It’s time to move away from SSL and early TLS – are you ready?

In 2015, the PCI Security Standards Council announced that all organisations still using Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) or early Transport Layer Security (TLS) protocols needed to move away from these to TLSv1.2 or higher before 30th June 2018.

If you’re a merchant, or work with payment partners in any way, you’ll be well aware that SSL and early TLS are no longer seen as secure forms of encryption for organisations handling payment card data, with many serious vulnerabilities uncovered in past years.

However, even with the deadline looming, some organisations are still unsure of how best to transition from SSL and early TLS.

On paper, the steps that businesses need to take are simple – have a migration plan, implement this plan, and maintain regular testing to ensure continued compliance – but for those looking to make the move quickly, these measures can be unclear.

To help, we’ve put together a short guide with some advice on how to best make the move.

Running on Windows?

Firstly, ensure that you’re running an up-to-date operating system. Not only is this more secure, but more recent operating systems – including Windows 8 and later – support TLS 1.2 as a default.

However, many older Microsoft operating systems – including those that preceded Windows Server 2012 and Windows 8 – don’t support TLS 1.2 as a default. Therefore, to disable earlier TLS protocols, you’ll need to modify the configuration from the default setting by making changes within the registry, and then rebooting the system.

Open up the registry (RegEdit) and browse to:

Computer > HKLM > System > CurrentControlSet > Control > SecurityProviders > SCHANNEL > Protocols

In the registry set “Enabled” to equal 0 under the specific sub-key for the protocol you want to disable. For example, the following registry settings will disable SSL 3.0.

[HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Control\SecurityProviders\SCHANNEL\Protocols\SSL 3.0]
[HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Control\SecurityProviders\SCHANNEL\Protocols\SSL 3.0\Client]
"Enabled"=dword:00000000
[HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Control\SecurityProviders\SCHANNEL\Protocols\SSL 3.0\Server]

To enable TLS 1.2 in older Windows releases you’ll need to set “Enabled” to equal 1 and set “DisabledByDefault” to 0 under the TLS 1.2 sub-key. For example:

[HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Control\SecurityProviders\SCHANNEL\Protocols\TLS 1.2]
[HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Control\SecurityProviders\SCHANNEL\Protocols\TLS 1.2\Client]
"Enabled"=dword:00000001
"DisabledByDefault"=dword:00000000
[HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Control\SecurityProviders\SCHANNEL\Protocols\TLS 1.2\Server]
"Enabled"=dword:00000001
"DisabledByDefault"=dword:00000000

Running open source?

Luckily, the most frequently used open source web servers have made it easy to update your TLS settings. For Apache, Nginx, Lighttpd, HAProxy or AWS ELB Mozilla, the Mozilla SSL Configuration Generator is a useful tool to help with the secure configuration of your web server.

If you’d prefer to configure your web server manually, there are also straightforward steps that you can take to do this.

  • For Nginx web servers: open the Nginx configuration file for the relevant site and change the ‘ssl_protocols’ parameter to “TLSv1.2”, as in the below:
    ssl_protocols TLSv1.2;
  • For Apache web servers: open the Apache configuration file for the relevant site and change the ‘ssl_protocols’ parameter to “TLSv.1.2”, as in the below:
    SSLProtocol       all –SSLv2 -SSLv3 -TLSv1 -TLSv1.1

Making the move to TLSv1.2 doesn’t have to be complex, and it can tie in to wider security best practice, such as keeping your operating system up to date.

However, PCI DSS compliance doesn’t stop with updating these protocols – organisations handling payment card data are frequently targeted by attackers, so it’s vital to keep up regular testing of your systems so that you’re aware of any potential weaknesses in your defences.

To find out more about how we can help, take a look at our penetration testing services.

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