Articles from security category

Secure cipher suites for the ssl_cipher_list configuration

Thu 03 May 2018 | security Written by Mișu Moldovan

Default SSL cipher suites

With the release of SFTPPlus 3.32.0, we have changed the default set of SSL cipher suites for the Local Manager and the HTTPS service. As with any product that run in many environments, SFTPPlus uses a default set of SSL-related parameters that are a compromise between security and compatibility. Up to SFTPPlus version 3.31.0, we were using this highly compatible, but still reasonably secure, default set:

ssl_cipher_list = 'ALL:!RC4:!DES:!3DES:!MD5:!EXP'

Starting with SFTPPlus version 3.32.0, we strongly emphasize our focus on security. The default setting for OpenSSL cipher suites in SFTPPlus is now:

ssl_cipher_list = 'HIGH:!PSK:!RSP:!eNULL:!aNULL:!RC4:!MD5:!DES:!3DES:!aDH:!kDH:!DSS'

Notice that we now derive our default set from the HIGH set of cipher suites in OpenSSL. As improved cipher suites are added in OpenSSL, and new vulnerabilities are discovered and patched for, this specific set of cipher suites will be continuously improved upon by the OpenSSL developers. By keeping OpenSSL libraries updated through OS-specific procedures, our customers' SFTPPlus installations will benefit from these upstream improvements.

This new default set of safe cipher suites is also encapsulated within the secure configuration option, so you may simply use the following:

ssl_cipher_list = secure

Testing your HTTPS server

In ensuring that the secure configuration option for ssl_cipher_list in SFTPPlus is actually secure enough for your needs, you should try auditing your HTTPS setup using the Qualys SSL Labs' SSL Server Test.

This is a free online service that perform an analysis of the configuration of any public HTTPS server listening on the standard 443 port. When results are submitted, a grade from A to F is provided. You can read more about Qualys' SSL Server Rating Guide in their GitHub wiki here.

Assuming you are using a modern version of OpenSSL, such as version 1.0.2, a default installation of SFTPPlus version 3.32.0 will currently yield a score of B. This is because we still care about compatibility with older clients in the default setup.

However, you might want to go beyond that and try to obtain a Qualys SSL Server Rating of A for your SFTPPlus installation. A set of ciphers suites that sacrifices a bit of compatibility to reach the Grade A rating would be:


Keep in mind that clients such as Internet Explorer on Windows XP, Java 6.x clients and Android 2.x users will not be able to access your server any more. For guiding you in picking the best cipher suites for your OpenSSL version, we recommend Mozilla's SSL Configuration Generator.

Another way to increase the security of your HTTPS setup is to disable support for older SSL methods such as TLS v1.0 and v1.1. While as of April 2018 there are no known vulnerabilities specific to TLS v1.0 or v1.1, supporting only the newest standard will ensure better security through the use of more modern cipher suites.

In seeking the perfect balance between security and compatibility, you may wish to consider configuring only some services to have stricter cipher suites and/or TLS policy. These could be administration facing services such as the SFTPPlus Local Manager. For other services, you may need to adopt a policy that allows a compatible set as the default value for services such as HTTPS.

For example, here's the difference between secure and compatible SSL methods. Note that the secure method does not provide backward compatibility:

Secure methods:
ssl_allowed_methods = tlsv1.2

This indicates that the server will only support TLS v1.2, and will not communicate with a client that supports only TLS v1.0 and/or TLS v1.1.

A more lenient set of SSL methods would be:

Compatible methods:
ssl_allowed_methods = tlsv1.0 tlsv1.1 tlsv1.2

This indicates that the server will support clients using TLS version v1.2 and can communicate with clients that only support TLS v1.0 and/or TLS v1.1.

Beware that not supporting TLS v1.0 would mean dropping support for clients from older operating systems such as RHEL 5, SLES 11 and Solaris 10, as well as obsolete platforms like Android 4.0-4.3, Internet Explorer on Windows Vista and Win Phone 8.0, Java 7 clients. Anything based on the old OpenSSL 0.9.8 version are also included.

Therefore, you may need to reach a compromise in choosing the ssl_allowed_methods too, and only restrict the SSL methods for the more sensitive services such as Local Manager.

Evaluating SFTPPlus MFT

SFTPPlus MFT Server supports FTP, Explicit FTPS, Implicit FTPS, SFTP, SCP, HTTP and HTTPS.

Install SFTPPlus MFT today either as an on-premise solution supported on Windows, Linux, Solaris, AIX, HP-UX, MacOS and FreeBSD or on the cloud as Docker containers, AWS instances etc.

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This resource is written as of SFTPPlus version 3.33.0.

The details in this resource is for guidance only. Influences such as own security policies, requirements, and threat models should be considered when adopting this type of guidance.

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Security Advisory on CSRF and XSS attacks affecting HTTP/HTTPS services

Tue 24 April 2018 | security Written by SFTPPlus Security

Customers using HTTP/HTTPS services should upgrade to 3.33.0

SFTPPlus update against CSRF and XSS

The SFTPPlus version 3.33.0 release is a major security update for the HTTP/HTTPS file transfer service and the SFTPPlus Local Manager service.

This update addresses the vulnerabilities concerning Cross-Site Request Forgery Attacks and Cross-Site Scripting Attacks on the aforementioned services.

Customers that are not accessing SFTPPlus services from a web browser are not exposed to these vulnerabilities.

In addition, customers utilizing FTP, FTPS, SFTP, and SCP protocols are not affected.

We recommend that all affected customers should upgrade to the SFTPPlus 3.33.0 release, since it includes fixes for Cross-Site Request Forgery and Cross-Site Scripting vulnerabilities.

To mitigate the risk in older SFTPPlus versions, we recommend the following actions:

  • Do not have other tabs or windows open in the same browser while being authenticated to a SFTPPlus service, or
  • Use a private window or a separate profile / container.
  • Log out from the SFTPPlus service as soon as your have completed your tasks.

The aforementioned security issues were due to ProAtria not performing a security audit of SFTPPlus, when used from an interactive browser.

Taking into consideration the current challenges of HTTP security, we have now updated our security practices and implemented automated tests. These tests will cover the HTTP-specific attacks against SFTPPlus when accessed from a web browser.

SFTPPlus continues to be focused on automated, non-interactive file transfers in a secure fashion. Our security practices have been designed to make this a reality for our clients.

You can check the rest of the 3.33.0 release notes here.

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Protecting your SFTPPlus configuration against SWEET32

Fri 02 March 2018 | security Written by Hannah Suarez

Details of attacks on DES (Data Encryption Standard) and Triple DES, Birthday attacks on 64-bit block ciphers were released with the CVE ID of CVE-2016-2183. Read more about the CVE details here).

DES and Triple DES ciphers, used in TLS and SSH protocols and in subsequent relation also used in file transfer products, have a birthday bound of approximately four billion blocks. This makes it easier for remote attackers to obtain cleartext data via a birthday attack against a long-duration encrypted session, as demonstrated by an HTTPS session using Triple DES in CBC mode. This attack is otherwise known as the "SWEET32" attack.

If your SFTPPlus configuration is vulnerable to these attacks, you will need to ensure that you are on the latest SFTPPlus MFT version 3.xx.xx series and use the following custom configurations outlined below.

From SFTPPlus version 3.31.0, you can use the secure cipher option for the ssl_cipher_list and ssh_cipher_list configurations. The special keyword secure contains all the algorithms that we currently consider secure.

From version 3.32.0, the default secure ssl_cipher_list configuration was updated to HIGH:!PSK:!RSP:!eNULL:!aNULL:!RC4:!MD5:!DES:!3DES:!aDH:!kDH:!DSS where HIGH is defined by upstream OpenSSL.

In this way, when updating the OpenSSL library, you will automatically get an update in the list of secure ciphers without the need to update SFTPPlus.

Exclude DES and Triple-DES from the SSL Cipher List

SFTPPlus relies on OS crypto for the SSL/TLS portion. There is no need to run this configuration if your operating system has already deprecated the use of DES/3DES.

To check if your OpenSSL has DES and 3DES ciphers enabled, check the output of openssl ciphers -v 'DES:3DES'

If DES/3DES are still available in OpenSSL, disable them for SFTPPlus by ensuring that the ssl_cipher_list configuration for the service has the value :!DES:!3DES: added in the list. This will exclude the use of DES and Triple DES as indicated by the ! mark.

For more details about this configuration, please refer to the ssl cipher list configuration option here.

Exclude DES and Triple-DES from the SSH Cipher List

In the ssh_cipher_list configuration for the service, add the value :!DES:!3DES: to exclude the use of DES and Triple DES. There is no need to run this configuration if your operating system has already deprecated the use of DES/3DES.

More details about this configuration for the ssh cipher list here.

Only use TLS 1.2 (for services utilizing TLS/SSL)

In the ssl_allowed_methods option for the associate service, add the value tlsv1.2 to use TLS v1.2.

Ensure that tlsv1.2 is the only value in ssl_allowed_methods so that this component will use TLS v1.2 during the secure communication handshake.

DES ciphers are used in TLS 1.0 and TLS 1.1, but they are not available in TLS 1.2 as noted in RFC 5469.

In the event that you still require communication with services still utilizing TLS 1.1 and/or TLS 1.0, you may add tlsv1.1 and/or tlsv1.0 providing that the DES and Triple-DES ciphers are excluded in the first instance.

More details about this configuration are available in our documentation here.

Confirming the SFTP configurations using openssl s_client

You can use openssl s-client, a diagnostic tool.

Connect via openssl s_client -cipher 3DES -connect site:port to check that 3DES is disabled.

To check the TLS version, the output will also reveal which TLS version is being used:

    Protocol  : TLSv1.2
    Cipher    : 0000
    Key-Arg   : None
    PSK identity: None
    PSK identity hint: None
    SRP username: None
    Start Time: 1519733544
    Timeout   : 300 (sec)
    Verify return code: 0 (ok)

Confirming the FTPS configurations using curl

If you wish to use curl instead, there are two tests that you can run once these options are saved in your development lab.

Run curl with the excluded ciphers DES-CBC3-SHA and check that you cannot complete the operation.

curl -v --ftp-ssl -k ftp://user@domain:port --ciphers DES-CBC3-SHA

Run curl with the allowed TLS version and check that you are able to complete the operation.

curl -v --ftp-ssl -k ftp://user@domain:port --tlsv1.2

Using --tlsv1.0 should fail the operation.

Confirming the configuration from the log

SFTPPlus configurations can also be confirmed via the log. For this issue, it should be done more as a supplementary step rather than as a sole point of confirmation of your configuration changes.

From the client-shell:

| SFTPPlus (3.30.0) file transfer client shell
| > connect
| 20140 2018-02-04 10:23:03 uuid Process Connecting resource "ftpse".
| 10102 2018-02-04 10:23:03 uuid user localhost:10021 Location ftpse connected
  to the FTP server.
| 10106 2018-02-04 10:23:03 uuid user localhost:10021 Connection to FTP/FTPS
  was authenticated for location ftpse. Protected using TLSv1.2
  Server certificate: (4) C=UK/O=ACME/CN=myserver.

From the server-side log:

| 10067 2018-02-04 10:23:03 Process Unknown Client initiating
  authentication as "user".Command protected using TLSv1.2
  Client certificate: (2) C=GB/O=ACME/CN=myclient

The logs above indicate that TLSv1.2 was used alongside the list of ciphers ECDHE-RSA-AES256-GCM-SHA384. Please note that just because TLSv1.2 is used, it does not indicate that other TLS versions are disabled.

Evaluating SFTPPlus MFT

Security is a priority to SFTPPlus MFT.

With our software, not only will you have access to a secure file transfer product, but our specialist consultants are available for your secure file transfer needs.

SFTPPlus MFT Server supports FTP, Explicit FTPS, Implicit FTPS, SFTP, SCP, HTTP and HTTPS.

SFTPPlus MFT is available as an on-premise solution supported on Windows, Linux, AIX, OS X, Solaris, HP-UX, and FreeBSD. Please add your email below to sign up for an evaluation trial.

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SFTPPlus is not affected by the Meltdown and Spectre Vulnerabilities

Wed 21 February 2018 | article security Written by Adi Roiban

Security advisory about the Meltdown and Spectre are vulnerabilities

SFTPPlus is not affected by the Meltdown and Spectre Vulnerabilities

Meltdown and Spectre are vulnerabilities based on CPU design flaws which require the attacker to be able to execute application code which is created to exploit these vulnerabilities.

SFTPPlus secure file transfers does not allow any arbitrary application code execution. It will only read and write data without executing it. This is standard behaviour for doing file transfers over FTPS or HTTPS.

The SSH implementation of SFTPPlus is only allowed for the SFTP and SCP protocols. Shell access or any other SSH execution is denied. The SCP protocol is implemented using an embedded SCP protocol and no external scp application is called.

For the purpose of managed file transfers, SFTPPlus allows the execution of pre-configured application code with the pre and post transfer hooks. As long as the SFTPPlus is configured with trusted applications, this does not constitute an attack vector.

If you are running SFTPPlus Itanium architectures, for example with HPUX, you are not affected by these vulnerabilities, no mater what other software is in used on those systems.

SPARC architecture (example with Solaris 10) and POWER (example with AIX 7.1) are affected by the Spectre, while not being affected by Meltdown.

The embedded devices based on ARM64 CPUs are also affected by Spectre.

Administrators using the SFTPPlus MFT Client with pre and post transfer hooks should review the configuration and make sure that the hooks will trigger calls to trusted applications.

This article was written as of SFTPPlus version 3.31.0.

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Choosing the best protocols for securing data and file transfers

Mon 22 January 2018 | article security Written by Hannah Suarez

Why read this guide

In order to implement a secure managed file transfer system, you will need a good understanding of the supported services and protocols involved.

This article provides an overview of the supported protocols, including the advantages and disadvantages of these protocols as well as situations for the use of these services.

The first part focuses on protocols that we recommend you reconsider in using and the rest of the article is followed by services that we do recommend.

Protocols to reconsider when securing data and file transfers

The following, FTP and HTTP, are covered below as they both pose two services that offer the least advantage in terms of securing data and file transfers.

File Transfer Protocol (FTP)

Shortform for File Transfer Protocol, the objectives of FTP are 1) to promote sharing of files (computer programs and/or data), 2) to encourage indirect or implicit (via programs) use of remote computers, 3) to shield a user from variations in file storage systems among hosts, and 4) to transfer data reliably and efficiently.

FTP has had a long evolution over many years starting with its beginnings published as RFC 114 on 16 April 1971. Over time there has been other forms of file transfer protocols made available as there had been vulnerabilities and weaknesses with FTP such as:

  • Brute force attacks which is attacking via computing credential combinations.
  • FTP bounce attacks which is an exploit enabling an attacker to use the PORT command to request access to ports indirectly through the use of the target machine as a man in the middle request.
  • Packet capture through the use of packet capture tools.
  • Port stealing where traffic directed at a port is stolen or intercepted by an attacker.
  • Spoofing attack where the attacker may use a tool to try multiple instances of an IP address in order to assume the correct, and therefore spoofing, the host address of the target machine.
  • Username enumeration is part of the discovery, or enumeration, process prior to an attack of a network or service by obtaining usernames associated with the service.

There are also limitations to the protocol. For example, there is no ability to encrypt data on transit. Data in transit can be sniffed using freely available tools since the transmissions of usernames, passwords, commands and other data is not encrypted. An attacker can run a packet sniffer over the network can sniff out FTP credentials. In addition, there is no integrity checking of files to ensure that data integrity remains since this is not included as a feature of the protocol.

Situations to use the FTP service:

There is a chance that your initial file transfer system may even be in FTP, depending on the age of the system. However, FTP has many security weaknesses and vulnerabilities as mentioned previously.

Those wishing to continue to use FTP and to do so in a secure manner may find themselves integrating other software to ensure security, creating additional scripts or taking on board additional maintenance. For example, there is no built-in integrity check however scripting work can be done to create a checksum integrity checking process and added at the end of a file transfer. There is also further additional overhead in ensuring that FTP remains secure such as integration with other applications for additional layers of security.

The FTP service is accessible by enabling the service and then configuring the address, port, passive port range, passive address, idle data connection timeout and more.

Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP)

HTTP, shortform for Hypertext Transfer Protocol, is an application-level protocol for distributed, collaborative, hypermedia information systems. It is a generic, stateless, protocol which can be used for many tasks.

HTTP, in use by the World-Wide Web global initiative since 1990, is a protocol used in many tasks related to common usage of the web such as browsing websites. This is relevant to SFTPPlus since we offer a browser-based file management utility.

Without SSL/TLS, there is no way to encrypt data in transit. Other downsides to HTTP, in the context of SFTPPlus, include:

  • Packet capture through the use of packet capture tools.
  • Man-in-the-middle attack where the attacker intercepts and relays false malicious content between two parties.
  • Credentials are sent in a plain text encoding when using the SFTPPlus HTTP Basic Auth API.

Situations to use the HTTP service:

HTTP may be used internally within a highly secured network where there are already mechanisms in place to protect the environment.

We offer HTTP based micro-services and endpoints as part of our public API. In this case, the API is used in conjunction with other security mechanisms in place for the environment.

The HTTP service is accessible by enabling the service and then configuring the address, port, idle connection timeout and maximum concurrent connections.

Protocols to consider when securing data and file transfers

The following are protocols and services that we do recommend for securing data and file transfers. This is not an exhaustive list.

Implicit FTPS or FTPS Implicit SSL (FTPIS)

FTPIS, or implicit FTPS, is the use of the FTP protocol where secure data transfer is invoked via SSL as soon as the connection starts or after the OK reply is sent by the server. In implicit mode, an FTPS client is expected to “immediately expected to challenge the FTPS server with a TLS ClientHello message. If such a message is not received by the FTPS server, the server should drop the connection.” This means that the use of SSL is implied. This is illustrated in the diagram above.

The advantage is that this service is safer than the use of the FTP protocol due to implementing SSL meaning that data transmission is encrypted.

Implicit FTPS or FTPS Implicit SSL (FTPIS)

Situations to use the FTPIS service:

Use FTPIS when you wish to use a more secure FTP for file transfer and where SSL does not need to be invoked prior to login. However, if possible, use FTPES as described further below.

Explicit FTPS or FTPS with Explicit SSL (FTPES)

In explicit mode, an FTPS client must “explicitly request” security from an FTPS server and then step up to a mutually agreed encryption method. If a client does not request security, the FTPS server can either allow the client to continue in insecure mode or refuse the connection.

The advantage is that this service is safer than the use of the FTP protocol due to implementing SSL. Prior to user connection, both the server and client must negotiate the level of security used.

Explicit FTPS or FTPS Explicit SSL (FTPES)

Situations to use the FTPES service:

Use FTPES when you wish to use a more secure FTP for file transfer and where SSL needs to be invoked prior to login. However it should be noted that this not ensure that each and every session and data transfer is secure. FTPES is only a tool allowing the client/server to negotiate the accepted level of security with each session.

Notes for both FTPES and FTPIS

Since both are FTPS (FTP over TLS/SSL), they share some common advantages as listed, non-exhaustively, below:

  • The advantages afforded by SSL is used - certificate authorities, certification revocation lists, transmission encryption and more.
  • Certain regulations and compliance obligations may require data transmissions to be encrypted but it should be noted the difference between FTPES and FTPIS when it comes to which stage the encryption occurs.
  • The protocols make use of TLS (Transport Layer Security) encryption. It should be noted that in SFTPPlus, the TLS version can be used

SSH File Transfer Protocol or Secure File Transfer Protocol (SFTP)

SFTP is a network protocol that allows for file access, transfer and management capabilities over the SSH (Secure Shell) protocol channel.

The advantages for SFTP include:

  • Designed to be used to implement a secure remote file system service and also a secure file transfer service.
  • Runs over a secure channel, SSH, so that the server has already authenticated the client. The identity of the client user should also be available to the protocol.
  • Data is encrypted based on a configured cipher list agreed upon by the server and client.
  • There is the option to implement user access via SSH keys only or via a combination of password and SSH keys. If authenticating via SSH keys, the client does not need to go through password recollection so long as the SSH key is correctly configured on the server.
  • Certain regulations and compliance obligations may require data transmissions to be encrypted.

The SFTP protocol follows a simple request-response model where each request and response contains a sequence number and multiple requests may be pending simultaneously.

Situations to use the SFTP service:

The protocol assumes that both ends of the connection have been authenticated and that the connection has privacy and integrity features already in place and that security issues are left to the underlying transport protocol.

Since the protocol provides file system management feature, the server must have the correct access controls in place and implement correct authorization and enforce access controls.

In this case, when you implement SFTP ensure that you are doing so within an AAA (authorization, authentication, auditing/accounting) security design framework on SFTPPlus.


HTTPS, shortform for HTTP over TLS, provides security measures in using HTTP via SSL and its successor, TLS.

The HTTP protocol is further secured via SSL and its successor, TLS (Transmission Layer Security), thus this is referred to as HTTPS. HTTPS provides end-to-end security for browser-based applications.

Other advantages to using HTTPS:

  • TLS can harden TCP against Man-in-the-middle attacks where clients and servers exchange certificates which are issued and verified by a trusted third party called a certificate authority (CA).
  • HTTP Public Key Pinning (HPKP) allows HTTPS website to overcome impersonation via the use of fraudulent certificates.
  • Certain regulations and compliance obligations may require data transmissions to be encrypted

Situations to use the HTTPS service:

Since the SFTPPlus file management utility is accessible via the web browser, the HTTPS service is a more secure alternative compared to HTTP.

HTTPS is a must especially when the resource is going to be public (Internet) facing.

The HTTPS service is accessible by enabling the service and then configuring the SSL/TLS options such as the SSL cipher list, allowed SSL/TLS methods, SSL certificate, SSL key, certificate authority, certification revocation list and more.

Conclusion and next steps

The application of one protocol over the other does not immediately guarantee security. Please consider these services merely as a layer within multiple others when implementing a secure managed file transfer solution.

Since features are constantly changed, we did not touch on any specifics within SFTPPlus. Please consult our documentation for the configuration and operations information, as well as practical users guides.

Evaluating SFTPPlus MFT

SFTPPlus MFT Server supports FTP, Explicit FTPS, Implicit FTPS, SFTP, SCP, HTTP and HTTPS.

Install SFTPPlus MFT today either as an on-premise solution supported on Windows, Linux, AIX, OS X, Solaris, FreeBSD, HP-UX or on the cloud as Docker containers or AWS instances.

Email us at to start your evaluation version today.

For licensing queries, please contact


This resource is written as of SFTPPlus version 3.29.0.

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