18 Oct 2014∞

### Note: see updated article from 2014-DEC-24.

With all the talk about BEAST, CRIME, and POODLE, I thought it was time to revisit the SSL configuration of my blog. My blog is much easier to test with than a production web stack.

If you haven’t familiarized yourself with the excellent Qualys SSL Labs Server Test tool, do so. It is a great resource and will quickly become invaluable part of your toolkit. I’m a bit surprised they didn’t start rate limiting me after so many tests! Here are the results of my testing, which earned this site an A+ rating.

Note: For any of my recommendations to work, you must be using OpenSSL 1.0.1j (openssl-1.0.1e-30.el6_6.2 on Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) variants) or later. I also had problems with the version of nginx in EPEL, so I updated to nginx-1.6.2-1 in the official repo.

### Certificate

This is probably the easiest part. Google and Microsoft have deprecated certificates signed with SHA1 and are very forcefully recommending administrators reissue their certificates using SHA2 for the signature algorithm. This is really simple and only involves creating a new certificate signing request (CSR) and submitting it. HOWEVER, as we’ll find out later in the Key Exchange section, you’ll want to make sure you’re using a 4096-bit or greater key. The default and most common key size is 2048-bit, so now would be a good time to update.

```
Generate the key:
$ openssl genrsa -out /etc/pki/tls/private/www.example.com.key 4096
Generate the signing request
$ openssl req -new -key /etc/pki/tls/private/www.example.com.key \
-out /etc/pki/tls/certs/www.example.com.csr -sha512
```

Submit the CSR to your certificate authority (CA) for signing and you’ve got the certificate part handled. Make a combined certificate file including your server’s certificate and then any intermediate certificates. Do not include the root CA, though — it’s unnecessary and will generate a warning at SSL labs.

```
Combine the certificates
$ cat www_example_com.crt intermediate1.crt intermediate2.crt > www.example.com.combined.crt
```

Add these lines to your nginx config

```
ssl_certificate /etc/pki/tls/certs/www.example.com.combined.crt;
ssl_certificate_key /etc/pki/tls/private/www.example.com.key;
```

### Protocol Support

This is where we start making some tough decisions. SSLv2 is considered completely broken, you should definitely not be using it. SSLv3 is now essentially broken and it is recommended you disable it. However, if you disable SSLv3, you will block access to your site from legacy systems like Windows XP. Depending on your userbase, this may be a dealbreaker for you. If you want to be very agressive, disable all protocols except TLSv1.2 — however, you’ll be limiting yourself quite a bit more at that point.

Here are the relevant configurations.

Maximum accessibility, least security

```
ssl_protocols SSLv3 TLSv1 TLSv1.1 TLSv1.2;
```

Recommended, good mix of both accessibility and security

```
ssl_protocols TLSv1 TLSv1.1 TLSv1.2;
```

Aggressive security

```
ssl_protocols TLSv1.2;
```

### Key Exchange

Key Exchange is impacted both by your certificate’s key as well as the cipher suites we choose later. Choosing specific ciphers and using a strong key, however, is not enough. We also have to generate some random data beforehand to strengthen the key exchange mechanisms. The Diffie-Hellman parameters take an especially long time (about an hour on the new Mac Pro).

```
Generate the Diffie-Hellman parameters
$ openssl dhparam -out /etc/pki/tls/certs/dhparams-4096.pem 4096
```

Then add these to your nginx config

```
ssl_dhparam /etc/pki/tls/certs/dhparams-4096.pem;
ssl_ecdh_curve secp384r1;
```

The second line strengthens the elliptic curve algorithms that will be used later.

### Cipher Strength

Chosing the right ciphers and, more importantly, in the right order, is slightly tedious, but not particularly difficult. I sorted the ciphers by AES method (AES-GCM is better than AES-CBC, for example), AES key length (256-bit only), hash family (SHA384, SHA256, and then SHA). I also preferred ECDHE over DHE for the key exchange (the EC parameters are stronger than the DH parameters). OpenSSL supports a wide variety of cipher suites. I essentially limited myself to 256-bit length keys which filtered the vast majority out. However, if you also include 128-bit AES and Camellia ciphers, you get a list that looks like this:

```
ECDH-ECDSA-AES256-GCM-SHA384 TLSv1.2 Kx=ECDH/ECDSA Au=ECDH Enc=AESGCM(256) Mac=AEAD
ECDH-RSA-AES256-GCM-SHA384 TLSv1.2 Kx=ECDH/RSA Au=ECDH Enc=AESGCM(256) Mac=AEAD
ECDHE-ECDSA-AES256-GCM-SHA384 TLSv1.2 Kx=ECDH Au=ECDSA Enc=AESGCM(256) Mac=AEAD
ECDHE-RSA-AES256-GCM-SHA384 TLSv1.2 Kx=ECDH Au=RSA Enc=AESGCM(256) Mac=AEAD
DHE-RSA-AES256-GCM-SHA384 TLSv1.2 Kx=DH Au=RSA Enc=AESGCM(256) Mac=AEAD
ECDH-ECDSA-AES128-GCM-SHA256 TLSv1.2 Kx=ECDH/ECDSA Au=ECDH Enc=AESGCM(128) Mac=AEAD
ECDH-RSA-AES128-GCM-SHA256 TLSv1.2 Kx=ECDH/RSA Au=ECDH Enc=AESGCM(128) Mac=AEAD
ECDHE-ECDSA-AES128-GCM-SHA256 TLSv1.2 Kx=ECDH Au=ECDSA Enc=AESGCM(128) Mac=AEAD
ECDHE-RSA-AES128-GCM-SHA256 TLSv1.2 Kx=ECDH Au=RSA Enc=AESGCM(128) Mac=AEAD
DHE-RSA-AES128-GCM-SHA256 TLSv1.2 Kx=DH Au=RSA Enc=AESGCM(128) Mac=AEAD
ECDHE-ECDSA-AES256-SHA384 TLSv1.2 Kx=ECDH Au=ECDSA Enc=AES(256) Mac=SHA384
ECDHE-RSA-AES256-SHA384 TLSv1.2 Kx=ECDH Au=RSA Enc=AES(256) Mac=SHA384
ECDH-ECDSA-AES256-SHA384 TLSv1.2 Kx=ECDH/ECDSA Au=ECDH Enc=AES(256) Mac=SHA384
ECDH-RSA-AES256-SHA384 TLSv1.2 Kx=ECDH/RSA Au=ECDH Enc=AES(256) Mac=SHA384
DHE-RSA-AES256-SHA256 TLSv1.2 Kx=DH Au=RSA Enc=AES(256) Mac=SHA256
ECDH-ECDSA-AES128-SHA256 TLSv1.2 Kx=ECDH/ECDSA Au=ECDH Enc=AES(128) Mac=SHA256
ECDH-RSA-AES128-SHA256 TLSv1.2 Kx=ECDH/RSA Au=ECDH Enc=AES(128) Mac=SHA256
ECDHE-ECDSA-AES128-SHA256 TLSv1.2 Kx=ECDH Au=ECDSA Enc=AES(128) Mac=SHA256
ECDHE-RSA-AES128-SHA256 TLSv1.2 Kx=ECDH Au=RSA Enc=AES(128) Mac=SHA256
DHE-RSA-AES128-SHA256 TLSv1.2 Kx=DH Au=RSA Enc=AES(128) Mac=SHA256
ECDH-ECDSA-AES256-SHA SSLv3 Kx=ECDH/ECDSA Au=ECDH Enc=AES(256) Mac=SHA1
ECDH-RSA-AES256-SHA SSLv3 Kx=ECDH/RSA Au=ECDH Enc=AES(256) Mac=SHA1
ECDHE-ECDSA-AES256-SHA SSLv3 Kx=ECDH Au=ECDSA Enc=AES(256) Mac=SHA1
ECDHE-RSA-AES256-SHA SSLv3 Kx=ECDH Au=RSA Enc=AES(256) Mac=SHA1
DHE-RSA-AES256-SHA SSLv3 Kx=DH Au=RSA Enc=AES(256) Mac=SHA1
DHE-RSA-CAMELLIA256-SHA SSLv3 Kx=DH Au=RSA Enc=Camellia(256) Mac=SHA1
ECDH-ECDSA-AES128-SHA SSLv3 Kx=ECDH/ECDSA Au=ECDH Enc=AES(128) Mac=SHA1
ECDH-RSA-AES128-SHA SSLv3 Kx=ECDH/RSA Au=ECDH Enc=AES(128) Mac=SHA1
ECDHE-ECDSA-AES128-SHA SSLv3 Kx=ECDH Au=ECDSA Enc=AES(128) Mac=SHA1
ECDHE-RSA-AES128-SHA SSLv3 Kx=ECDH Au=RSA Enc=AES(128) Mac=SHA1
DHE-RSA-AES128-SHA SSLv3 Kx=DH Au=RSA Enc=AES(128) Mac=SHA1
AES256-GCM-SHA384 TLSv1.2 Kx=RSA Au=RSA Enc=AESGCM(256) Mac=AEAD
AES128-GCM-SHA256 TLSv1.2 Kx=RSA Au=RSA Enc=AESGCM(128) Mac=AEAD
AES256-SHA256 TLSv1.2 Kx=RSA Au=RSA Enc=AES(256) Mac=SHA256
AES128-SHA256 TLSv1.2 Kx=RSA Au=RSA Enc=AES(128) Mac=SHA256
AES256-SHA SSLv3 Kx=RSA Au=RSA Enc=AES(256) Mac=SHA1
CAMELLIA256-SHA SSLv3 Kx=RSA Au=RSA Enc=Camellia(256) Mac=SHA1
AES128-SHA SSLv3 Kx=RSA Au=RSA Enc=AES(128) Mac=SHA1
```

The ones without ECDHE, ECDH, or DH in the beginning to not use ephemeral keys and thus do NOT support perfect forward secrecy. I removed those from my list, but you could also just move them to the bottom.

If we want to be accessible we need to add RC4 cipher suites to the list. (There is a discussion about the relative strength of RC4 vs 3DES, so perhaps this recommendation will need to be updated)

Ideally we would put RC4 ciphers at the bottom of the list, preferring to use our secure cipher suites listed above. Unfortuantely due to a flaw in SSLv3, not prioritizing RC4 above CBC-based algorithms leave us vulnerable to the POODLE attack. Since the verbose cipher list above tells us which protocol a given cipher suite belongs to, we can move any SSLv3 CBC suite below `RC4-SHA`

. Here’s the order I ended up with:

```
ECDH-ECDSA-AES256-GCM-SHA384 TLSv1.2 Kx=ECDH/ECDSA Au=ECDH Enc=AESGCM(256) Mac=AEAD
ECDH-RSA-AES256-GCM-SHA384 TLSv1.2 Kx=ECDH/RSA Au=ECDH Enc=AESGCM(256) Mac=AEAD
ECDHE-ECDSA-AES256-GCM-SHA384 TLSv1.2 Kx=ECDH Au=ECDSA Enc=AESGCM(256) Mac=AEAD
ECDHE-RSA-AES256-GCM-SHA384 TLSv1.2 Kx=ECDH Au=RSA Enc=AESGCM(256) Mac=AEAD
DHE-RSA-AES256-GCM-SHA384 TLSv1.2 Kx=DH Au=RSA Enc=AESGCM(256) Mac=AEAD
ECDH-ECDSA-AES128-GCM-SHA256 TLSv1.2 Kx=ECDH/ECDSA Au=ECDH Enc=AESGCM(128) Mac=AEAD
ECDH-RSA-AES128-GCM-SHA256 TLSv1.2 Kx=ECDH/RSA Au=ECDH Enc=AESGCM(128) Mac=AEAD
ECDHE-ECDSA-AES128-GCM-SHA256 TLSv1.2 Kx=ECDH Au=ECDSA Enc=AESGCM(128) Mac=AEAD
ECDHE-RSA-AES128-GCM-SHA256 TLSv1.2 Kx=ECDH Au=RSA Enc=AESGCM(128) Mac=AEAD
DHE-RSA-AES128-GCM-SHA256 TLSv1.2 Kx=DH Au=RSA Enc=AESGCM(128) Mac=AEAD
ECDHE-ECDSA-AES256-SHA384 TLSv1.2 Kx=ECDH Au=ECDSA Enc=AES(256) Mac=SHA384
ECDHE-RSA-AES256-SHA384 TLSv1.2 Kx=ECDH Au=RSA Enc=AES(256) Mac=SHA384
ECDH-ECDSA-AES256-SHA384 TLSv1.2 Kx=ECDH/ECDSA Au=ECDH Enc=AES(256) Mac=SHA384
ECDH-RSA-AES256-SHA384 TLSv1.2 Kx=ECDH/RSA Au=ECDH Enc=AES(256) Mac=SHA384
DHE-RSA-AES256-SHA256 TLSv1.2 Kx=DH Au=RSA Enc=AES(256) Mac=SHA256
ECDH-ECDSA-AES128-SHA256 TLSv1.2 Kx=ECDH/ECDSA Au=ECDH Enc=AES(128) Mac=SHA256
ECDH-RSA-AES128-SHA256 TLSv1.2 Kx=ECDH/RSA Au=ECDH Enc=AES(128) Mac=SHA256
ECDHE-ECDSA-AES128-SHA256 TLSv1.2 Kx=ECDH Au=ECDSA Enc=AES(128) Mac=SHA256
ECDHE-RSA-AES128-SHA256 TLSv1.2 Kx=ECDH Au=RSA Enc=AES(128) Mac=SHA256
DHE-RSA-AES128-SHA256 TLSv1.2 Kx=DH Au=RSA Enc=AES(128) Mac=SHA256
ECDH-ECDSA-RC4-SHA SSLv3 Kx=ECDH/ECDSA Au=ECDH Enc=RC4(128) Mac=SHA1
ECDH-RSA-RC4-SHA SSLv3 Kx=ECDH/RSA Au=ECDH Enc=RC4(128) Mac=SHA1
ECDHE-ECDSA-RC4-SHA SSLv3 Kx=ECDH Au=ECDSA Enc=RC4(128) Mac=SHA1
ECDHE-RSA-RC4-SHA SSLv3 Kx=ECDH Au=RSA Enc=RC4(128) Mac=SHA1
ECDH-ECDSA-AES256-SHA SSLv3 Kx=ECDH/ECDSA Au=ECDH Enc=AES(256) Mac=SHA1
ECDH-RSA-AES256-SHA SSLv3 Kx=ECDH/RSA Au=ECDH Enc=AES(256) Mac=SHA1
ECDHE-ECDSA-AES256-SHA SSLv3 Kx=ECDH Au=ECDSA Enc=AES(256) Mac=SHA1
ECDHE-RSA-AES256-SHA SSLv3 Kx=ECDH Au=RSA Enc=AES(256) Mac=SHA1
DHE-RSA-AES256-SHA SSLv3 Kx=DH Au=RSA Enc=AES(256) Mac=SHA1
DHE-RSA-CAMELLIA256-SHA SSLv3 Kx=DH Au=RSA Enc=Camellia(256) Mac=SHA1
ECDH-ECDSA-AES128-SHA SSLv3 Kx=ECDH/ECDSA Au=ECDH Enc=AES(128) Mac=SHA1
ECDH-RSA-AES128-SHA SSLv3 Kx=ECDH/RSA Au=ECDH Enc=AES(128) Mac=SHA1
ECDHE-ECDSA-AES128-SHA SSLv3 Kx=ECDH Au=ECDSA Enc=AES(128) Mac=SHA1
ECDHE-RSA-AES128-SHA SSLv3 Kx=ECDH Au=RSA Enc=AES(128) Mac=SHA1
DHE-RSA-AES128-SHA SSLv3 Kx=DH Au=RSA Enc=AES(128) Mac=SHA1
AES256-GCM-SHA384 TLSv1.2 Kx=RSA Au=RSA Enc=AESGCM(256) Mac=AEAD
AES128-GCM-SHA256 TLSv1.2 Kx=RSA Au=RSA Enc=AESGCM(128) Mac=AEAD
RC4-SHA SSLv3 Kx=RSA Au=RSA Enc=RC4(128) Mac=SHA1
AES256-SHA256 TLSv1.2 Kx=RSA Au=RSA Enc=AES(256) Mac=SHA256
AES128-SHA256 TLSv1.2 Kx=RSA Au=RSA Enc=AES(128) Mac=SHA256
AES256-SHA SSLv3 Kx=RSA Au=RSA Enc=AES(256) Mac=SHA1
CAMELLIA256-SHA SSLv3 Kx=RSA Au=RSA Enc=Camellia(256) Mac=SHA1
AES128-SHA SSLv3 Kx=RSA Au=RSA Enc=AES(128) Mac=SHA1
```

### Summary

Here are the nginx configurations we have ended up with. Both will get ‘A+’ ratings (if you use Strict Transport Security, optional — ‘A’ otherwise), the latter of the two will get a 100% on all sections.

Modestly secure, while supporting all browsers and SSLv3:

```
ssl on;
ssl_certificate /etc/pki/tls/certs/www.example.com.combined.crt;
ssl_certificate_key /etc/pki/tls/private/www.example.com.key;
ssl_protocols SSLv3 TLSv1 TLSv1.1 TLSv1.2;
ssl_ciphers ECDH-ECDSA-AES256-GCM-SHA384:ECDH-RSA-AES256-GCM-SHA384:ECDHE-ECDSA-AES256-GCM-SHA384:ECDHE-RSA-AES256-GCM-SHA384:DHE-RSA-AES256-GCM-SHA384:ECDH-ECDSA-AES128-GCM-SHA256:ECDH-RSA-AES128-GCM-SHA256:ECDHE-ECDSA-AES128-GCM-SHA256:ECDHE-RSA-AES128-GCM-SHA256:DHE-RSA-AES128-GCM-SHA256:ECDHE-ECDSA-AES256-SHA384:ECDHE-RSA-AES256-SHA384:ECDH-ECDSA-AES256-SHA384:ECDH-RSA-AES256-SHA384:DHE-RSA-AES256-SHA256:ECDH-ECDSA-AES128-SHA256:ECDH-RSA-AES128-SHA256:ECDHE-ECDSA-AES128-SHA256:ECDHE-RSA-AES128-SHA256:DHE-RSA-AES128-SHA256:ECDH-ECDSA-RC4-SHA:ECDH-RSA-RC4-SHA:ECDHE-ECDSA-RC4-SHA:ECDHE-RSA-RC4-SHA:ECDH-ECDSA-AES256-SHA:ECDH-RSA-AES256-SHA:ECDHE-ECDSA-AES256-SHA:ECDHE-RSA-AES256-SHA:DHE-RSA-AES256-SHA:DHE-RSA-CAMELLIA256-SHA:ECDH-ECDSA-AES128-SHA:ECDH-RSA-AES128-SHA:ECDHE-ECDSA-AES128-SHA:ECDHE-RSA-AES128-SHA:DHE-RSA-AES128-SHA:AES256-GCM-SHA384:AES128-GCM-SHA256:RC4-SHA:AES256-SHA256:AES128-SHA256:AES256-SHA:CAMELLIA256-SHA:AES128-SHA;
ssl_ecdh_curve secp384r1;
# only enable this if you run an SSL-only site!
add_header Strict-Transport-Security "max-age=31536000";
ssl_prefer_server_ciphers on;
ssl_session_cache shared:SSL:10m;
ssl_session_timeout 10m;
```

Aggressively secure, not worrying so much about legacy clients (preffered, but by enabling TLSv1 and TLSv1.1 you can reach many more clients):

```
ssl on;
ssl_certificate /etc/pki/tls/certs/www.example.com.combined.crt;
ssl_certificate_key /etc/pki/tls/private/www.example.com.key;
ssl_protocols TLSv1.2;
# strong ciphers, 256 only, only with foward secrecy (breaks winxp, java, old android)
ssl_ciphers ECDH-ECDSA-AES256-GCM-SHA384:ECDH-RSA-AES256-GCM-SHA384:ECDHE-ECDSA-AES256-GCM-SHA384:ECDHE-RSA-AES256-GCM-SHA384:DHE-RSA-AES256-GCM-SHA384:ECDHE-ECDSA-AES256-SHA384:ECDHE-RSA-AES256-SHA384:ECDH-ECDSA-AES256-SHA384:ECDH-RSA-AES256-SHA384:DHE-RSA-AES256-SHA256:ECDH-ECDSA-AES256-SHA:ECDH-RSA-AES256-SHA:ECDHE-ECDSA-AES256-SHA:ECDHE-RSA-AES256-SHA:DHE-RSA-AES256-SHA:DHE-RSA-CAMELLIA256-SHA;
ssl_dhparam /etc/pki/tls/certs/dhparam-4096.pem;
ssl_ecdh_curve secp384r1;
# only enable this if you run an SSL-only site!
add_header Strict-Transport-Security "max-age=31536000";
ssl_prefer_server_ciphers on;
ssl_session_cache shared:SSL:10m;
ssl_session_timeout 10m;
```