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Introduction

The primary goal of the SSL Protocol is to provide privacy and reliability between two communicating applications. The protocol is composed of two layers. At the lowest level, layered on top of some reliable transport protocol (e.g., TCP[TCP]), is the SSL Record Protocol. The SSL Record Protocol is used for encapsulation of various higher level protocols. One such encapsulated protocol, the SSL Handshake Protocol, allows the server and client to authenticate each other and to negotiate an encryption algorithm and cryptographic keys before the application protocol transmits or receives its first byte of data. One advantage of SSL is that it is application protocol independent. A higher level protocol can layer on top of the SSL Protocol transparently.

The SSL protocol provides connection security that has three basic properties:

  • The connection is private. Encryption is used after an initial handshake to define a secret key. Symmetric cryptography is used for data encryption (e.g., DES[DES], RC4[RC4], etc.)
  • The peer's identity can be authenticated using asymmetric, or public key, cryptography (e.g., RSA[RSA], DSS[DSS], etc.).
  • The connection is reliable. Message transport includes a message integrity check using a keyed MAC. Secure hash functions (e.g., SHA, MD5, etc.) are used for MAC computations.

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