Qualys recently posted about some grading changes coming to SSL Labs in 2017. If you are not aware of SSL Labs, it is a service to check your SSL/TLS implementation for your web applications to determine how secure they are. While there were more changes listed, you can read about them in the link above, I wanted to focus on the one regarding HTTP Strict Transport Security (HSTS).
If you haven’t heard of HSTS, or want a quick refresher, you can check out this post: HTTP Strict Transport Security (HSTS): Overview.
According to Qualys, the changes regarding HSTS will not be implemented until later in 2017, not with the initial set of changes. However, this early notification may help some companies make preparations for the change. Here is what they say about HSTS grading changes:
- HSTS Preloading required for A+
- HSTS required for A
Some organizations have specific requirements to the grade they expect to receive on the SSL Labs report. If an A is your target, HSTS is going to be a critical component for that. Even if it is not, this change is a clear indication that HSTS does not look like it is going away.
HSTS is a great way to help increase the security of your transmission from browser to server. However, it may not be something that can just be turned on. We have seen many sites have difficulty going to 100% HTTPS, and HSTS doesn’t play well with mixed content. It also doesn’t play well with self-signed certificates. While these are important for the increased security it provides, this is where the difficulty may come in.
If you are not using HSTS currently, now may be the time to start thinking about it. Creating the header is typically not very difficult. Testing to make sure nothing breaks because of it can be a bit more tedious. Want to know more about HSTS or application security?
James Jardine is the CEO and Principal Consultant at Jardine Software Inc. He has over 15 years of combined development and security experience. If you are interested in learning more about Jardine Software, you can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or @jardinesoftware on twitter.