A few weeks ago, the National Institutes of Science and Technology (NIST) quietly published Revision 1 to Special Publication 800-52, Guidelines for the Selection, Configuration, and Use of Transport Layer Security (TLS) Implementations.
Transport Layer Security are cryptographic protocols which are designed to provide communication security over the internet and is used in Secure Socket Layer (SSL) based Virtual Private Networks.
Over the years SSL has morphed into TLS. First there was SSL 2.0 (Version 1.0 was never publically released). Shortly after SSL 2.0 was released, SSL 3.0 was released. TLS 1.0 was first defined in RFC 2246, in 1999. TLS 1.1 was defined in RFC 4356, published in 2006. TLS 1.2 was defined in RFC 5256 in 2008. Each subsequent version provided stronger and stronger security.
So what is significant about the recent NIST publication?
The original version of the NIST document mandated the use of at least TLS 1.0 and precluded the use of SSL 3.0 and below. This new revision requires that TLS 1.1 configured with FIPS-based cipher suites as the minimum appropriate secure transport protocol and recommends that agencies develop migration plans to TLS 1.2 by January 1, 2015. SP 800-52, revision 1 also mandates that TLS implementation use FIPS 140-2 validated cryptographic modules and random number generators. So basically systems which may have been approved for operation in early April, are no longer approved and every government agency is tasked to be ready to transition to FIPS validated TLS 1.2 by the beginning of next year.
Many customers will be busy evaluating their webservers and their web browsers to insure that they are compliant. Customers shouldn’t forget to look at their remote access VPN solutions. If you have a SSL/TLS based VPN, and it is not using TLS 1.2, it needs to be upgraded. If your SSL/TLS VPN doesn’t support TLS 1.1, it needs to be upgraded in a hurry.
NIST SP 800-52, Revision 1 also strongly recommends that TLS implementations use forward secrecy through the use of ephemeral keys. I discussed ephemeral keys and forward secrecy several months ago. Juniper Networks added support of ephemeral keys at the same time support for TLS 1.2 was added.
So what about the Juniper Networks Junos Pulse Secure Access Service SSL VPN? The good news is the Secure Access solution was enhanced over a year ago to include support for TLS 1.2 with the SA 7.4 software release. The SA solution is already FIPS validated. If you are running 7.4r1 or later, you are in good shape. If not, you should consider upgrading soon.