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Cipher suite

Cipher suite

Cipher suite definition

A cipher suite is a collection or combination of cryptographic algorithms, protocols, and key exchange methods used to secure network communications. Cipher suites enable secure network connections through Transport Layer Security (TLS), often still called Secure Sockets Layer (SSL).

The web server and the client perform an SSL handshake to establish a secure HTTPS connection. During the handshake, they agree on a cipher suite. The suite is then used to negotiate a secure HTTPS connection.

See also: SSL encryption

Cipher suite components

  • Key exchange algorithm. This component determines how the client and server securely exchange encryption keys. Examples include Diffie-Hellman (DH) or Elliptic Curve Diffie-Hellman (ECDH).
  • Encryption algorithm. This component is responsible for scrambling the data to make it unreadable to anyone who tries to intercept it. It’s like a special code applied to the data to make it secret. Common encryption algorithms include Advanced Encryption Standard (AES), Triple Data Encryption Standard (3DES), or Rivest Cipher (RC4).
  • Message authentication algorithm. This component helps ensure that the data being transmitted hasn’t been tampered with or modified during transmission. It’s like a seal that guarantees the integrity of the data, so the recipient can be sure it hasn’t been altered. Popular authentication algorithms include HMAC (Hash-based Message Authentication Code) or Secure Hash Algorithm (SHA).
  • Hash function. This component creates a unique “fingerprint” or summary of the data being transmitted. It’s like a special calculator that generates a fixed-size code based on the data. This fingerprint helps verify the integrity of the data and detect any changes. Examples of hash functions include MD5 (Message Digest 5) or SHA-256.

Further reading

Ultimate digital security

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