLS 1.2 also removed the ability to downgrade to SSL v2.0 (highly insecure and broken).

Why TLS 1.3?

TLS 1.3 is now an approved standard of the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF).  Sites utilizing TLS 1.3 can expect faster user connections than with earlier TLS standards while making the connections more secure due to the elimination of obsolete and less secure ciphers, server dictating the session security and faster establishment of handshake between client and server. TLS 1.3 eliminates the negotiation on the encryption to use. Instead, in the initial connection the server provides an encryption key, the client provides a session key, and then the connection is made. However, if needed TLS 1.3 provides a secure means to fall back to TLS 1.2 if TLS 1.3 is not supported by the endpoint.

[You might also like: High-Performance Visibility into SSL/TLS Traffic]

TLS 1.3 – Recommendations

To achieve SSL/TLS acceleration and effectively address the growing number and complexity of encrypted web attacks, organizations face serious strategic challenges. We recommend migration to TLS 1.3 to take advantage of significant business benefits and security that the newer standard provides. However, as with any transition to a new standard, be mindful of the adoption risks.

Evaluate the Risks and Plan Migration

The risks may be incompatibility between client and server due to poor implementations and bugs. You may also need to carefully evaluate the impact on devices that implement inspection based on RSA static keys, products that protect against data leaks or implement out of path web application protection based on a copy of decrypted traffic.

  • Adopt a gradual deployment of TLS 1.3 – A crawl-walk-run approach of deploying in QA environments, test sites, and low traffic sites
  • Evaluate or query the “middle box” vendors for compatibility with TLS 1.3, currently, only active TLS 1.3 terminators can provide compatibility
  • Utilize Application Delivery Controllers (ADCs) to terminate TLS 1.3 and front-end servers that are not capable of supporting TLS 1.3

TLS 1.3 provides improved security, forward security to secure data even if private keys are compromised, improved latency and better performance.

Read “2017-2018 Global Application & Network Security Report” to learn more.

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Prakash Sinha is a technology executive and evangelist for Radware and brings over 29 years of experience in strategy, product management, product marketing and engineering. Prakash has been a part of executive teams of four software and network infrastructure startups, all of which were acquired. Before Radware, Prakash led product management for Citrix NetScaler and was instrumental in introducing multi-tenant and virtualized NetScaler product lines to market. Prior to Citrix, Prakash held leadership positions in architecture, engineering, and product management at leading technology companies such as Cisco, Informatica, and Tandem Computers. Prakash holds a Bachelor in Electrical Engineering from BIT, Mesra and an MBA from Haas School of Business at UC Berkeley.


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