Month: June 2021

SSL vs TLS. Which one to choose?

SSL vs TLS

Authentication and security for the transporting of data are the common factors between these two technologies. There are differences between SSL vs TLS. Let see what each of them has in store for you.

What is SSL?

Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) is a standard for encrypting data that is exchanged between users’ devices (browsers) and websites. SSL also proves identity for users to feel safer. SSL became a convenient security layer, especially for websites requiring sensitive data from users.

To transfer information without securing it have the risks of interception, theft, or manipulation. 

SSL works via two different keys, a public key and a private one. Both are vital for encoding and decoding the information exchanged between two systems.

Whenever a user connects to a website with an SSL certificate, there’s an exchange of public keys to encrypt the messages they send to each other. When the server receives a message, it decrypts it through its private key. Its answer to the user is encrypted with this private key, and a mirrored process takes place on the user’s side.

SSL is used on remote login, e-mail, websites, etc.

What is TLS?

Transport Layer Security (TLS) is a cryptographic technology to keep private the data communicated on the Internet. It encrypts messaging, e-mail, voice-over IP, file transfers, etc. It’s an evolved version of SSL. 

TLS can authenticate the server or the client, supply confidentiality to the communication channel, and guarantee integrity.

A TLS connection starts with a handshake between the user’s device and a server. This handshake involves different processes. The identity of the server is authenticated. The TLS version and the specific cipher suite they will use to communicate are defined. And session keys to encrypt messages they will exchange are created. There won’t be an exchange of data until the handshake is completed.

SSL vs TLS. Which one to choose?

As you see, both technologies work similarly. TLS repaired vulnerabilities found on SSL and improved its functionality for authenticating and securing communication.

  • TLS supplies more detailed and reactive alerts when problems occur.
  • SSL authentication of messages through keys offers a good level of security. But TLS goes to a higher level, using key-HMAC (Hashing for Message Authentication Code) to protect information not to be modified while it is in transit. HMAC works through a secret cryptographic key and a cryptographic hash function. The shared secret replaces the use of digital signatures.
  • For creating key data with the HMAC, TLS uses two hash algorithms to increase security. Even if an algorithm gets compromised, information will be safe.
  • While authenticating, SSL sends a message to every node saying that the integrity of the exchanged information is untouched. Meaning it was not modified. TLS does the same, but it includes HMAC and PRF (pseudorandom function family) values in that message to strengthen its method of authentication. 
  • Data integrity is stronger guaranteed by TLS because it also defines the kind of certificate to be exchanged by nodes. This avoids loss of data while getting transferred to their destination.
  • SSL and TLS provide reliability for your website. Both supply the visible security marks for your customers to realize they are in a secured site. The HTTPS and the padlock on the address bar.
  • Many people call indistinctly SSL or TLS this technology. Some providers also think clients can be confused with the change. They sell you the TLS, saying it’s the SSL you asked for. But they are not the same. All SSL versions are already outdated. Many websites still use it (one of its versions), but they should be aware of the risks of its vulnerabilities to mitigate them.

To put it bluntly, TLS is already the official successor of the SSL certificate. 

Conclusion

Now the choice is clear, TLS for protecting the integrity of all the communication you exchange with your clients online. Internet is not a safe place anymore. Protection is a must!

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Domain Name System Security Extension (DNSSEC).

Domain Name System Security Extension (DNSSEC)

DNSSEC is a group of different protocols and specifications for adding a security layer to the Domain Name System and all its processes. From the look-ups to all the exchange of data.

Those extensions supply DNS resolvers security through authenticated denial of existence, cryptographic authentication of DNS information, and information integrity.

It was created by the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF). Mainly because the Domain Name System’s design originally didn’t include security aspects. In the early times of its use, different vulnerabilities were detected. Then this DNSSEC was developed. Creators chose to give this system the shape of extensions to make it easier to add them to the rest of the DNS infrastructure already in use.

Learn more about how DNSSEC service works!

What is the Domain Name System (DNS)?

Let’s shortly review DNS as a context to understand the importance of DNSSEC and how exactly it works.

DNS is in charge of translating domain names we use to refer to the domains we want to visit into IP addresses, strings of numbers that computers use to communicate with each other.

Then, every time you type a domain name on your browser, this sent a query to get DNS information, the IP address associated with the requested domain. The DNS translation is done for the computers to look for it. Once the information is found, the query is responded including the needed IP address. With it, your browser can finally reach the domain you requested.

How does DNSSEC work?

DNSSEC authenticates DNS through digital signatures that work with public and private keys cryptography. DNS information is signed by its owner. The DNSSEC is present at every domain’s level (root, TLD, etc.). Through the use of two keys, one private and one public, every upper level can check the one below for verifying trustable data and for detecting and refusing untrustable data. It’s like a security chain.

When you enter a domain name in your browser, you produce a request. Then the search of DNS information to resolve the request gets triggered. When the resolver server in charge of that search gets the information, it will check the digital signature to know if it matches with the ones saved in the master DNS servers. Only in the case of a positive match will the verified IP address pass and access the computer that originated the request. 

The digital signature protects you as a user to know you really are establishing communication with the website you wanted. This stops possible redirections to fraudulent destinations. 

Besides, resolvers also can check if the digital signatures on the information they receive are valid. In a positive case, the information will be sent to users. If a digital signature doesn’t pass validation, the resolver will discard the information to avoid a possible attack. And the user will receive an error.

DNSSEC’s data origin authentication feature gives a chance for resolvers to cryptographically verify if the information they get really comes from the proper zone where it was originated.

And through the data integrity protection, resolvers can also check if the information suffers changes in transit, meaning after it was signed by the zone (information’s owner) with its private key.

Benefits of having DNSSEC

The security it provides makes the internet trustable.

It protects users against man-in-the-middle, spoofing, or cache poisoning attacks and avoids redirections to malicious websites. IP addresses are verified in every DNS resolution process via the digital signature, not to receive a forged IP address.

What to consider about DNSSEC?

It is not by itself a DDoS attacks’ protection.

Activating DNSSEC will add some weight to the network, causing a little delay. Your administrators will realize it, but not your users.

Conclusion

Security is a priority. Without DNS, your domain can’t exist online, but by itself is not safe. Activate DNSSEC to protect your domain, network, and users.

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How to back up your website?

Website Back Up

Even in the offline world, people back up their paperwork preventing a possible data loss. With computers, we learned the importance of backing up regularly in case of a hardware or software failure, a virus, or other threat.

The same logic should operate for websites. You should have security copies of it. This can save you in case something goes wrong, but also in other common situations.

Why is it important to back up your website?

Prevent data loss. Besides the website’s data, more information is added from your users’ purchases, comments, visits, etc. 

Malware or/and hacking attack. If your security defenses are defeated, a backup of your website is key to get back on track faster and easier than to build it from zero. Down-time means income loss.  

Compatibility problems. Lack of compatibility while installing software to improve website’s functionality can produce problems. If it goes too bad, a backup will allow you to get back fast to the beginning. 

Update’s issues. To update is a responsible and regular practice, but sometimes the process can cause conflict among the different software components. Have a copy of your website to restore it quickly.

Migration to a different web hosting provider. This process requires transferring the complete database and files of your website to a new server. You need an updated copy.

Original website’s development vs. updated backup. Websites get more developed with time and new additions. What you need is a copy of the latest website’s version. 

How to back up your website?

Back up manually. This is the hardest method. It takes time, effort, but it works. A website has many files to back up, especially big ones. Be very focused not to miss a single one because the smallest loss can cause problems. Check every downloaded file, organize to avoid confusion, and remember to back up regularly. A good practice is to create an archive file with the complete directory instead of downloading file-by-file. Have more than only a copy on different hard drives.

Back up with rsync. Remote sync is a remote but also a local tool for transferring and synchronizing files. Through an algorithm, it can detect the segments of the files that have been modified to save them. It reduces the amount of data that has to be copied, takes less bandwidth and time. It works between a computer and an external hard drive and across servers. 

Back up directly from your cPanel. Click the backup icon and go on clicking until the process is finished. It’s really important to save the backup on a computer or an offline destination too. A common mistake is to back up without choosing the destination for the copy to be saved. Then, by default, it gets stored in the server. If it fails or shuts down, you simply don’t have a backup.

Back up using the cloud. This is an easy solution. Everything (database, content, themes, plugins…) will be safely backed up and available when you need it. There are different services for you to choose from. 

Back up through automated tools. There is software, free and paid. You can configure to make a copy of your website as frequent as you set it up, manually or automated, etc. Some of these tools have to be installed. Others are web-based. In general, they download backups via FTP. Every file and the database will be downloaded and even scanned to be sure they are free of malware. There are many choices. They add specific features to compete with others.

Conclusion

Backing up is a self-defense practice. Choose the choice that best suits your website’s needs and your budget. Redundant backups are essential. Don’t store only a copy. Save in more than one server or offline safe location. Guarantee you can immediately restore your website and don’t leave this task for tomorrow!

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DNS SRV record explained

DNS SRV record

Let’s investigate one more complicated DNS recourse record, the DNS SRV record. It is a very important one that points not only to the service, its location but also the exact port that it uses for communication. Let’s see the DNS SRV record in detail.

What is the DNS SRV record?

The DNS SRV record (service record) is a DNS record that is used to show the service’s port and hostname. What makes it different from other DNS records is that it specifies port too, and not the only hostname. That way, you can set through which port you want to be used a specified service.

How to configure SRV record?

It is a very useful DNS record for setting up a multi-host configuration. Now you can use multiple servers with different services with the same domain.

The DNS SRV record is very commonly used for APT, DANE, SMTP, POP, IMAP, SIP like Skype, Slack, etc.

DNS SRV record syntax:

_Service._Proto.Name TTL Class SRV Priority Weight Port Target

The components of the DNS SRV record are TYPE, TTL, NAME, PRIORITY, WEIGHT, PORT, TARGET.

What is a port?

When we are talking about computer networking, a port is the endpoint of communication. It is an identifier of a process or a type of network service. The ports have their specific number that is always related to IP addresses. It makes the origin or the destination complete.

Ports and ports’ numbers are digital, but if we want to make an analogy, let’s see an example with radio. 

A particular radio frequency is dedicated to FM radio. Imagine the FM radio as the port, and the exact frequency of your favorite FM station, like 98.2 MHz, is the exact port number.

Common port numbers are 20 (FTP Data Transfer), 21 (FTP Command Control), 22 (SSH), 23 (Telnet), 25 (SMTP), 53 (DNS), 67 (DHCP), 68 (DHCP), 80 (HTTP), 110 (POP3), 119 (NNTP), 123 (NTP), 143 (IMAP), 161 (SNMP), 194 (IRC), 443 (HTTPS).

What’s inside the DNS SRV record?

SERVICE – The short name of the service for which we are using the SRV.

PROTOCOL (PROTO) – here, we specify the protocol that we want to use for the communication like UDP, TCP, HTTP, HTTPS, etc.

NAME – the domain name for which the DNS SRV record is valid.

TTL – standard TTL field for a DNS record.

TYPE – SRV.

CLASS – Standard DNS field. You will see it with “IN”.

PRIORITY – You can have multiple hosts (servers) for the same service. The lower the number is, the higher the priority of the host is. The value must be between 0 and 65535. In case there are two hosts with the same priority, the weight parameter will determine the order.

WEIGHT – The weight is a selection mechanism for servers. A larger weight means a higher chance of getting connected. You can put higher weight (lower number) to a more powerful server, so it gets more connections. Again the number is between 0 and 65535.

PORT – The exact port like 53, 23, etc. It is a number between 0 and 65535.

TARGET – The hostname of the server that provides the service and ends with a “.”.

Conclusion

You now know what the SRV record is, why it is used and what’s inside one. Go ahead and use your newly-obtained knowledge for your configurations.

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