Transport Layer Security is a cryptographic protocol that is designed to provide communications security over a computer network. TLS is available in several versions and they are useful in applications like web browsing, email, file transfers, VPN connections, instant messaging and voice over IP. TLS can use be used by websites to secure all communications between their servers and web browsers. Securing privacy and data integrity between two or more communicating computer applications is the main aim of the TLS protocol.
When a website is secured by TLS, the connections between the server and a visitor must include one or more of the following.
Privacy of the connection due to the use of symmetric cryptography to encrypt the transmitted data is ensured by shared secret between the server and the client. The shared secret is the keys for the symmetric encryption and is uniquely generated for each connection. The negotiated secret is unavailable to eavesdroppers and attackers and the data is secure.
Public-Key cryptography can be used to authenticate the identity of the communicating parties. Though it can be made optional, at least one of the parties, usually the server, must have it.
This connection is very much reliable as each message transmitted undergoes a message integrity check by a message authentication code so that undetected loss or change of the data during transmission is prevented.
Apart from the above features, additional privacy related properties such as forward secrecy can be provided. This ensures the safety of past TLS communications using the encryption keys that may be disclosed in the future.
Secure configuration of TLS involves many configurable parameters. Methods for exchanging keys, encrypting data and authenticating messages are supported by TLS.
The various benefits of TLS include:
TLS encrypts the data and makes it secure during transmission of the data from user to server.
TLS is compatible with most of the web browsers, operating systems and web servers and can be used across different means safely.
Algorithm flexibility of TLS ensures that it provides security during operations for authentication mechanism, encryption algorithms and hashing algorithms.
TLS makes the deployment an easy process enabling the website to use it on a temporary or permanent basis, as chosen by the website owner.
Operations of the TLS are implemented beneath the application layer and the operations and data are completely invisible to the user.
Who uses TLS?
Websites and servers used by organizations providing health services have a lot of client personal data in their website, from their incomes, personal health information and user and login ids. So, it is imperative that such websites must meet certain security standards. These organizations need to be compliant with the HIPAA Security Standard. TLS can help the website organization become HIPAA compliant.
Websites or organizations that store information about the payments of the client also contain confidential information such as debit or credit card numbers, login id, PIN and passwords. Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCIDSS) monitors if the organization is secured by protocols such as TLS or SSL.
Users of TLS or SSL require digital certificate from a certificate authority (CA). This certificate contains a digital signature of the certification authority, attesting to the certificate’s validity.
One must remember that there is no single security measure that can fully protect your website from unauthorized data breaches. Implementation of TLS or SSL can reduce the risk of attacks considerably. Although using the protocols like TLS is not legally compulsory, it is highly recommended to secure the data of your website and your user’s information.