TLS overview

To secure communications and verify data integrity, you can configure Vertica and database clients to use TLS.

To secure communications and verify data integrity, you can configure Vertica and database clients to use TLS. The TLS protocol uses a key and certificate exchange system along with a trusted third party called a Certificate Authority (CA). Both the owner of a certificate and the other party that relies on the certificate must trust the CA to confirm the certificate holder's identity.

Vertica also supports the following authentication methods using the Transport Layer Security (TLS) v1.2 protocol. Both methods encrypt and verify the integrity of the data in transit:

  • Server Mode - In server mode, the client must confirm the server's identity before connecting. The client verifies that the server's certificate and public key are valid and were issued by a certificate authority (CA) listed in the client's list of trusted CAs. This helps prevent man-in-the-middle attacks.

  • Mutual Mode - In mutual mode, the client and server must verify each other's identity before connecting.

In addition to the requirements detailed in this section, you must create TLS authentication records to reject non-TLS client connections.

TLS handshake process

The following is a high-level/simplified overview of one possible "handshake" process for the client to verify the identity of the server in Server Mode. Additional actions taken in Mutual Mode for the server to identify the client are marked as such.

Public and Private Key Pairs - Key pairs are generated by clients and servers. The owner of a public key must be verified by a certificate authority. The key pairs are used to encrypt messages. For example, suppose Alice wants to send confidential data to Bob. Because she wants only Bob to read it, she encrypts the data with Bob's public key. Even if someone else gains access to the encrypted data, it remains protected. Because only Bob has access to his corresponding private key, he is the only person who can decrypt Alice's encrypted data back into its original form.

Certificates - Certificates contain a public key and identify the owner of the key. They are issued by the certificate authority (CA).

Certificate Authority (CA) - A certificate authority is a trusted party that verifies the identity of public key owners.

Client and Server Random - Client Random and Server Random are random strings that used to created a shared secret which encrypts communication if the handshake succeeds.

  1. Before connecting, the server and client generate their own public and private key pairs. The CA then distributes identifying certificates to the server and client for their respective public keys.

  2. The client sends its Client Random to the server and requests the server's certificate.

  3. The server sends its certificate and its Server Random, encrypted with its private key, to the client. In Mutual Mode, the server also requests the client's certificate.

  4. In Mutual Mode, the client sends its certificate.

  5. The client uses the certificate to verify that the server owns its public key, then decrypts the Server Random with the server's public key to verify that the server owns its private key.

  6. In Mutual Mode, the server uses the certificate to verify that the client owns its public key.

  7. The server and client use the Client and Server Randoms to generate a new secret, called a session key, which encrypts future communication.