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I have been lately reading cipher suites and how it works. I figured how it works in the web servers and there is a doubt regarding the prefixes used in the order.

How are RC4-SHA and RC4+SHA different?

Can anyone give a better explanation of how the prefixes work?

  • Could you give an example where you're seeing these values used? Are they from mod_ssl config, for example? – Matthew Jul 16 '18 at 11:09
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From the documentation:

CIPHER LIST FORMAT
...
It can consist of a single cipher suite such as RC4-SHA.
...
Lists of cipher suites can be combined in a single cipher string using the + character. This is used as a logical and operation. For example SHA1+DES represents all cipher suites containing the SHA1 and the DES algorithms.

Thus, RC4-SHA is the RC4-SHA cipher, also known as TLS_RSA_WITH_RC4_128_SHA:

$ openssl ciphers -V 'RC4-SHA'
  0x00,0x05 - RC4-SHA                 SSLv3 Kx=RSA      Au=RSA  Enc=RC4(128)  Mac=SHA1

RC4+SHA instead contains all ciphers which use RC4 encryption with SHA1 as MAC, i.e.

$ openssl ciphers -V 'SHA+RC4'
  0xC0,0x11 - ECDHE-RSA-RC4-SHA       SSLv3 Kx=ECDH     Au=RSA  Enc=RC4(128)  Mac=SHA1
  0xC0,0x07 - ECDHE-ECDSA-RC4-SHA     SSLv3 Kx=ECDH     Au=ECDSA Enc=RC4(128)  Mac=SHA1
  0xC0,0x16 - AECDH-RC4-SHA           SSLv3 Kx=ECDH     Au=None Enc=RC4(128)  Mac=SHA1
  0xC0,0x0C - ECDH-RSA-RC4-SHA        SSLv3 Kx=ECDH/RSA Au=ECDH Enc=RC4(128)  Mac=SHA1
  0xC0,0x02 - ECDH-ECDSA-RC4-SHA      SSLv3 Kx=ECDH/ECDSA Au=ECDH Enc=RC4(128)  Mac=SHA1
  0x00,0x05 - RC4-SHA                 SSLv3 Kx=RSA      Au=RSA  Enc=RC4(128)  Mac=SHA1
  0x00,0x8A - PSK-RC4-SHA             SSLv3 Kx=PSK      Au=PSK  Enc=RC4(128)  Mac=SHA1

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