AES is not a valid cipher for SSLv3

A Windows 7 user of Fiddler encountered an interesting error this morning, and it reminded me of an interesting HTTPS compatibility problem we found in the Windows Vista timeframe.

The user is trying to visit with Fiddler running in HTTPS-decryption mode. Fiddler uses the SslStream class to communicate with upstream servers. As in IE itself, by default, the SSLv3 and TLSv1 protocols are enabled.

He finds that when he tries to use Fiddler to connect to this site, the following error is thrown in Fiddler:

System.Security.Authentication.AuthenticationException: A call to SSPI failed, see inner exception. ---> System.ComponentModel.Win32Exception: The client and server cannot communicate, because they do not possess a common algorithm

--- End of inner exception stack trace ---
at System.Net.Security.SslState.StartSendAuthResetSignal(ProtocolToken message, AsyncProtocolRequest asyncRequest, Exception exception)
at System.Net.Security.SslState.ProcessReceivedBlob(Byte[] buffer, Int32 count, AsyncProtocolRequest asyncRequest)
at System.Net.Security.SslState.StartReceiveBlob(Byte[] buffer, AsyncProtocolRequest asyncRequest)
at System.Net.Security.SslState.ForceAuthentication(Boolean receiveFirst, Byte[] buffer, AsyncProtocolRequest asyncRequest)
at System.Net.Security.SslState.ProcessAuthentication(LazyAsyncResult lazyResult)
at Fiddler.Pipe.Connect(Boolean bCreateConnectTunnel, IPEndPoint remoteEP, Boolean bSecureTheSocket, String sCertCN, String sClientCertificateFilename, String sPoolingKey)
at Fiddler.Pipe.Connect(IPEndPoint remoteEP, Boolean bSecureTheSocket, String sCertCN, String sClientCertificateFilename, String sPoolingKey)
at Fiddler.Session.ExecuteHTTPSConnect()

Any time I encounter a problem with low-level HTTPS handshakes, my next stop is Netmon, which allows me to see what’s going out over the wire. The capture shows a standard TLS ClientHello, which offers up the standard set of Crypto algorithms, including TLSCipherSuites: TLS_RSA_WITH_AES_128_CBC_SHA. It then shows that the server responds a standard SSLv3 ServerHello, requesting SSLCipherSuite: TLS_RSA_WITH_AES_128_CBC_SHA.

At this point the connection fails with the exception message. Now, the exception text is clearly a bit misleading: the client and the server actually selected exactly the same cipher algorithm but there’s one problem: AES ciphers are not valid choices for SSLv3, although some servers will incorrectly try to use them.

We first encountered this problem during compat-testing of IE7 on Windows Vista back in 2006—because AES isn’t a supported cipher in SSLv3, SChannel rejects the choice of cipher. Today, that rejection leads to the exception in .NET’s SslStream class.

Now, in the WinHTTP and WinINET HTTPS stacks, we have special code to handle this problem—WinINET (and thus IE) simply falls back to SSLv3 when talking to the server.

To avoid performance-impacting fallback logic, server HTTPS implementations should be updated to properly choose a TLS ServerHello if they select an AES cipher, and if they use a SSLv3 ServerHello, they should choose a cipher defined for SSLv3.

Note that when the client (Fiddler, IE, etc) is running on Windows XP, this problem doesn’t occur, because SChannel does not support AES on that platform, so the client never offers AES when making the TLS connection.

Fiddler users running on Windows Vista or Windows 7 can workaround this problem in one of two ways: either manually disable use of AES by SChannel using Group Policy (generally a bad choice) or write a little bit of FiddlerScript to force Fiddler to use only SSLv3 upstream (which prevents sending of the TLS ClientHello that offers the AES cipher).

To update your FiddlerScript, click Rules > Customize Rules. Scroll down to the Main() function and add the following line within the function:

CONFIG.oAcceptedServerHTTPSProtocols = System.Security.Authentication.SslProtocols.Ssl3;

This will force Fiddler to only offer SSLv3 connections when connecting to secure servers, and that, in turn will resolve the problem.


Comments (12)

  1. Rune says:

    Yet IE manages in the end to connect properly despite the problems you describe. Only when going through the Fiddler proxy will IE fail.

    That greatly muddled my diagnostic because obviously the server side was OK; IE worked!

    So… What workaround did the IE team do? Always use SSLv3, no matter what?

  2. EricLaw [MSFT] says:

    @Rune: I answered your question in the text of this post: "Now, in the WinHTTP and WinINET HTTPS stacks, we have special code to handle this problem—WinINET (and thus IE) simply falls back to SSLv3 when talking to the server."

  3. Veretax says:

    For the record, I recently had to add that switch into fiddler to get around a 502 Response Code I was getting to several of our servers.   I was actually running on Windows XP at the time, which would seem to contradict what the blog post was stating, yet adding that one line into the Rules File's Main function, allowed fiddler to operate as expected with our setup on those servers.

  4. EricLaw [MSFT] says:

    @Veretex: For the record, If you were using IE, then you had hit a different problem. IE does not support AES on XP. It's also worth mentioning that you don't need to use Fiddler to control what HTTPS algorithms are used by IE– simply untick the "Use TLS 1.0" checkbox inside Tools > Internet Options > Advanced.

  5. Veretax says:

    That very well could be, I got the same behavior with both IE and Firefox on the site in question, but other sites like google, paypal, etc worked fine.  All I know is that snippet worked for me.

  6. Verified today that Win8.1 with IE11 still rejects SSLv3+AES.

  7. jack says:

    I have a an LG smart TV, starting yesterday I can not get on face book, getting message peer failed to perform tls handshake. Can you help with this ??  

  8. Jean says:

    That's interesting Jack – we are having the same problem with our LG Smart tv.  I get the same error message.  It just started happening this week

  9. @Jean, @Jack — The most likely explanation is that Facebook disabled SSLv3 on their servers this week to combat the "POODLE" vulnerability that Google reported. Unfortunately, if you're now getting connection failures on your TV, this implies that the TV is only willing to use SSLv3 (instead of the later TLSv1) protocol. Sadly, it's very unlikely that there's any way for you to fix this on the TV yourself; you'll have to wait for a firmware update from LG that you will need to download and use to update your TV.

  10. Jack says:

    To anyone having trouble with Facebook on their LG tv, they sent a software load yesterday 11/14/14. Good luck.

  11. Yuhong Bao says:

    Interestingly, IBM Domino added the AES cipher suites before they added TLS 1.0.

  12. @Yuhong: Yes, I suspect that it's IBM Domino servers that are uniquely causing this problem.

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