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How can we prepare for emerging TLS v1.3 deployments?


Transport Layer Security has been marked by significant cryptographic breaks and implementation flaws with exploits wreaking havoc upon enterprises.

Malicious attackers are already using fuzzing. We should too.

TLS 1.3 image. Locks and key

The history of Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) and its successor Transport Layer Security (TLS) have been marked by significant cryptographic breaks and implementation flaws with exploits wreaking havoc upon enterprises and the public. TLS v1.3 is a huge leap forward for web based encrypted communication with improved security, and performance compared to its predecessors. TLS v1.3 improves robustness of crypto support by removing obsolete and insecure features from TLS v1.2. Removal of these features result in TLS v1.3 protocol being more simplified and therefore reducing chances of exposure to the underlying vulnerabilities. Besides these and number of other security improvements, there are performance improvements compared to TLS v1.2 including optimizing the initial handshake and enhancing TLS v1.2 “Resumption” to support Zero Round Trip Time Resumption (0-RTT).

Encrypting traffic is an essential part of services offered by verticals including Internet of Things (IoT), Financials and Government. Gartner predicts that by 2019 more than 80% of enterprises’ web traffic will be encrypted(1). As a reference point, Google Transparency Report indicates that over 80% of traffic to their servers are encrypted now. Furthermore, the encrypted traffic to google servers increased by over 30% in three years (Jan 01, 2014 through Dec 31, 2016)(2).


(1) Gartner Predicts 2017: Network and Gateway Security – Published, 13 December 2016

(2) Google Transparency Report - https://transparencyreport.google.com/https/overview

TLS v1.3 chart

In order to make these emerging encryption deployments effective in terms of enabling improved privacy and security, it is imperative that organizations proactively investigate viability, and robustness of encrypted transport layer technologies as well as solutions that may be based on such services. Vulnerabilities in the implementation of transport layer protocols have been exploited for malicious attacks as we have seen in recent years. For example, ‘Heartbleed’ is one of the most significant security bugs of all time that was exploited in the code for TLS extension of OpenSSL library. Given this landscape that lies ahead for TLS v1.3 deployments, what actions may be taken proactively that would improve robustness of implementation and harden the deployed services?

One of the more promising approaches to uncovering bugs missed in manual audits of code implementation is fuzz testing. Fuzz testing or fuzzing delivers invalid, unexpected, or random data to the inputs of a computer program, operating system, or hardware system while monitoring for application or program. Broadly speaking, there are two fuzzing strategies:

  • Mutation based

  • Smart/Generation based

Mutation based fuzzing or sometimes referred to as dumb fuzzing (since it lacks understanding of format, structure, model or protocol) modifies/mutates data inputs to generate test cases. The modifications could be done in any number of ways including flipping bits, or changing length or other similar schemes.

Smart/Generation based fuzzing creates the test cases by modeling the target protocol, file format and so on. This type of fuzzing would take the input format, structure, model, or protocol and generate new test inputs from scratch. In this type of fuzzing since the template for protocol is given, the fuzzer can dynamically parse and generate fuzz data.

TLS v1.3 dialog screen

There is another strategy in fuzzing developed at Spirent Communications as part of CyberFlood advanced fuzzing that takes a different approach by combining the above two strategies as SmartMutation fuzzing. This approach allows practically unlimited number of test cases and finds more issues by examining more code paths intelligently. CyberFlood advanced fuzzing supports a large suite of protocols including TLS v1.3. To learn more about CyberFlood advanced fuzzing for TLS v1.3 and how it uncovers issues in offered services and protocol implementation of commercially available SSL/TLS stack, please see “Transport Layer Security 1.3 Fuzz Testing” white paper.

If you’re interested in learning more, visit our security solutions page. If you would like this level of security expertise for your company and want to speak to our security experts directly, contact us or view our Cybersecurity on-demand webinars.

Follow Spirent Security on Twitter (@spirentsecurity) for the latest security news.

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Reza Saadat
Reza Saadat

Senior Technical Marketing Engineer, Application and Security Group

Reza Saadat is a Senior Technical Marketing Engineer at Spirent in the Applications and Security group, with over 25 years of experience in computers and data communication technologies. At Spirent, Reza works with the Product Management, Engineering and Sales teams to bring to market new, cutting-edge applications and security testing solutions for network equipment manufacturers, enterprises, and service providers. His in-depth industry, market and software development knowledge as well as collaborative design and development skills have resulted in the creation of numerous  hardware and software solutions, which have been successfully released at companies such as IBM Corp, Cisco Systems and many more.