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3.7.1 Separate ports

Traditionally SSL was used in application protocols by assigning a new port number for the secure services. That way two separate ports were assigned, one for the non secure sessions, and one for the secured ones. This has the benefit that if a user requests a secure session then the client will try to connect to the secure port and fail otherwise. The only possible attack with this method is a denial of service one. The most famous example of this method is the famous “HTTP over TLS” or HTTPS protocol [RFC2818].

Despite its wide use, this method is not as good as it seems. This approach starts the TLS Handshake procedure just after the client connects on the —so called— secure port. That way the TLS protocol does not know anything about the client, and popular methods like the host advertising in HTTP do not work(5). There is no way for the client to say “I connected to YYY server” before the Handshake starts, so the server cannot possibly know which certificate to use.

Other than that it requires two separate ports to run a single service, which is unnecessary complication. Due to the fact that there is a limitation on the available privileged ports, this approach was soon obsoleted.


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