Always On VPN SSL Certificate Requirements for SSTP

Always On VPN Certificate Requirements for SSTPThe Windows Server 2016 Routing and Remote Access Service (RRAS) is commonly deployed as a VPN server for Windows 10 Always On VPN deployments. Using RRAS, Always On VPN administrators can take advantage of Microsoft’s proprietary Secure Socket Tunneling Protocol (SSTP) VPN protocol. SSTP is a Transport Layer Security (TLS) based VPN protocol that uses HTTPS over the standard TCP port 443 to encapsulate and encrypt communication between the Always On VPN client and the RRAS VPN server. SSTP is a firewall-friendly protocol that ensures ubiquitous remote network connectivity. Although IKEv2 is the protocol of choice when the highest level of security is required for VPN connections, SSTP can still provide very good security when implementation best practices are followed.

SSTP Certificate

Since SSTP uses HTTPS for transport, a common SSL certificate must be installed in the Local Computer/Personal/Certificates store on the RRAS VPN server. The certificate must include the Server Authentication Enhanced Key Usage (EKU) at a minimum. Often SSL certificates include both the Server Authentication and Client Authentication EKUs, but the Client Authentication EKU is not strictly required. The subject name on the certificate, or at least one of the Subject Alternative Name entries, must match the public hostname used by VPN clients to connect to the VPN server. Multi-SAN (sometimes referred to as UC certificates) and wildcard certificates are supported.

Always On VPN Certificate Requirements for SSTP

Certification Authority

It is recommended that the SSL certificate used for SSTP be issued by a public Certification Authority (CA). Public CAs typically have their Certificate Revocation Lists (CRLs) hosted on robust, highly available infrastructure. This reduces the chance of failed VPN connection attempts caused by the CRL being offline or unreachable.

Using an SSL certificate issued by an internal, private CA is supported if the CRL for the internal PKI is publicly available.

Key Type

RSA is the most common key type used for SSL certificates. However, Elliptic Curve Cryptography (ECC) keys offer better security and performance, so it is recommended that the SSTP SSL certificate be created using an ECC key instead.

Always On VPN Certificate Requirements for SSTP

To use an ECC key, be sure to specify the use of a Cryptographic Next Generation (CNG) key and select the ECDSA_P256 Microsoft Software Key Storage Provider (CSP) (or greater) when creating the Certificate Signing Request (CSR) for the SSTP SSL certificate.

Always On VPN Certificate Requirements for SSTP

Most public CAs will support certificate signing using ECC and Elliptic Curve Digital Signature Algorithm (ECDSA). If yours does not, find a better CA. 😉

Forward Secrecy

Forward secrecy (sometimes referred to as perfect forward secrecy, or PFS) ensures that session keys can’t be compromised even if the server’s private key is compromised. Using forward secrecy for SSTP is crucial to ensuring the highest levels of security for VPN connections.

To enforce the use of forward secrecy, the TLS configuration on the VPN server should be prioritized to prefer cipher suites with Elliptic Curve Diffie-Hellman Ephemeral (ECDHE) key exchange.

Authenticated Encryption

Authenticated encryption (AE) and authenticated encryption with associated data (AEAD) is a form of encryption that provides better data protection and integrity compared to older block or stream ciphers such as CBC or RC4.

To enforce the use of authenticated encryption, the TLS configuration on the VPN server should be prioritized to prefer cipher suites that support Galois/Counter Mode (GCM) block ciphers.

Important Note: In Windows Server 2016, GCM ciphers can be used with both RSA and ECC certificates. However, in Windows Server 2012 R2 GCM ciphers can only be used when an ECC certificate is used.

SSL Offload

Offloading SSL to a load balancer or application delivery controller (ADC) can be enabled to improve scalability and performance for SSTP VPN connections. I will cover SSL offload for SSTP in detail in a future post.


SSTP can provide good security for VPN connections when implementation and security best practices are followed. For optimum security, use an SSL certificate with an EC key and optimize the TLS configuration to use forward secrecy and authenticated cipher suites.

Additional Information

Always On VPN and Windows Server Routing and Remote Access Service (RRAS)

Always On VPN Protocol Recommendations for Windows Server RRAS

Always On VPN Certificate Requirements for IKEv2

3 Important Advantages of Always On VPN over DirectAccess

Microsoft SSTP Specification on MSDN

DirectAccess and Always On VPN with Trusted Platform Module (TPM) Certificates

DirectAccess and Always On VPN with Trusted Platform Module (TPM) CertificatesTo enhance security when provisioning certificates for DirectAccess (computer) or Windows 10 Always On VPN (user) it is recommended that private keys be stored on a Trusted Platform Module (TPM) on the client device. A TPM is a dedicated security processor included in nearly all modern computers. It provides essential hardware protection to ensure the highest levels of integrity for digital certificates and is used to generate, store, and restrict the use of cryptographic keys. It also includes advanced security and protection features such as key isolation, non-exportability, and anti-hammering to prevent brute-force attacks.

To ensure that private keys are created and stored on a TPM, the certificate template must be configured to use the Microsoft Platform Crypto Provider. Follow the steps below to configure a certificate template required to use a TPM.

  1. Open the Certificate Templates management console (certtmpl.msc) and duplicate an existing certificate template. For example, if creating a certificate for DirectAccess, duplicate the Workstation Authentication certificate template. For Always On VPN, duplicate the User certificate template.
  2. On the Compatibility tab, ensure the Certification Authority and Certificate recipient compatibility settings are set to a minimum of Windows Server 2008 and Windows Vista/Server 2008, respectively.DirectAccess and Always On VPN with Trusted Platform Module (TPM) Certificates
  3. Select the Cryptography tab.
  4. Choose Key Storage Provider from the Provider Category drop down list.
  5. Choose the option Requests must use one of the following providers and select Microsoft Platform Crypto Provider.DirectAccess and Always On VPN with Trusted Platform Module (TPM) Certificates

Note: If Microsoft Platform Crypto Provider does not appear in the list above, got to the Request Handling tab and uncheck the option Allow private key to be exported.

Complete the remaining certificate configuration tasks (template display name, subject name, security settings, etc.) and publish the certificate template. Client machines configured to use this template will now have a certificate with private key fully protected by the TPM.

Additional Resources

Trusted Platform Module (TPM) Fundamentals

DirectAccess and Always On VPN Certificate Auto Enrollment

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