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A cryptographic protocol is a way to securely exchange data over a computer network. The data that is exchanged is encrypted. In general, these protocols consist of a way to exchange encryption keys, The data is then encrypted using symmetric or asymmetric cryptography. Symmetric cryptography is used more often.
Common protocols include:
A cryptographic protocol usually has at least some of these features:
- Key generation.
- Entity authentication.
- Key agreement.
- Symmetric encryption of transferred messages using the agreed generated key.
The term cryptographic protocol is used in different ways. For example, cryptographic application protocols often use one or more underlying Key-agreement protocols which are also sometimes themselves referred to as "cryptographic protocols", like the Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) which uses what is known as the Diffie-Hellman key exchange, Diffie-Hellman may be seen as a complete cryptographic protocol in itself for other applications.