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Michael Hill
Michael Hill

How to Download and Update Cipher Suites for Windows 10 v20H2 and v21H1


What is a Cipher Suite and How to Download One?




If you have ever visited a website that uses HTTPS, you have probably benefited from the security provided by a cipher suite. A cipher suite is a set of algorithms that help secure a network connection through Transport Layer Security (TLS), often still called Secure Sockets Layer (SSL). In this article, we will explain what a cipher suite is, how it works, how to compare different cipher suites, and how to download and install one on your server or device.


Introduction




A cipher suite is a combination of cryptographic algorithms that enable secure network communications through TLS. A cipher suite specifies one algorithm for each task of creating keys, encrypting information, and providing data integrity, authentication, and confidentiality. A cipher suite is agreed upon by the web server and the client during a SSL handshake, which is a process that leverages various cryptographic functions to achieve a HTTPS connection.




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The main components of a cipher suite are:


  • A key exchange algorithm, such as RSA, DH, ECDH, DHE, ECDHE, or PSK. This algorithm is used to exchange a key between two devices. This key is used to encrypt and decrypt the messages being sent between two machines.



  • A bulk encryption algorithm, such as AES, DES, RC4, or ChaCha20. This algorithm is used to encrypt the data being sent.



  • A message authentication code (MAC) algorithm, such as SHA1, SHA256, SHA384, or Poly1305. This algorithm provides data integrity checks to ensure that the data sent does not change in transit.



  • An authentication algorithm or digital signature algorithm, such as RSA, ECDSA, or DSA. This algorithm helps authenticate the server and/or client by verifying their certificates.



A cipher suite works in the TLS handshake process as follows:


  • The client sends the server a list of supported cipher suites in order of preference.



  • The server selects the most secure mutually supported cipher suite and sends it back to the client along with its certificate.



  • The client verifies the server's certificate and sends its own certificate if required.



  • The client and the server use the key exchange algorithm to generate a shared secret key.



  • The client and the server use the bulk encryption algorithm and the MAC algorithm to encrypt and authenticate their messages using the shared secret key.



Cipher Suite Examples




Each cipher suite has a unique name that represents the algorithms used for each component. For example, the cipher suite TLS_ECDHE_RSA_WITH_AES_256_GCM_SHA384 means that it uses TLS as the protocol, ECDHE as the key exchange algorithm, RSA as the authentication algorithm, AES with 256-bit keys as the bulk encryption algorithm, GCM as the mode of operation, and SHA384 as the MAC algorithm.


There are different cipher suites for different versions of TLS. The latest version, TLS 1.3, has a smaller and more secure set of cipher suites than previous versions. TLS 1.3 only supports five cipher suites, all of which use AEAD (Authenticated Encryption with Associated Data) algorithms that combine encryption and authentication in one step. These cipher suites are:


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  • TLS_AES_256_GCM_SHA384



  • TLS_CHACHA20_POLY1305_SHA256



  • TLS_AES_128_GCM_SHA256



  • TLS_AES_128_CCM_8_SHA256



  • TLS_AES_128_CCM_SHA256



Previous versions of TLS, such as TLS 1.2 and TLS 1.1, support a larger and more diverse set of cipher suites, some of which are considered weak or obsolete. For example, some cipher suites use RC4 or DES as the bulk encryption algorithm, which are vulnerable to attacks. Some cipher suites use MD5 or SHA1 as the MAC algorithm, which are also insecure. Some cipher suites do not provide forward secrecy, which means that if the private key is compromised, all past communications can be decrypted. Some cipher suites do not provide authentication, which means that they are susceptible to man-in-the-middle attacks.


To compare and evaluate different cipher suites based on their security and performance, you can use various criteria, such as:


  • The strength of the encryption algorithm and the key size



  • The security of the MAC algorithm and the hash function



  • The support for forward secrecy and authentication



  • The compatibility with different browsers and devices



  • The speed and efficiency of the encryption and decryption process



Cipher Suite Best Practices




To ensure that your network connection is secure and reliable, you need to follow some best practices when choosing and using cipher suites. These include:


Choosing a reliable certificate authority (CA) for your certificates




A certificate authority (CA) is an entity that issues digital certificates that verify the identity and public key of a server or a client. A certificate is essential for establishing a secure connection using TLS, as it allows the server and the client to authenticate each other and to encrypt their messages using a shared secret key. However, not all CAs are trustworthy or reputable. Some CAs may issue certificates to malicious or fraudulent parties, or may have their own certificates compromised or revoked.


To avoid these risks, you should choose a reliable CA for your certificates. You can use various factors to evaluate a CA's reliability, such as:


  • The reputation and history of the CA



  • The security and transparency of the CA's operations and policies



  • The validity period and revocation mechanism of the CA's certificates



  • The compatibility and interoperability of the CA's certificates with different browsers and devices



  • The cost and support of the CA's services



Using certificate authority authorization (CAA) records to restrict which CAs can issue certificates for your domain




A certificate authority authorization (CAA) record is a DNS record that allows you to specify which CAs are authorized to issue certificates for your domain. This helps prevent unauthorized or rogue CAs from issuing certificates for your domain without your consent or knowledge. A CAA record also helps reduce the risk of certificate mis-issuance or compromise by limiting the number of CAs that can issue certificates for your domain.


To use CAA records, you need to add them to your DNS zone file using a specific syntax. A CAA record consists of three parts: a flag, a tag, and a value. The flag indicates whether the record is critical or not. The tag indicates the type of directive or property that the record specifies. The value indicates the parameter or value that corresponds to the tag. For example, a CAA record that allows only Let's Encrypt to issue certificates for your domain would look like this:


example.com. CAA 0 issue "letsencrypt.org"


You can also use multiple CAA records to specify different directives or properties for your domain. For example, you can use a CAA record to specify an email address where you can receive notifications about certificate requests or issues for your domain:



Using web application firewalls (WAFs) to protect your website from common web attacks, such as SQL injection, XSS, CSRF, or DDoS. A WAF is a software or hardware device that monitors and filters


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