|Developer(s)||The OpenSSL Project|
|Written in||C, Assembly, Perl|
|License||3.0 and later: Apache-2.0|
1.x and earlier: OpenSSL
OpenSSL is a software library for applications that secure communications over computer networks against eavesdropping or need to identify the party at the other end. It is widely used by Internet servers, including the majority of HTTPS websites.
OpenSSL contains an open-source implementation of the SSL and TLS protocols. The core library, written in the C programming language, implements basic cryptographic functions and provides various utility functions. Wrappers allowing the use of the OpenSSL library in a variety of computer languages are available.
The OpenSSL Software Foundation (OSF) represents the OpenSSL project in most legal capacities including contributor license agreements, managing donations, and so on. OpenSSL Software Services (OSS) also represents the OpenSSL project for support contracts.
The OpenSSL project was founded in 1998 to provide a free set of encryption tools for the code used on the Internet. It is based on a fork of SSLeay by Eric Andrew Young and Tim Hudson, which unofficially ended development on December 17, 1998, when Young and Hudson both went to work for RSA Security. The initial founding members were Mark Cox, Ralf Engelschall, Stephen Henson, Ben Laurie, and Paul Sutton.
As of May 2019[update], the OpenSSL management committee consisted of seven people and there are seventeen developers with commit access (many of whom are also part of the OpenSSL management committee). There are only two full-time employees (fellows) and the remainder are volunteers.
Major version releases
|Version||Original release date||Comment||Last minor version|
|Old version, no longer maintained: 0.9.1||23 December 1998||
||0.9.1c (23 December 1998)|
|Old version, no longer maintained: 0.9.2||22 March 1999||
||0.9.2b (6 April 1999)|
|Old version, no longer maintained: 0.9.3||25 May 1999||
||0.9.3a (27 May 1999)|
|Old version, no longer maintained: 0.9.4||9 August 1999||
||0.9.4 (9 August 1999)|
|Old version, no longer maintained: 0.9.5||28 February 2000||
||0.9.5a (1 April 2000)|
|Old version, no longer maintained: 0.9.6||24 September 2000||
||0.9.6m (17 March 2004)|
|Old version, no longer maintained: 0.9.7||31 December 2002||
||0.9.7m (23 February 2007)|
|Old version, no longer maintained: 0.9.8||5 July 2005||
||0.9.8zh (3 December 2015)|
|Old version, no longer maintained: 1.0.0||29 March 2010||
||1.0.0t (3 December 2015)|
|Old version, no longer maintained: 1.0.1||14 March 2012||
||1.0.1u (22 September 2016)|
|Old version, no longer maintained: 1.0.2||22 January 2015||
||1.0.2u (20 December 2019)|
|Old version, no longer maintained: 1.1.0||25 August 2016||
||1.1.0l (10 September 2019)|
|Older version, yet still maintained: 1.1.1||11 September 2018||
|Current stable version: 3.0.0[note 1]||7 September 2021||ongoing development|
OpenSSL supports a number of different cryptographic algorithms:
- AES, Blowfish, Camellia, Chacha20, Poly1305, SEED, CAST-128, DES, IDEA, RC2, RC4, RC5, Triple DES, GOST 28147-89, SM4
- Cryptographic hash functions
- MD5, MD4, MD2, SHA-1, SHA-2, SHA-3, RIPEMD-160, MDC-2, GOST R 34.11-94, BLAKE2, Whirlpool, SM3
- Public-key cryptography
- RSA, DSA, Diffie–Hellman key exchange, Elliptic curve, X25519, Ed25519, X448, Ed448, GOST R 34.10-2001, SM2
FIPS 140 validation
FIPS 140 is a U.S. Federal program for the testing and certification of cryptographic modules. An early FIPS 140-1 certificate for OpenSSL's FOM 1.0 was revoked in July 2006 "when questions were raised about the validated module's interaction with outside software." The module was re-certified in February 2007 before giving way to FIPS 140-2. OpenSSL 1.0.2 supported the use of the OpenSSL FIPS Object Module (FOM), which was built to deliver FIPS approved algorithms in a FIPS 140-2 validated environment. OpenSSL controversially decided to categorize the 1.0.2 architecture as 'end of life' or 'EOL', effective December 31, 2019, despite objections that it was the only version of OpenSSL that was currently available with support for FIPS mode. As a result of the EOL, many users were unable to properly deploy the FOM 2.0 and fell out of compliance because they did not secure extended support for the 1.0.2 architecture, although the FOM itself remained validated for eight months further.
The FIPS Object Module 2.0 remained FIPS 140-2 validated in several formats until September 1, 2020, when NIST deprecated the usage of FIPS 186-2 for Digital Signature Standard and designated all non-compliant modules as 'Historical'. This designation includes a caution to federal agencies that they should not include the module in any new procurements. All three of the OpenSSL validations were included in the deprecation – the OpenSSL FIPS Object Module (certificate #1747), OpenSSL FIPS Object Module SE (certificate #2398), and OpenSSL FIPS Object Module RE (certificate #2473). Many 'private label' OpenSSL-based validations and clones created by consultants were also moved to the Historical List, although some FIPS validated modules with replacement compatibility avoided the deprecation, such as BoringCrypto from Google and CryptoComply from SafeLogic.
OpenSSL 3.0 restored FIPS mode and underwent FIPS 140-2 testing, but with significant delays: The effort was first kicked off in 2016 with support from SafeLogic and further support from Oracle in 2017, but the process has been challenging.
On October 20, 2020, the OpenSSL FIPS Provider 3.0 was added to the CMVP Implementation Under Test List, which reflected an official engagement with a testing lab to proceed with a FIPS 140-2 validation. This resulted in a slew of certifications in the following months.
OpenSSL was dual-licensed under the OpenSSL License and the SSLeay License, which means that the terms of either licenses can be used. The OpenSSL License is Apache License 1.0 and SSLeay License bears some similarity to a 4-clause BSD License. As the OpenSSL License was Apache License 1.0, but not Apache License 2.0, it requires the phrase "this product includes software developed by the OpenSSL Project for use in the OpenSSL Toolkit" to appear in advertising material and any redistributions (Sections 3 and 6 of the OpenSSL License). Due to this restriction, the OpenSSL License and the Apache License 1.0 are incompatible with the GNU GPL. Some GPL developers have added an OpenSSL exception to their licenses that specifically permits using OpenSSL with their system. GNU Wget and climm both use such exceptions. Some packages (like Deluge) explicitly modify the GPL license by adding an extra section at the beginning of the license documenting the exception. Other packages use the LGPL-licensed GnuTLS, BSD-licensed Botan, or MPL-licensed NSS, which perform the same task.
OpenSSL announced in August 2015 that it would require most contributors to sign a Contributor License Agreement (CLA), and that OpenSSL would eventually be relicensed under the terms of Apache License 2.0. This process commenced in March 2017, and was complete in 2018.
On 7 September 2021, OpenSSL 3.0.0 was released under the Apache License 2.0.
Denial of service: ASN.1 parsing
OpenSSL 0.9.6k has a bug where certain ASN.1 sequences triggered a large number of recursions on Windows machines, discovered on November 4, 2003. Windows could not handle large recursions correctly, so OpenSSL would crash as a result. Being able to send arbitrary large numbers of ASN.1 sequences would cause OpenSSL to crash as a result.
OCSP stapling vulnerability
When creating a handshake, the client could send an incorrectly formatted ClientHello message, leading to OpenSSL parsing more than the end of the message. Assigned the identifier CVE-2011-0014 by the CVE project, this affected all OpenSSL versions 0.9.8h to 0.9.8q and OpenSSL 1.0.0 to 1.0.0c. Since the parsing could lead to a read on an incorrect memory address, it was possible for the attacker to cause a DoS. It was also possible that some applications expose the contents of parsed OCSP extensions, leading to an attacker being able to read the contents of memory that came after the ClientHello.
ASN.1 BIO vulnerability
When using Basic Input/Output (BIO) or FILE based functions to read untrusted DER format data, OpenSSL is vulnerable. This vulnerability was discovered on April 19, 2012, and was assigned the CVE identifier CVE-2012-2110. While not directly affecting the SSL/TLS code of OpenSSL, any application that was using ASN.1 functions (particularly d2i_X509 and d2i_PKCS12) were also not affected.
SSL, TLS and DTLS plaintext recovery attack
In handling CBC cipher-suites in SSL, TLS, and DTLS, OpenSSL was found vulnerable to a timing attack during the MAC processing. Nadhem Alfardan and Kenny Paterson discovered the problem, and published their findings on February 5, 2013. The vulnerability was assigned the CVE identifier CVE-2013-0169.
Predictable private keys (Debian-specific)
OpenSSL's pseudo-random number generator acquires entropy using complex programming methods. To keep the Valgrind analysis tool from issuing associated warnings, a maintainer of the Debian distribution applied a patch to Debian's variant of the OpenSSL suite, which inadvertently broke its random number generator by limiting the overall number of private keys it could generate to 32,768. The broken version was included in the Debian release of September 17, 2006 (version 0.9.8c-1), also compromising other Debian-based distributions, for example Ubuntu. Ready-to-use exploits are easily available.
The error was reported by Debian on May 13, 2008. On the Debian 4.0 distribution (etch), these problems were fixed in version 0.9.8c-4etch3, while fixes for the Debian 5.0 distribution (lenny) were provided in version 0.9.8g-9.
OpenSSL versions 1.0.1 through 1.0.1f have a severe memory handling bug in their implementation of the TLS Heartbeat Extension that could be used to reveal up to 64 KB of the application's memory with every heartbeat (CVE-2014-0160). By reading the memory of the web server, attackers could access sensitive data, including the server's private key. This could allow attackers to decode earlier eavesdropped communications if the encryption protocol used does not ensure perfect forward secrecy. Knowledge of the private key could also allow an attacker to mount a man-in-the-middle attack against any future communications. The vulnerability might also reveal unencrypted parts of other users' sensitive requests and responses, including session cookies and passwords, which might allow attackers to hijack the identity of another user of the service.
At its disclosure on April 7, 2014, around 17% or half a million of the Internet's secure web servers certified by trusted authorities were believed to have been vulnerable to the attack. However, Heartbleed can affect both the server and client.
CCS injection vulnerability
This vulnerability can be exploited through the use of a man-in-the-middle attack, where an attacker may be able to decrypt and modify traffic in transit. A remote unauthenticated attacker could exploit this vulnerability by using a specially crafted handshake to force the use of weak keying material. Successful exploitation could lead to a security bypass condition where an attacker could gain access to potentially sensitive information. The attack can only be performed between a vulnerable client and server.
OpenSSL clients are vulnerable in all versions of OpenSSL before the versions 0.9.8za, 1.0.0m and 1.0.1h. Servers are only known to be vulnerable in OpenSSL 1.0.1 and 1.0.2-beta1. Users of OpenSSL servers earlier than 1.0.1 are advised to upgrade as a precaution.
ClientHello sigalgs DoS
This vulnerability (CVE-2015-0291) allows anyone to take a certificate, read its contents and modify it accurately to abuse the vulnerability causing a certificate to crash a client or server. If a client connects to an OpenSSL 1.0.2 server and renegotiates with an invalid signature algorithms extension, a null-pointer dereference occurs. This can cause a DoS attack against the server.
A Stanford Security researcher, David Ramos, had a private exploit and presented it to the OpenSSL team, which then patched the issue.
OpenSSL classified the bug as a high-severity issue, noting version 1.0.2 was found vulnerable.
Key recovery attack on Diffie–Hellman small subgroups
This vulnerability (CVE-2016-0701) allows, when some particular circumstances are met, to recover the OpenSSL server's private Diffie–Hellman key. An Adobe System Security researcher, Antonio Sanso, privately reported the vulnerability.
OpenSSL classified the bug as a high-severity issue, noting only version 1.0.2 was found vulnerable.
In 2009, after frustrations with the original OpenSSL API, Marco Peereboom, an OpenBSD developer at the time, forked the original API by creating Agglomerated SSL (assl), which reuses OpenSSL API under the hood, but provides a much simpler external interface. It has since been deprecated in light of the LibreSSL fork circa 2016.
In April 2014 in the wake of Heartbleed, members of the OpenBSD project forked OpenSSL starting with the 1.0.1g branch, to create a project named LibreSSL. In the first week of pruning the OpenSSL's codebase, more than 90,000 lines of C code had been removed from the fork.
In June 2014, Google announced its own fork of OpenSSL dubbed BoringSSL. Google plans to co-operate with OpenSSL and LibreSSL developers. Google has since developed a new library, Tink, based on BoringSSL.
- Comparison of TLS implementations
- Comparison of cryptography libraries
- List of free and open-source software packages
- POSSE project
- The major version 2.0.0 was skipped due to its previous use in the OpenSSL FIPS module.
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