Universal Messaging Concepts : Security : SSL : SSL Concepts
SSL Concepts
SSL With Client Certificate Validation
When a client requests a secure connection to a server, both the client and the server must verify each other's certificate to ensure that the source is trusted. A certificate will generally contain the source's name, the certificate authority that signed it and the public key for that source. The certificate can be authenticated by validating the signature.
*Certificate signed by well known certification authority
Several certification authorities exist (such as Verisign) that will review applications for certificates and digitally sign them if they have sufficient proof that the company is what it claims to be. These authorities are trusted as default by web browsers and applications supporting SSL.
When a connection attempt is made, the certificate is checked with these well known authorities. The signature is created using the private key of the certificate authority, therefore it is known to have been encrypted by that authority only if it can be decrypted by it's public key. If this is the case then it is known that the certificate is valid.
*Self signed certificates
To acquire a certificate from a well known certification authority is expensive and time consuming as the company will have to prove itself by providing certain documentation. It is possible however to create and sign your own certificates. This essentially makes the company that created the certificate also act as the certification authority for that certificate. This means that the certificate will not be validated by checking with the well known authorities.
If the certificate is not validated by the well known authorities then it is checked against the user created trust store. This store contains certificates for companies that are not registered with the well known authorities but the user has chosen to trust.
Because the sample certificates created are self signed, it is important that the trust store of the client/server contains the certificates of the server/client respectively otherwise an exception will be thrown as the system cannot verify the source.
Once the certificates have been validated, the client and server will have each others public keys. When the client communicates with the server, it will encrypt the data with the server's public key. Public keys are asymmetric which means that it cannot be decrypted using the same key, instead it requires the server's private key which only the server holds. This means that only the server can read the data sent. Similarly, any response from the server will be encrypted with the client's public key.
Anonymous SSL
Universal Messaging also supports anonymous (server-side) SSL. Anonymous SSL does not validate the client. This means that the client does not need to have a certificate as it is never checked by the server. Instead, the client sends a request for the server's certificate as usual but instead of the server encrypting data sent to the client with the client's public key, a session is created. To create a session, the client generates a random number and sends this number to the server encrypted with the server's public key. Only the server can decrypt the random number. So only the server and the client know this number. The random number is used along with the server's public key to create the session.
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