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Transport Layer Security (TLS) – and its predecessor, Secure Sockets Layer (SSL), which is now prohibited from use by the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) – are cryptographic protocols that provide communications security over a computer network.
Several versions of the protocols find widespread use in applications such as web browsing, email, Internet faxing, instant messaging, and voice over IP (Vo IP).
TLS 1.0 does include a means by which a TLS implementation can downgrade the connection to SSL 3.0, thus weakening security.
All TLS versions were further refined in RFC 6176 in March 2011, removing their backward compatibility with SSL such that TLS sessions never negotiate the use of Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) version 2.0.
As a consequence of choosing X.509 certificates, certificate authorities and a public key infrastructure are necessary to verify the relation between a certificate and its owner, as well as to generate, sign, and administer the validity of certificates.
While this can be more convenient than verifying the identities via a web of trust, the 2013 mass surveillance disclosures made it more widely known that certificate authorities are a weak point from a security standpoint, allowing man-in-the-middle attacks (MITM).
TLS and SSL do not fit neatly into any single layer of the OSI model or the TCP/IP model.Another mechanism is for the client to make a protocol-specific request to the server to switch the connection to TLS; for example, by making a STARTTLS request when using the mail and news protocols.Once the client and server have agreed to use TLS, they negotiate a stateful connection by using a handshaking procedure.Since applications can communicate either with or without TLS (or SSL), it is necessary for the client to indicate to the server the setup of a TLS connection.One of the main ways of achieving this is to use a different port number for TLS connections, for example port 443 for HTTPS.