After looking into how TLS handshaking works it seems to inherently include the Diffie Hellman algorithm during the point where they generate a shared secret key. However as I look into this some more I find articles such as this: https://thecybersecurityman.com/2018/04/25/https-the-tls-handshake-using-diffie-hellman-ephemeral/

"I published a blog post several months ago illustrating a simplified step-by-step process of how https and the TLS handshake typically work. BUT! There is an alternative approach that uses a key agreement protocol called Diffie-Hellman Ephemeral (DHE). This is a process of creating a secret key in plainsight using modular arithmetic."

Looking at the blog post mentioned it seems like the client uses the servers public key to create a shared private key and sends it back. So it looks like the burden of creating the shared key is actually on the client, and so this is different than Diffie Hellman. Is this correct? If so what are the pros and cons of using one or the other?

  • 4
    $\begingroup$ Does this answer your question? What's the fundamental difference between Diffie-Hellman and RSA? $\endgroup$ Commented Feb 29, 2020 at 16:46
  • $\begingroup$ See moserware.com/2009/06/first-few-milliseconds-of-https.html for an example of a TLS session that does not use DH (it uses RSA instead). $\endgroup$
    – mti2935
    Commented Feb 29, 2020 at 18:25
  • $\begingroup$ @SteffenUllrich That is a helpful link but I don't think it answers my question unless I'm mistaken. $\endgroup$
    – J_N_300
    Commented Feb 29, 2020 at 23:03
  • $\begingroup$ @mti2935 Does this mean that there are three ways to go about this in TLS? RSA, DH and the whatever is used in the blog post I mentioned? $\endgroup$
    – J_N_300
    Commented Feb 29, 2020 at 23:04
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    $\begingroup$ @J_N_300: what is described in the blog you refer to is actually RSA (secret created by client only and send encrypted with public key to server). So your question basically boils down to the difference between DH and RSA, which is a duplicate. $\endgroup$ Commented Mar 1, 2020 at 8:11

1 Answer 1


This depends on the TLS version you're using.

In TLS 1.2, keys can be exchanged via RSA, DH (Diffie-Hellman over a Finite Field), ECDH (Diffie-Hellman over an Elliptic Curve), DHE (DH but the key is discarded after use to provide forward-secrecy), ECDHE (ECDH but the key is discarded after use to provide forward secrecy), PSK (Pre-Shared keys), and SRP (Secure Remote Password protocol).

In TLS 1.3 the insecure and overly-complex methods were deprecated, leaving only DHE and ECDHE for key agreement.

Versions of TLS before 1.2 don't have any unconditionally secure cipher options, and should not be used.

Wikipedia has a nice table, though note that it shows both the key exchange/agreement method and the authentication method in one chart, so there can be multiple rows using a given key exchange/agreement method.


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