[erlang-questions] How safe is it to leave an open SSL port on the public internet?

Fred Hebert <>
Wed Aug 30 00:20:02 CEST 2017

On 08/29, code wiget wrote:
>So that has to do with load, which is fine because this particular instance should be light load - I am speaking more towards security. If someone connects, are there attacks they can do with access to an Erlang controlled socket?

Aside from the cache issues Max has mentioned, there's a few 
configuration values you might want by default:

    [{ciphers, CipherList},      % see below
     {honor_cipher_order, true}, % pick the server-defined order of ciphers
     {secure_renegotiate, true}, % prevent renegotiation hijacks
     {client_renegotiation, false}, % prevent clients DoSing w/ renegs
     {versions, ['tlsv1.2', 'tlsv1.1']}, % add tlsv1 if you must
     {reuse_sessions, false},    % drop session cache for perf
     {ecc, EllipticCurves}       % see below

A safe CipherList can be those enumerated in 
https://github.com/heroku/snit/blob/master/src/snit.app.src#L45-L83 for 
example, though the format in that config is meant to contain both the 
OpenSSL-readable format and the Erlang-accepted one.

The order of elliptic curves I like is the one at 
https://github.com/heroku/snit/blob/master/src/snit.app.src#L116-L121 -- 
it is not the strongest, but aligns with what AWS ELBs prefer (secp256r1 
first) which gives a decent compromise between performance and safety.  
Stronger curves at 512b roughly double the time a handshake takes, but 
if you prefer the safety to the perf, reorder them to be first.

Furthermore, the following values can go in your sys.config file to 
further modify the SSL behaviour:

    {ssl, [
      {bypass_pem_cache, true},     % bypass PEM cache (see below)
      {session_cb, ssl_cache_null}, % see below
      {session_cb_init_args, []}    % (cont)

The PEM cache is a cache used whenever you have disk-based certificates.  
In cases where you use in-memory certificates, it can act as a 
bottleneck. See 
https://blog.heroku.com/how-we-sped-up-sni-tls-handshakes-by-5x for my 
writeup on the topic.

The last one about the session callback is a further cache that you may 
disable if you hit performance issues. It uses the callback at 
http://erlang.org/doc/man/ssl_session_cache_api.html to configure how to 
store session data. A gotcha is that this table still sees some use even 
if you disable the session cache (or at least it did last time I 
looked). As such, you can provide an empty module like the following one 
to fully bypass it:


    -export([init/1, terminate/1, lookup/2, update/3, delete/2,
            foldl/3, select_session/2, size/1]).

    init(_) -> disabled.
    terminate(_) -> disabled.
    lookup(_,_) -> undefined.
    update(_,_,_) -> disabled.
    delete(_,_) -> disabled.
    foldl(_,Acc,_) -> Acc.
    select_session(_,_) -> [].
    size(_) -> 0.

With this module part of your project along with the config above, you 
should get quite decent performance with it. Back in the days I was at 
heroku, we went close to what Amazon ELBs could do in terms of 
performance. Maybe a few milliseconds slower on average, but nearly an 
order of magnitude faster on 99th percentiles.

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