How To

Drop DES Ciphers

Some more cPanel security for your sites.

My (former) coworker read my recent post about the forward secrecy and noted the following:

@p0pr0ck5: you really ought to get rid of the DES ciphers too.

As it happened I was looking into that!

What Is DES? What Is DES?

DES stands for Data Encryption Standard. It’s a symmetric-key algorithm using 56-bit keys, which means it applies its magic to a block of data at once, rather than one bit at a time.

Back in the 1970s, The National Bureau of Standards (in the US) created DES because it occurred to them that secure data was a good idea. A bunch of brains were invited to meet their proposal for a standard, and of them IBM (yes, that IBM) came up with a winner.

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What’s the Problem? What’s the Problem?

It’s 2017, not 1971, and data is bigger and more complex. First off, 56-bit keys are too small. AES, the current standard, uses 128-bit and 256-bit keys. But perhaps more importantly, we don’t do symmetric encryption anymore. Sending the keys over the same channel you’re going to encrypt is dangerous and easy to snipe.

Back in the late 1990s, a big machine could break a DES key in 22 hours. Today, using a cloud network on Amazon, it could be done in seconds, and be worth it.

Oh and if you’ve heard of 3DES and are wondering if that’s better, it’s not. Remember the massive Target hack in late 2013? A bunch of credit cards were stolen and it turned out Target stored their PINs in 3DES. So no. Not safe at all.

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Why Did You Have It? Why Did You Have It?

Because Windows XP is a sack of shit and up until last year, I had to support it.

Seriously, that was it. Now that everyone I know who use some XP (and NT) are on modern OS’s (or blocked from the server… or dead) I don’t have to worry so much.

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How Do We Ditch It? How Do We Ditch It?

Remember, these are the default chiphers:



While I already have !DES in my cipher suite (as I posted a few days ago), I should remove it fully. But that also means in the Pre Main Include section, I need to change my value for SSLCipherSuite to match!

When I tested, I noticed that I was still pulling a TLS suite with 3DES: TLS_ECDHE_RSA_WITH_3DES_EDE_CBC_SHA

To fix that, I changed HIGH to +HIGH:+MEDIUM:-LOW and that gave me the following:


The -LOW is the magic sauce to say “Don’t use anonymous insecure ciphers.” when you’re on cPanel, you see.