Enable TLS 1.2 Ciphers in IIS 7.5, Server 2008 R2, Windows 7

Some industries, like Government, require the use of certain cryptography algorithms. One of the great features of Windows Server 2008 R2 and Windows 7 is the support for TLS 1.2 ciphers. TLS 1.2 ciphers support AES-256 encryption with SHA-256 hashes. Unfortunately, Microsoft did not enable these protocols out of the box. I wanted IIS 7.5 to negotiate TLS 1.2 connections with my Windows 7 clients. After some registry hacking I was successful, as shown by a Wireshark trace.

I created a simple PowerShell script that enables TLS 1.2 for both client and server communications. It also disables SSL 2.0 server responses, in case you need to be PCI compliant. The lines are pretty long, so pay attention to the wrapping. After you run the PS script (with elevated rights) you must reboot the client and server.

Please note that all values must be DWORD. This is very important, as any other value type will NOT work and you may be pulling your hair out wondering why it’s not working.

# Enables TLS 1.2 on Windows Server 2008 R2 and Windows 7

# These keys do not exist so they need to be created prior to setting values.
md "HKLM:\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Control\SecurityProviders\SCHANNEL\Protocols\TLS 1.2"
md "HKLM:\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Control\SecurityProviders\SCHANNEL\Protocols\TLS 1.2\Server"
md "HKLM:\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Control\SecurityProviders\SCHANNEL\Protocols\TLS 1.2\Client"

# Enable TLS 1.2 for client and server SCHANNEL communications
new-itemproperty -path "HKLM:\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Control\SecurityProviders\SCHANNEL\Protocols\TLS 1.2\Server" -name "Enabled" -value 1 -PropertyType "DWord"
new-itemproperty -path "HKLM:\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Control\SecurityProviders\SCHANNEL\Protocols\TLS 1.2\Server" -name "DisabledByDefault" -value 0 -PropertyType "DWord"
new-itemproperty -path "HKLM:\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Control\SecurityProviders\SCHANNEL\Protocols\TLS 1.2\Client" -name "Enabled" -value 1 -PropertyType "DWord"
new-itemproperty -path "HKLM:\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Control\SecurityProviders\SCHANNEL\Protocols\TLS 1.2\Client" -name "DisabledByDefault" -value 0 -PropertyType "DWord"

# Disable SSL 2.0 (PCI Compliance)
md "HKLM:\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Control\SecurityProviders\SCHANNEL\Protocols\SSL 2.0\Server"
new-itemproperty -path "HKLM:\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Control\SecurityProviders\SCHANNEL\Protocols\SSL 2.0\Server" -name Enabled -value 0 -PropertyType "DWord"

After you run the PowerShell script, you should see DWORD entries like those shown below. Also, go into the Advanced properties of IE and check the box next to TLS 1.2.

If you start a WireShark capture on a TLS session you will know it’s v1.2 by two easy methods. First, the Protocol column will show TLSV1.2. Secondly, if you open the ServerHello packet you should see burried in the packet:

Cipher Suite: TLS_RSA_WITH_AES_256_CBC_SHA256 (0x003d)

You can also configure the advanced settings in IE8 on Windows 7 or Server 2008 R2 to only use TLS 1.2 by de-selecting all other SSL/TLS options. If your browser can connect with just TLS 1.2 selected, then you are golden. But for 100% verification, use a packet sniffer.

Another tweak you can do to your system is change the order of the cipher suites that Windows negotiates. This is possible in Windows Vista and higher. I changed the order such that TLS_RSA_WITH_AES_256_CBC_SHA256 is at the top of the list. Next to elliptical curve ciphers, this is the strongest that Windows offers.

To change the cipher suite order, open the GPMC on a Server 2008 or higher DC and navigate to: Computer\ Configuration\Policies\Administrative Templates\Network\SSL Configuration Settings. Enable the policy, then copy the cipher suites to Notepad and change the order as you wish. I just flipped the first two entries. So my first two entries look like:

TLS_RSA_WITH_AES_256_CBC_SHA256,TLS_RSA_WITH_AES_128_CBC_SHA256

I haven’t done extensive testing to know what types of compatibility problems enabling TLS 1.2 may create. So as always, test, test, test! I confirmed with WireShark that the Windows RMS client in Windows 7 will use TLS v1.2 to contact the root Windows Server 2008 R2 RMS server.

During my research I stumbled upon a cool Microsoft web site that lets you test various cipher suites with your browser. If you click on the cipher suites on the server authentication line you can see what your browser will support.

Lastly, Microsoft has a good reference of which cipher suites are associated with which protocols.

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