It is an amazing time to be alive for many reasons, one of which is the ability to communicate almost seamlessly and securely with people from all over the world. Technology allows us to connect with individuals with whom we most likely never would have before.
Remote communication was the initial goal; however, as the internet evolved, so did the risk of sending and receiving unaltered accurate and complete data remotely. With the Transport Layer Security (TLS) technology protocol, secure remote communication and data transmission between businesses and individuals is possible.
The objective of TLS is to provide confidentiality and integrity of data between multiple applications based on a set of communication rules. However, this ability does not come without risk. The ultimate goal is the confidentiality, integrity and availability of data in transit. How do we ensure the data is only accessible to the authorized recipient and that it accurate, complete and available when needed? Message authentication, non-repudiation, and integrity checks are functions performed to achieve the overall goal. Because of the ever-present threat posed by individuals seeking to steal and/or modify messages in transit, the TLS protocol continues to evolve, which requires security professionals and developers to be informed on revisions and make necessary modifications to their infrastructure.
The foundation for the TLS protocol is based on the Public Key Infrastructure technology. This technology is used to create and manage both the public keys and digital certificates needed to ensure the privacy, authenticity and accessibility of transmitted information. This process is triggered by a function known as the handshake. This is the initial communication between the two parties, the client and the server. This is when the keys are initiated and the digital certificate is validated to allow for secure communication. There are challenges associated with this process, one of which is establishing trust in the certificate, and the other is relying on and communicating with a website that may not have been implemented, configured and properly patched, which could lead to all types of inefficiencies and vulnerabilities.
While the risks and challenges associated with this technology may be difficult, it is obviously much easier to address them internally within the enterprise as opposed to them existing externally, which is next to impossible to address. Therefore, enterprises should focus on how best to implement and properly maintain the technology and how it fits into the overall information security program, which starts with a look at the information security policy and procedures of the organization as well as the risk management process. The TLS protocol is an acceptable approach to implementing tools and techniques to mitigate the risk associated with data transmission. However, a holistic approach to information security that will include safeguards to protect data at rest should be taken.
Each tool, technique, and process should work cohesively to protect the enterprise’s information assets because there is no silver bullet. There is no one technology that will mitigate all risks and address all challenges. Therefore, it is a matter of choosing the best tool for the organization and ensuring there are trained individuals in place to install and maintain such complex tools.