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OpenSSL: Role and functions of this library

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OpenSSL: Role and functions of this library

Initially developed in 1998, this library has since undergone constant evolution and regular updates. OpenSSL is written in C and is available on various platforms, including Linux, MacOS and Windows.

Its main objective is to provide robust cryptographic tools and functionalities to secure data and communications. It also offers an API enabling developers to easily integrate enhanced security into their applications.

OpenSSL features

Asymmetric and symmetric cryptography

OpenSSL offers full support for so-called “asymmetric” cryptography, based on public/private key pairs. This approach enables separate keys to be used for encrypting and decrypting data, as well as for verifying digital signatures. The main algorithms supported are :

  • RSA (Rivest, Shamir, Adleman) relies on the generation of a public/private key pair to encrypt and decrypt data, as well as to create and verify digital signatures.
  • DSA (Digital Signature Algorithm) is an algorithm used to verify the authenticity and integrity of data. It also relies on the generation of a public/private key pair.
  • ECDSA (Elliptic Curve Digital Signature Algorithm) is based on elliptic curves. It offers security comparable to RSA and DSA, but with a smaller key size, making it more efficient in terms of performance and resource utilization.

As for “symmetrical” cryptography, OpenSSL offers block ciphers and stream ciphers. These enable data to be encrypted and decrypted using the same key.


Certificates and communication encryption

OpenSSL plays an essential role in digital certificate management. It enables the creation, signing and verification of SSL/TLS certificates used to secure Web connections. The protocols used guarantee the confidentiality and integrity of data exchanged between servers and clients:

The SSL (Secure Sockets Layout) protocol is used to secure network connections, in particular HTTPS connections. It has been replaced by the TLS protocol, but is still used to refer to older versions of the protocol.
TLS (Transport Layer Security) is the successor to SSL. It offers enhanced security, including better protection against attacks and stronger encryption algorithms.

Key and certificate management

The OpenSSL library offers advanced key and certificate management features. It allows you to generate public/private key pairs, create certificate requests, sign certificates with a certification authority (CA), check the validity of certificates and manage certificate chains.

Other functions

In addition to those described above, OpenSSL also offers essential functions such as the creation of cryptographic hash functions (such as SHA-1 and SHA-256), verification of digital signatures and the manipulation of certificates in different formats such as PEM and DER.

To conclude

To conclude this article, we’d like to list a number of best practices that need to be followed to guarantee a high level of security.

Image Stay Updated Ensure you're always using the latest stable version of OpenSSL, which includes security patches and improvements.
Image Protect Your Private Keys They're essential for the security of your communications. Use secure locations and avoid storing your private keys on easily accessible servers or systems.
Image Use Strong Algorithms OpenSSL offers a range of encryption algorithms to meet different needs. Avoid using obsolete or vulnerable algorithms.
Image Protect Your Certificates Ensure you manage your certificates properly, including renewing them before expiration, storing them securely, and revoking them if necessary.
Image Conduct Security Testing OpenSSL can be used to test the security of servers and applications. Perform vulnerability scans, compliance tests, and assessments of the effectiveness of encryption used.
Image Keep Potential Threats in Mind Regularly educate yourself about common attacks, such as brute force attacks, Man-In-The-Middle attacks, and other known vulnerabilities, to implement appropriate protection measures.

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