OpenSSL Blog

OpenSSL Goes to China

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Over the past few years we’ve come to the realisation that there is a surprising (to us) amount of interest in OpenSSL in China. That shouldn’t have been a surprise as China is a huge technologically advanced country, but now we know better thanks to correspondence with many new Chinese contacts and the receipt of significant support from multiple Chinese donors (most notably from Smartisan.

We have accepted an invitation from BaishanCloud to visit China in person and meet with interested OpenSSL users and stakeholders in September. We’d like to thank BaishanCloud for hosting us and Paul Yang and his colleagues there for the substantial amount of work that went into arranging this trip.

Five of us (Matt Caswell, Tim Hudson, Richard Levitte, Steve Marquess and Rich Salz) will be in China from 18 September through 24 September, visiting Shanghai, Shenzhen, and Beijing. With this trip we hope to learn more about this significant portion of the open source and OpenSSL user communities, and hope to make OpenSSL more visible and accessible to that audience. Note that while not quite constituting a OpenSSL team meeting, this will be only the third time any significant number of the OpenSSL team have met in person.

We will presenting on various aspects of OpenSSL on 23 September 2017 in Beijing. An introduction to the event and a registration link are available in Chinese.

We will also be visiting Shanghai and Shenzhen earlier that week to meet with members of the open source community and OpenSSL users and stakeholders. If you can’t make it to the presentation above it may be possible to arrange to meet up with you in one of the above locations. Please drop us a line if you are interested in meeting with us.

FIPS 140-2: Thanks and Farewell to SafeLogic

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We’ve had a change in the stakeholder aspect of this new FIPS 140 validation effort. The original sponsor, SafeLogic, with whom we jump-started this effort a year ago and who has worked with us since then, is taking a well-deserved bow due to a change in circumstances. Supporting this effort has been quite a strain for a relatively small company, but SafeLogic has left us in a fairly good position. Without SafeLogic we wouldn’t have made it this far, and while I don’t anticipate any future SafeLogic involvement with this effort from this point on, I remain enormously grateful to SafeLogic and CEO Ray Potter for taking on such a bold and ambitious venture.

As announced here recently Oracle remains a sponsor but will hopefully not be the only sponsor for long. We will continue to partner with Acumen and we have been working extensively with Ashit Vora and Tony Busciglio there to sort out some new ideas.

No code has been written yet as we’re still developing a technical strategy and design. We’ve considered some new approaches to structuring the module, perhaps even as a related set of “bound” modules instead of one monolithic module as for past validations. Carefully sorting through the implications of design decisions for FIPS 140 requirements is a tedious but necessary process, and I think we’ll make faster progress overall by not rushing to the coding stage.

As always we’re interested in hearing from stakeholders (and especially prospective sponsors!), please contact me at marquess@openssl.com or Jim Wright at Oracle at jim.wright@oracle.com.

Random Thoughts

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The next release will include a completely overhauled version of the random number facility, the RAND API. The default RAND method is now based on a Deterministic Random Bit Generator (DRBG) implemented according to the NIST recommendation 800-90A. We have also edited the documentation, allowed finer-grained configuration of how to seed the generator, and updated the default seeding mechanisms.

There will probably be more changes before the release is made, but they should be comparatively minor.

Read on for more details.

FIPS 140-2: And So It Begins

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It’s been almost a year since plans for a new FIPS 140 validation were first announced. Several factors have led to this long delay. For one, we chose to focus our limited manpower resources on higher priority objectives such as the TLS 1.3 implementation. SafeLogic has also experienced difficulties in obtaining the funding for their intended sponsorship; potential sponsors can contact them directly.

With TLS 1.3 now done (pending only a final TLS 1.3 specification) we’re now in a position to turn our attention to the new FIPS module, and just in the nick of time Oracle has pledged enough funding to get us off to a good start. With financial support from the Linux Foundation Core Infrastructure Initiative temporarily interrupted, leaving a team member with no income, that funding eases the pressure to seek new long term employment.

The bad news is that the Oracle funding will only partially cover the FIPS module work (for perhaps a couple of months), at which point we may have to set that work aside. Hand-to-mouth funding is not a new experience for us though so we’ll worry about that later.

The FIPS module is heavily shaped and constrained (one could even say distorted and contorted) by FIPS 140 requirements. Those requirements (or technically speaking the interpretation of those requirements) has changed considerably since our last open source based validation in 2013, so we’re starting with a careful study of the many requirements changes that have accumulated since then. That study will generate a lot of questions for the accredited test lab, as the practical application of the formal requirements to working code is rarely obvious to anyone.

One goal for this new FIPS module is to make a clean break from the legacy code base of the previous module, which started as a stripped and bastardized version of an old copy of OpenSSL. We’ll be making the new module as simple as possible without extraneous vestigial code. It will live in a new separate git repository, though don’t expect to see a lot of code right away as we work through the requirements questions.

As before the FIPS module will be primarily intended for use with OpenSSL proper, though we hope to minimize (or even eliminate) FIPS specific code in OpenSSL by enhancing the current ENGINE interface. The new FIPS module will have an internal API (with non-opaque structures) that in turn will be wrapped in a higher level ENGINE interface package external to the “cryptographic module boundary”. All three components (formal validated module, module interface wrapper, and OpenSSL proper) will as before be usable as a seamless “FIPS capable” OpenSSL library.

The test suite software will interface with the module directly, and that code will be separate from the module itself. We’ll be sorting out the outlines of these separate components as soon as we’ve confirmed we understand the new requirements.

I’ll blog more as we finalize additional details.

Removing Some Code

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This is another update on our effort to re-license the OpenSSL software. Our previous post in March was about the launch of our effort to reach all contributors, with the hope that they would support this change.

So far, about 40% of the people have responded. For a project that is as old as OpenSSL (including its predecessor, SSLeay, it’s around 20 years) that’s not bad. We’ll be continuing our efforts over the next couple of months to contact everyone.

Of those people responding, the vast majority have been in favor of the license change – less then a dozen objected. This post describes what we’re doing about those and how we came to our conclusions. The goal is to be very transparent and open with our processes.

New Committers

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We announced back in October that we would be changing from a single OpenSSL Project Team to having an OpenSSL management committee and a set of committers which we planned to expand to enable the greater involvement from the community.

Now that we have in place committer guidelines, we have invited the first set of external (non-OMC) community members to become committers and they have each accepted the invitation.

Using TLS1.3 With OpenSSL

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The forthcoming OpenSSL 1.1.1 release will include support for TLSv1.3. The new release will be binary and API compatible with OpenSSL 1.1.0. In theory, if your application supports OpenSSL 1.1.0, then all you need to do to upgrade is to drop in the new version of OpenSSL when it becomes available and you will automatically start being able to use TLSv1.3. However there are some issues that application developers and deployers need to be aware of. In this blog post I am going to cover some of those things.

Licensing Update

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The following is a press release that we just released, with the cooperation and financial support of the Core Infrastructure Initiative and the Linux Foundation.

In the next few days we’ll start sending out email to all contributors asking them to approve the change. In the meantime, you can visit the licensing website and search for your name and request the email. If you have changed email addresses, or want to raise other issues about the license change, please email license@openssl.org. You can also post general issues to openssl-users@openssl.org.

We are grateful to all the contributors who have contributed to OpenSSL and look forward to their help and support in this effort.

The official press release can be found at the CII website. The rest of this post is a copy:

OpenSSL and Threads

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This post talks about OpenSSL and threads. In particular, using OpenSSL in multi-threaded applications. It traces through the history, explains what was changed for the 1.1.0 release, and will hopefully provide some guidance to developers.

While none of the behaviors have really changed, and therefore none of this should be new information, the documentation has not been as clear as it could, or should, be. Therefore, some readers might be surprised by what’s in this post.

In short, OpenSSL has always, and only, supported the concept of locking an object and sometimes it locks its internal objects. Read on for more details.

Project Bylaws

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Last October, the OpenSSL Project team had a face to face meeting. We talked about many topics but one of them was that, in recent years, we have seen much more involvement from the community and that we would like to encourage that further. For example, there are a number of people in the community who we know and trust. We would like those people to get involved more and make it easier for them to contribute. We decided to introduce the concept of a “committer” (borrowed from the Apache concept): someone who has the ability to commit code to our source code repository but without necessarily having to become a full team member. This might be seen as a stepping-stone for someone who aspires to full team membership, or simply as an easier way of contributing for those that don’t. Those people could help with our review process (i.e., their reviews would count towards approval) - which might help us keep on top of the github issues and pull request queues.