Always On VPN SSTP and HSTS

HTTP Strict Transport Security (HSTS) is a feature commonly used by websites to protect against protocol downgrade attacks, where an attacker forces the use of insecure HTTP instead of HTTPS. If successful, the attacker can intercept unencrypted communication between the client and the web server. This is undesirable for obvious reasons. As such, web server administrators implement an HTTP response header named Strict-Transport-Security with some additional settings that instruct the user agent, in this case, a web browser, to only use secure HTTPS when communicating with the web server. Attempts to use HTTP will not work.

VPN and SSTP

As security is always a top concern when building an Always On VPN infrastructure, careful attention must be paid to VPN protocol configuration to ensure optimal security. Secure Socket Tunneling Protocol (SSTP) is a popular VPN protocol for Always On VPN user tunnel connections. SSTP uses Transport Layer Security (TLS) for encryption, so administrators are encouraged to implement recommended security configurations, such as disabling insecure protocols like TLS 1.0 and TLS 1.1 and optimizing TLS cipher suites as described here.

SSTP with HSTS

It would seem that enabling HSTS on a Windows RRAS VPN server would be ideal for improving SSTP security. However, that’s not the case. HSTS prevents protocol downgrade attacks from HTTPS to HTTP, but SSTP already uses HTTPS exclusively, making the use of HSTS irrelevant. If an attacker attempted a protocol downgrade attack on an SSTP VPN connection, it would fail because the service does not support HTTP between the client and the VPN gateway. Additionally, even if it were possible to configure RRAS to send an HSTS response header, it would be ignored by the client because the user agent is not a web browser.

Additional Information

Always On VPN SSTP Security Configuration

Always On VPN SSTP and TLS 1.3

Always On VPN SSTP Certificate Renewal

Always On VPN SSTP with Let’s Encrypt Certificates

Always On VPN SSTP Certificate Binding Error

SSL and TLS Training for Always On VPN Administrators

Always On VPN at Workplace Ninja Summit 2022

The Workplace Ninja Summit takes place from 12-14 September 2022 in Lucerne, Switzerland. The conference focuses on endpoint management and security with platforms such as System Center Configuration Manager (SCCM) and Microsoft Endpoint Manager/Intune.

Conference Sessions

If you are participating in the conference, be sure to attend one of my sessions! I’m delivering the following three talks during the event.

Windows Always On VPN and Autopilot: Better Together

In this talk, I’ll cover in detail the critical aspects of implementing Always On VPN to support Autopilot provision with Intune.

Deploying On-premises Certificates with Intune

This session will explore the options for deploying enterprise PKI certificates using Intune. I’ll be sharing lots of security and implementation best practices.

Deploying Always On VPN with Intune: The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly

This talk will dive into the options for deploying Always On VPN using Intune. I’ll be covering many tips, tricks, and best practices and shining a light on many limitations and shortcomings of using Intune for Always On VPN.

Join Me!

Unfortunately, the conference is sold out, so if you haven’t made arrangements to attend you’ll have to wait until next year. If you are attending, please be sure to say hello!

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