Safer brows­ing and mem­ory man­age­ment

When it comes to web browsers, Valen­tine Sinit­syn ex­pe­ri­ences the usual sense of nos­tal­gia, then re­mem­bers the lat­est se­cu­rity mea­sures are key.

Linux Format - - Tutorials - Dr Sinit­syn is a lapsed KDE com­mit­ter. He likes build­ing Linux clouds and writ­ing ar­ti­cles.

The way we used the in­ter­net has changed dras­ti­cally over the past 20 years. Back then, no­body cared too much about en­crypted com­mu­ni­ca­tions, As e-com­merce and sim­i­lar web sites started to grow, the need for en­cryp­tion be­came ev­i­dent.

So Netscape de­signed a pro­to­col called Se­cure Sock­ets Layer (SSL). The idea was to add en­cryp­tion at the trans­port layer so any ap­pli­ca­tion-level pro­to­col, be it HTTP, email (POP3/IMAP/SMTP) and now DNS (see, can lever­age it eas­ily. The orig­i­nal SSL was a pro­pri­etary pro­to­col, but IETF took over newer ver­sions that be­came stan­dards. SSL 3.0 was the last one, and fu­ture im­prove­ments over the pro­to­col were called TLS (Trans­port Layer Se­cu­rity). TLS 1.0 is what you’d call SSL 3.1. Over time, nu­mer­ous vul­ner­a­bil­i­ties were dis­cov­ered in both SSL and TLS. These at­tacks used de­sign flaws, weak ci­phers and pro­to­col down­grades to re­veal en­crypted data.

In the mod­ern world, TLS isn’t lim­ited to e-com­merce sites. Pri­vacy is al­ways a con­cern, given how much data about our­selves the in­ter­net al­ready has. And of course, TLS is a de-facto com­pan­ion to HTTP/2: it makes the lat­ter not only safe, but also more ro­bust.

So TLS re­ceives up­dates from time to time. The last one took place in March with TLS 1.3. The process took 28 drafts and the new stan­dard was ap­proved unan­i­mously. TLS 1.3 is al­ready sup­ported on mod­ern web browsers ( Fire­fox49, Chrome63 and so on), and OpenSSL will im­ple­ment it in 1.1.1 (hope­fully, by the time you read this).

TLS 1.3 drops cryp­to­graphic prim­i­tives that were proved to be in­se­cure, such as RC4, MD5 and SHA-224, and adds some new ones, for ex­am­ple, ChaCha2020 stream ci­pher and the Poly1305 mes­sage au­then­ti­ca­tion code. It also dep­re­cates un­der­used or un­safe fea­tures: com­pres­sion, re-ne­go­ti­a­tion, static RSA hand­shake and so on – some of these were at­tack vec­tors in the past.

Another slightly con­tro­ver­sial change is Per­fect For­ward Se­crecy (PFS): TLS 1.3 em­ploys the Ephe­meral Diffie-Hell­man key ex­change pro­to­col, so an at­tacker can’t use a com­pro­mised key to de­crypt pre­vi­ously recorded ses­sions. This breaks some le­git­i­mate sce­nar­ios, such as pas­sive mon­i­tor­ing.

Last but not least, TLS 1.3 makes con­nec­tion faster be­cause it re­mem­bers data, thus sav­ing a round-trip be­tween a client and a server.

Fire­fox, per­haps the most widely known prod­uct from the nowtwenty-years-old Mozilla project, al­ready sports TLS 1.3 sup­port.

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