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Best Practices for Download Cipher Suite and Reordering SSL/TLS Cipher Suites Offered by IIS

What is a Cipher Suite and How to Download One?

If you have ever visited a website that uses HTTPS, you have probably encountered the term "cipher suite". But what does it mean and why is it important? In this article, we will explain what a cipher suite is, how it works, how to download one, and how to choose the best one for security.


A cipher suite is a set of cryptographic algorithms that enable secure network connections through TLS/SSL. TLS stands for Transport Layer Security, and SSL stands for Secure Sockets Layer. They are protocols that encrypt and authenticate the data exchanged between a web server and a web browser. 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 browser during a TLS/SSL handshake, which is a process that leverages various cryptographic functions to achieve a HTTPS connection.

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A cipher suite consists of four main components:

  • A key exchange algorithm, which determines how the web server and the browser generate and exchange a shared secret key that is used to encrypt and decrypt the data. Examples of key exchange algorithms are RSA, DHE, ECDHE, and PSK.

  • An authentication or digital signature algorithm, which verifies the identity of the web server and optionally the browser using digital certificates. Examples of authentication algorithms are RSA, ECDSA, and DSA.

  • A bulk encryption algorithm, which encrypts the data using the shared secret key. Examples of bulk encryption algorithms are AES, CHACHA20, Camellia, and ARIA.

  • A message authentication code (MAC) algorithm, which ensures that the data has not been tampered with or corrupted during transmission. Examples of MAC algorithms are SHA-256, SHA-384, and POLY1305.

Each cipher suite has a unique name that identifies it and describes its components. For example, TLS_ECDHE_RSA_WITH_AES_128_GCM_SHA256 means that this cipher suite uses TLS as the protocol, ECDHE as the key exchange algorithm, RSA as the authentication algorithm, AES-128 as the bulk encryption algorithm, GCM as the mode of operation, and SHA-256 as the MAC algorithm.

How does a cipher suite work in a TLS/SSL connection? Here is a simplified overview of the steps involved:

  • The browser sends a list of supported cipher suites to the web server in order of preference.

  • The web server selects one cipher suite from the list that it also supports and sends it back to the browser along with its digital certificate.

  • The browser verifies the validity of the web server's certificate using its public key and checks if it trusts the certificate authority (CA) that issued it.

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

  • The browser and the web server use the authentication algorithm to confirm each other's identity using digital signatures.

  • The browser and the web server use the bulk encryption algorithm and the shared secret key to encrypt the data.

  • The browser and the web server use the MAC algorithm and the shared secret key to generate and verify a message authentication code for each data packet.

By using a cipher suite, the browser and the web server can establish a secure and private communication channel that prevents eavesdropping, tampering, and impersonation.

How to Download a Cipher Suite

If you want to download a cipher suite for your Windows operating system, you can follow these steps:

  • Open the Control Panel and click on System and Security.

  • Click on Windows Update and check for updates.

  • Look for any updates related to TLS/SSL or cipher suites and install them.

  • Restart your computer if prompted.

Alternatively, you can download a cipher suite from the Microsoft Update Catalog website. Here you can search for specific cipher suites by their names or KB numbers and download them manually. For example, you can search for "TLS_DHE_RSA_WITH_AES_256_GCM_SHA384" or "KB4462917" and download the corresponding update package for your Windows version.

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Some examples of cipher suites for different TLS versions are:

TLS VersionCipher Suite Name





How to configure the cipher suite order and priority in Windows? You can use the Group Policy Editor or the Registry Editor to change the order and priority of cipher suites in Windows. The order and priority of cipher suites determine which cipher suite will be selected by the web server during the TLS/SSL handshake. The higher the priority, the more likely the cipher suite will be chosen. You can use the following steps to configure the cipher suite order and priority in Windows:

  • Open the Group Policy Editor by typing gpedit.msc in the Run dialog box.

  • Navigate to Computer Configuration > Administrative Templates > Network > SSL Configuration Settings.

  • Double-click on SSL Cipher Suite Order and enable it.

  • Edit the list of cipher suites in the order of preference. You can use commas to separate them and dashes to indicate ranges. For example, TLS_ECDHE_RSA_WITH_AES_256_GCM_SHA384,TLS_ECDHE_RSA_WITH_AES_128_GCM_SHA256,TLS_RSA_WITH_AES_256_CBC_SHA-TLS_RSA_WITH_AES_128_CBC_SHA.

  • Click OK and close the Group Policy Editor.

  • Restart your computer for the changes to take effect.

How to Choose the Best Cipher Suite for Security

Choosing the best cipher suite for security is not an easy task, as there are many factors to consider, such as compatibility, performance, and compliance. However, there are some general guidelines that can help you make an informed decision. Here are some factors to consider when choosing a cipher suite:

  • The protocol version: You should always use the latest version of TLS, which is currently TLS 1.3. TLS 1.3 offers better security, performance, and simplicity than previous versions. It also removes some weak and obsolete cipher suites that are vulnerable to attacks. If you cannot use TLS 1.3, you should use TLS 1.2 as a minimum requirement.

  • The key exchange algorithm: You should prefer key exchange algorithms that provide forward secrecy, which means that even if an attacker obtains the shared secret key, they cannot decrypt past or future sessions. Examples of key exchange algorithms that provide forward secrecy are ECDHE and DHE. You should avoid key exchange algorithms that do not provide forward secrecy, such as RSA.

  • The authentication algorithm: You should prefer authentication algorithms that use elliptic curve cryptography (ECC), which offers better security and performance than traditional public key cryptography (PKC). Examples of authentication algorithms that use ECC are ECDSA and EdDSA. You should avoid authentication algorithms that use PKC, such as RSA and DSA.

  • The bulk encryption algorithm: You should prefer bulk encryption algorithms that use authenticated encryption with associated data (AEAD), which combines encryption and authentication in one step and prevents padding oracle attacks. Examples of bulk encryption algorithms that use AEAD are AES-GCM, CHACHA20-POLY1305, and ARIA-GCM. You should avoid bulk encryption algorithms that use cipher block chaining (CBC), which is vulnerable to padding oracle attacks. Examples of bulk encryption algorithms that use CBC are AES-CBC, Camellia-CBC, and DES-CBC.

The MAC algorithm: You should prefer MAC algorithms that use secure hash funct


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