Moving to HSTS

HTTP Strict Transport Security (HSTS)  is a policy mechanism that allows a web server to enforce the use of TLS in a compliant User Agent (UA), such as a web browser. HSTS allows for a more effective implementation of TLS by ensuring all communication takes place over a secure transport layer on the client side. Most notably HSTS mitigates variants of man in the middle (MiTM) attacks where TLS can be stripped out of communications with a server, leaving a user vulnerable to further risk.

HSTS has been a highly anticipated and a much needed solution to the problems of HTTP being the default protocol for a UA and the lack of an ability for a host to reliably enforce secure communications. For any site that issues permanent redirects to HTTPS the addition of the HSTS response header is a much safer way of enforcing secure communications for compliant UAs. By preventing the UA from sending even the very first request via HTTP, HSTS removes the only opportunity a MiTM has to gain a foothold in a secure transport layer.


How to enable HSTS?

If you have access only to .htaccess then this is the only option (assuming you run Apache, just like Strato is doing):


<IfModule mod_headers.c>
Header set Strict-Transport-Security "max-age=31536000; includeSubDomains; preload" env=HTTPS


How to verify that it works?

Note: do not submit your site if you have subdomains without SSL certificate!

Note that I will write another post for all headers.




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About the Author

Sorin Mustaca
Sorin Mustaca, (ISC)2 CSSLP, CompTIA Security+ and Project+, is working since over 20 years in the IT Security industry and worked between 2003-2014 for Avira as Product Manager for the known products used by over 100 million users world-wide. Today he is CEO and owner of Endpoint Cybersecurity GmbH focusing on Cybersecurity, secure software development and security for IoT and Automotive. He is also running his personal blog Sorin Mustaca on Cybersecurity and is the author of the free eBook Improve your security .

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