SWITCH Identity Blog

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Ensure secure SWITCHaai login: Turning off outdated security protocols

The TLS protocol secures the communication between a user’s web browser and a server running a web application. The user recognises a secured communication by the lock visualised in the web browser or the https prefix in a link.
The security protocols TLSv1.0 and TLSv1.1 are outdated and no longer rated as secure. Therefore, web server administrators should plan to properly protect their services by updating their web server configuration to require at least TLSv1.2.
To apply this security improvement to SWITCHaai including SWITCH edu-ID, SWITCH announces the upgrade in two phases.

First Phase: IdP Login Pages

In the early morning of  Wednesday 2. July 2020, SWITCH will update the web server configuration of the SWITCHaai Identity Provider (IdP) systems operated by SWITCH to require TLSv1.2

Users who login with a web browser that uses one of the outdated security protocols TLSv1.0 and TLSv1.1 will be rejected. These users then need to switch to another web browser or update their operating system to get a newer version of their default web browser. 

This change will be applied to the following Identity Providers:

Users are already warned

Since June 2020, users logging in with an outdated web browser not supporting at least TLSv1.2 have seen on the above listed Identity Providers such a prominent warning on their login page:

TLS warning on the SWITCH edu-ID login page

The warning refers to the minimal browser test webpage. On that page, the user will find a link to the SSL Labs Web Browser Test together with the hint to contact the local IT help desk. 

Very few users will have to act on it

The analysis of Identity Provider log files revealed that only very few users still connect via TLSv1.0 or TLSv1.1. They mostly use the default browser on no longer supported operating systems like Android 4.4 or Mac OS X 10.6 – 10.8, likely private devices. As immediate fix they could download and install e.g. a Firefox browser. For security reasons however, they should better upgrade or replace their no longer supported operating system with a current version.

Second Phase: The SWITCHwayf Discovery Service

In the second phase, the outdated versions TLSv1.0 and TLSv1.1 will be turned off also on the SWITCHwayf Discovery Service on Wednesday 5. August 2020.
Since mid June 2020 users who should act see the TLS warning also on the central SWITCHwayf Discovery Service:

TLS Warning on central SWITCHwayf Discovery Service
TLS warning in an embedded Discovery Service:
Moodle of Berner Fachhochschule

Others already did it

SWITCH is not the first Swiss organisation enforcing better security for user login. The following Swiss e-banking login pages already deny access via TLS 1.0 and TLS 1.1: Credit Suisse, PostFinance, UBS and ZKB.
Google announced to remove TLSv1.0 and TLSv1.1 from Chrome 84 in July 2020. Also Microsoft will disable TLSv1.0 and TLSv1.1 for Edge. Firefox and Safari had it planned for March, now postponed due to COVID-19.
Update: Firefox 78, released on 30. June 2020, disabled TLSv1 and TLSv1.1.

TLSv1.2 has been enforced since a few weeks on the SWITCHaai Resource Registry web application, the AAI Attribute Viewer as well as on the WAYF-Test server. We haven’t heard yet of any related end user issues, neither about the TLS warning as presented on the Identity Provider login screens.
Therefore, we are even more confident that only a very limited number of end users will have a problem at all. 

Plan to upgrade your own web servers!

Let me give you some recommendations based on the learnings while planning this upgrade.
Check the current status with the SSL Server Test provided by Qualys SSL Labs. If the rating reported is ‘B’ or lower, then it’s time to plan an update. The best rating possible is ‘A+’.
For many server platforms, the Mozilla SSL Configurator provides valuable hints. Our setup is primarily based on Mozilla’s ‘intermediate’ configuration. However, we activated the server-preferred cipher order and ECDHE-RSA-AES256-SHA384 as additional cipher suite, in analogy to major e-banking sites.

Web servers with a very broad user base are more likely to serve users with outdated browsers. Therefore, check out your web server logs to find out how many users connect with outdated TLS versions. Perhaps you need first to activate the logging to also include the TLS version negotiated.
If you barely see any outdated TLS connections, you could consider a direct upgrade. Otherwise, try to inform in advance those users who will have to act. If a user’s web browser is outdated and TLSv1.2 is enforced, the user will not be able to establish a connection to your server, which prevents you from displaying a tailored error message.

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