Chapter 3. Supported Standards and Protocols

Red Hat Certificate System is based on many public and standard protocols and RFCs, to ensure the best possible performance and interoperability. The major standards and protocols used or supported by Certificate System 9 are outlined in this chapter, to help administrators plan their client services effectively.

3.1. TLS, ECC, and RSA

The Transport Layer Security (TLS) protocol is an universally accepted standard for authenticated and encrypted communication between clients and servers. Both client and server authentication occur over TLS.
TLS uses a combination of public-key and symmetric-key encryption. Symmetric-key encryption is much faster than public-key encryption, but public-key encryption provides better authentication techniques. An TLS session always begins with an exchange of messages called handshake, initial communication between the server and client. The handshake allows the server to authenticate itself to the client using public-key techniques, optionally allows the client to authenticate to the server, then allows the client and the server to cooperate in the creation of symmetric keys used for rapid encryption, decryption, and integrity verification during the session that follows.
TLS supports a variety of different cryptographic algorithms, or ciphers, for operations such as authenticating the server and client, transmitting certificates, and establishing session keys. Clients and servers may support different cipher suites, or sets of ciphers. Among other functions, the handshake determines how the server and client negotiate which cipher suite is used to authenticate each other, to transmit certificates, and to establish session keys.
Key-exchange algorithms like RSA and Elliptic Curve Diffie-Hellman (ECDH) govern the way the server and client determine the symmetric keys to use during an TLS session. TLS supports ECC (Elliptic Curve Cryptography) cipher suites, as well as RSA. The Certificate System supports both RSA and ECC public-key cryptographic systems natively.
In more recent practise, key-exchange algorithms are being superseded by key-agreement protocols where each of the two or more parties can influence the outcome when establishing a common key for secure communication. Key agreement is preferrable to key exchange because it allows for Perfect Forward Secrecy (PFS) to be implemented. When PFS is used, random public keys (also called temporary cipher parameters or ephemeral keys) are generated for each session by a non-deterministic algorithm for the purposes of key agreement. As a result, there is no single secret value which could lead to the compromise of multiple messages, protecting past and future communication alike.


Longer RSA keys are required to provide security as computing capabilities increase. The recommended RSA key-length is 2048 bits. Though many servers continue to use 1024-bit keys, servers should migrate to at least 2048 bits. For 64-bit machines, consider using stronger keys. All CAs should use at least 2048-bit keys, and stronger keys (such as 3072 or 4096 bits) if possible.

3.1.1. Supported Cipher Suites

Cipher and hashing algorithms are in a constant flux with regard to various vulnerabilities and security strength. As a general rule, Red Hat Certificate System 9 follows the NIST guideline and supports TLS 1.1 and TLS 1.2 cipher suites pertaining to the server keys.