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 Updates for Windows 10 2004

Always On VPN Updates for Windows 10 2004Microsoft recently made available an update for Windows 10 2004 that includes many important fixes for outstanding issues with Windows 10 Always On VPN. KB4571744 (build 19041.488) addresses many challenges faced by Always On VPN administrators today, including the following.

TPM

This update addresses an issue that prevents hash signing from working correctly using the Microsoft Platform Crypto Provider for Trusted Platform Module (TPM). This issue can occur when administrators configure Always On VPN to use Protected Extensible Authentication Protocol (PEAP) with client certificate authentication using a FortiGate security device.

Sleep/Hibernate

This update also addresses issues with Windows 10 Always On VPN failing to automatically reconnect when resuming from sleep or hibernate. I’ve written about issues with Always On VPN and sleep/hibernate in the past. This is an issue that has plagued Always On VPN since its introduction, so let’s hope this finally provides some meaningful relief from this persistent problem.

Certificate Authentication

When both the Always On VPN device tunnel and user tunnel are provisioned to a Windows 10 clients, user tunnel connections may be authenticated using the machine certificate and not EAP/PEAP. This can result in connections that are not validated as intended, and allowing a user to bypass configured NPS policies, MFA requirements, or conditional access rules. This update includes a fix for this issue, restoring proper authentication for the user tunnel when the device tunnel is also provisioned.

Device and User Tunnel Coexistence

A bug that first appeared when Windows 10 2004 was introduced prevented a device tunnel and user tunnel Always On VPN connection from being established to the same VPN server if the user tunnel used Internet Key Exchange Version 2 (IKEv2). This update restores full functionality under those conditions.

Update KB4571744

To resolve these issues with Windows 10 Always On VPN as well as others, download and install update KB4571744 today. If you are experiencing any of these issues with releases of Windows 10 prior to 2004, look for updates for those build to come later this year.

Additional Information

September 3, 2020 – KB4571744 (OS Build 19041.488) Preview

Windows 10 Always On VPN Connection Issues after Sleep or Hibernate

Windows 10 Always On VPN Bug in Windows 10 2004

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