SSL uses private or secret key cryptography or symmetric cryptography to support message confidentiality or privacy. After an initial handshake (a negotiation process by message exchange), the client and server decide on a secret key and a cipher suite. Between the communicating parties, each message encryption and decryption using the secret key occurs based on the cipher suite.

Private key cryptography requires the two communicating parties to use the same key for encryption and decryption. Both parties must have the key and keep the key private. Well known secret key cryptographic algorithms include the Data Encryption Standard (DES), triple-strength DES (3DES), and Rivest Cipher 4 (RC4), which are all supported in WebSphere Application Server. These algorithms provide excellent security and quick encryption.

A cryptographic algorithm is a cipher, while a set of ciphers is a cipher suite. A cipher suite is a combination of cryptographic parameters that define the security algorithms and the key sizes used for authentication, key agreement, encryption strength, and integrity protection.

Important: Although anonymous cipher suites are enabled, the IBM version of the Java Secure Sockets Extension (JSSE) client trust manager does not support anonymous cipher suites. The default implementation can be overwritten by providing your own trust manager that does support anonymous cipher suites.

All of the previously mentioned cipher suites provide data integrity protection by using hash algorithms like MD5 and SHA-1. The cipher suite names ending with _SHA indicate that the SHA-1 algorithm is used. SHA-1 is considered a stronger hash, while MD5 provides better performance.

The SSL_DH_anon_xxx cipher suites (for example, those cipher suites that begin with SSL_DH_anon_, where, anon is anonymous) are not enabled on the product client side. Because the Java Secure Socket Extension (JSSE) client trust manager does not support anonymous connections, the JSSE client must always establish trust in the server. However, the SSL_DH_anon_xxx cipher suites are enabled on the server side to support another type of client connection. That client might not require trust in the server. These cipher suites are vulnerable to man-in-the-middle attacks and are strongly discouraged. In a man-in-the-middle attack, an attacker can intercept and potentially modify communications between two parties without either party being aware of the attack.


Name Description
SSL Secure Sockets Layer

  • Public key algorithm developed by Rivest, Shamir and Adleman

  • Requires RSA or DSS key exchange



  • Ephemeral Diffie-Hellman public key algorithm

  • Diffie-Hellman parameters are signed by a DSS or an RSA certificate, which is signed by the certificate authority (CA)

DSS Digital Signature Standard, using the Digital Signature Algorithm for digital signatures

  • Data Encryption Standard, an symmetric encryption algorithm

  • Block cipher

  • Performance cost is high when using software without the support of a hardware cryptographic device


  • Triple DES, increasing the security of DES by encrypting three times with different keys

  • Strongest of the ciphers

  • Performance cost is very high when using software without the support of a hardware cryptographic device support


  • A stream cipher designed for RSA

  • Variable key-size stream cipher with key length from 40 bits to 128 bits

EDE Encrypt-decrypt-encrypt for the triple DES algorithm

  • Cipher block chaining

  • A mode in which every plain text block that is encrypted with the block cipher is first exclusive-ORed with the previous ciphertext block

128 128-bit key size
40 40-bit key size
EXPORT Exportable

  • Secure hashing function that converts an arbitrarily long data stream into a digest of fixed size

  • Produces 128-bit hash


  • Secure Hash Algorithm, same as SHA-1

  • Produces 160-bit hash

anon For anonymous connections
NULL No encryption
WITH The cryptographic algorithm is defined after this key word

Refer to the Transport Layer Security (TLS) specification at for further information.




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