SSL VPNs and client-application authentication

Network security expert Lisa Phifer addresses the impact of SSL VPNs on client-application authentication.

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In a recent SearchSecurity webcast, speaker Lisa Phifer, vice president and owner of consulting firm Core Competence, addressed technological developments in virtual private networks. Here Lisa answers a user-submitted question that she didn't have time to answer during the broadcast. If you missed our webcast, New directions in VPNs, or would like to review it, you may listen to the recorded webcast on-demand.


Please address the impact of SSL VPNs on client-application authentication, where the application attempts to use SSL certificate-based user authentication. Since SSL VPNs terminate the user's SSL session, the application is no longer able to authenticate the user on the basis of his SSL certificate. SSL VPNs appear to preclude client certificate-based authentication.

Authentication capabilities depend upon the product, but there are SSL VPN products that support client-side certificate authentication to back-end applications. Any proxy can disrupt the end-to-end nature of communication between a client and server. However, some products, like Whale Communications' e-Gap and Aventail's EX-1500, do provide single sign-on capabilities for all Intranet servers protected by the SSL VPN gateway. The proxy can relay challenge/response authentication between the client and server, or (in your case) relay client-side certificate authentication.



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This was first published in March 2004

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