Chapter 9. Networking

Today, most applications perform some type of network activity. Unfortunately, many programmers don't know how to access a network securely. The recipes in this chapter aim to help you use a network in your application. To many developers, network security from the application standpoint means using the Secure Sockets Layer (SSL), but SSL isn't a magic solution. SSL can be difficult to use properly; in many cases, it is overkill, and in a few cases, it is insufficient. This chapter presents recipes for using OpenSSL to build SSL-enabled clients and servers and recipes for network and interprocess communication without SSL.

On the Windows platform, with the exception of SSL over HTTP (which we cover in Recipe 9.4), we've chosen to limit the SSL-specific recipes to OpenSSL, which is freely available and portable to a wide range of platforms, Windows included.

On Windows systems, Microsoft provides access to its SSL implementation through the Security Support Provider Interface (SSPI). SSPI is well documented, but unfortunately, the use of SSL is not. What's more unfortunate is that implementing an SSL-enabled client or server with SSPI on Windows is considerably more complex than using OpenSSL (which is saying quite a lot). The SSPI interface to SSL is surprisingly low-level, requiring programs that use it to do much of the work of exchanging protocol messages themselves. Because SSL is difficult to use properly, it is desirable to mask protocol details with a high-level implementation (such as OpenSSL). We therefore avoid the SSPI interface to SSL altogether.

If you are interested in finding out more about SSPI and the SSL interface, we recommend that you consult the Microsoft Developer's Network (MSDN) and the samples that are included with the Microsoft Windows Platform SDK, which is available from Microsoft on the Internet at The relevant example code can be found in the directory Microsoft SDK\Samples\Security\SSPI\SSL from wherever you install it on your system (normally in \Program Files on your boot drive).

Additionally, over time, SSPI-specific recipes may end up on the book's companion web site, particularly if submitted by readers such as you.