Why you should care about TLS Compliance

Posted by: Robert Levine

Why you should care about TLS Compliance

A TLS (Transport Layer Security) compliance tool should review and validate various aspects of the TLS implementation to ensure it meets the required standards and best practices. TLS is the most important and widely deployed security protocol in use today and often misconfigured exposing companies to risk. TLS Management is more than just managing the certificates and ensuring they are refreshed.

Vitally any TLS Compliance tool should verify that the actively running TLS environment is configured to in compliance with industry standards such as NIST 800–52 Rev 2. TLS Compliance is not the same as a penetration test.

Here are the key areas that a TLS compliance tool should cover:

TLS Version: The tool should assess the versions of TLS supported by the server and provide a means to track its version over time.

Cipher Suites: The tool should assess the supported cipher suites and their configurations. It should check for the use of strong encryption algorithms, key exchange methods, and integrity protection mechanisms. Weak or vulnerable cipher suites should be flagged. It should also access TLS options that combined with proper configuration and certificate issuance ensure maximal security.

Certificate Validation: The compliance tool should validate the TLS certificates used by the system. It should check for the expiration dates, revocation status, and verify that the certificates are issued by trusted Certificate Authorities (CAs).

Perfect Forward Secrecy (PFS): PFS ensures that a compromised private key cannot be used to decrypt past communications. The tool should check if PFS is enabled and implemented correctly.

TLS Session Resumption: The tool should validate the usage of secure session resumption techniques, such as session tickets or session IDs, to enhance performance while maintaining security.

Certificate Pinning: If applicable, the compliance tool should review the implementation of certificate pinning to ensure that the system only accepts specific certificates from trusted CAs.

Library Version: The tool should track the versions of the TLS libraries in use and validate that there aren’t any known vulnerabilities for the certificates and cipher suites used.

Connectivity Dataflows: The tool should collect and track dataflows, build an inter-application connectivity source of truth to ensure accurate alerting.

Following NIST SP 800–52 Rev. 2  is important for organizations for several reasons:

    1. Security Best Practices: NIST is a widely respected authority in the field of cybersecurity. Following NIST guidelines, such as NIST SP 800–52 Rev. 2, helps companies implement security best practices for TLS configurations. It provides recommendations and guidelines that have been thoroughly researched and vetted by experts in the field.
    2. Compliance Requirements: Many regulatory frameworks and industry standards require adherence to NIST guidelines which serves as input to CIS, FFIEC, PCI and HIPPA regulatory frameworks around cybersecurity. Organizations that handle sensitive information in the United States, such as federal agencies or organizations working with government contracts, may be required to comply with NIST standards. Following NIST SP 800–52 Rev. 2 helps meet these compliance requirements.
    3. Risk Mitigation: Implementing TLS configurations that align with NIST SP 800–52 Rev. 2 helps mitigate security risks associated with insecure TLS implementations. By following recommended protocols, cipher suites, and key management practices, organizations reduce the likelihood of successful attacks, data breaches, or unauthorized access.
  1. Reputation and Trust: Strong security practices, including TLS compliance, contribute to building trust with customers, partners, and stakeholders. By following recognized standards such as NIST, companies can demonstrate their commitment to protecting sensitive information and safeguarding the privacy and integrity of data exchanged over TLS-secured connections.
  2. Continuous Improvement: NIST guidelines are regularly updated to reflect the evolving threat landscape and emerging best practices. By adhering to NIST SP 800–52 Rev. 2, companies can stay informed about the latest security recommendations and incorporate them into their TLS configurations. This helps ensure that their systems remain resilient against new vulnerabilities and exploits.

Relevant standards for TLS compliance include: