Using the Secure Socket Layer for Network Communication

Establish Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) sessions to facilitate secure communication between client and server.


The following terms are used in this discussion:


The initiator of an SSL session. The canonical example of a client is a web browser communicating with an HTTPS URL.


An entity that accepts requests for SSL sessions made by clients. An example is a secure web server.


An entity whose existence is bounded by calls to the functions SSLHandshake and SSLClose. An active session is in some state between these two calls, inclusive.


The state associated with one session. A session context cannot be reused for multiple sessions.

Most applications need only a few of the functions in this API, which are normally called in the following sequence:

  • Prepare for a session

    • Call SSLCreateContext to create a new SSL session context.

    • Write the SSLWriteFunc and SSLReadFunc I/O functions and register them with Secure Transport by calling the SSLSetIOFuncs function.

    • Establish a connection using CFNetwork, BSD Sockets, or Open Transport. Then call SSLSetConnection to specify the connection to which the SSL session context applies.

    • Call SSLSetPeerDomainName to specify the fully-qualified domain name of the peer to which you want to connect (optional but highly recommended).

    • Call SSLSetCertificate to specify the certificate to be used in authentication (required for server side, optional for client).

  • Start a session

    • Call SSLHandshake to perform the SSL handshake and establish a secure session.

  • Maintain a session

    • To transfer data over the secure session, Secure Transport calls your SSLWrite and SSLRead functions as needed.

  • End a session

    • Call SSLClose to close the secure session.

    • Close the connection and dispose of the connection reference.

    • Release the SSL session context by calling CFRelease.

    • If you called SSLGetPeerCertificates to obtain any certificates, call CFRelease to release the certificate reference objects.

In many cases, it is easier to use the CFNetwork API than Secure Transport to implement a simple connection to a secure (HTTPS) URL. See CFNetwork Programming Guide for documentation of the CFNetwork API and the CFNetworkHTTPDownload sample code for an example of code that downloads data from a URL. If you specify an HTTPS URL, this routine automatically uses Secure Transport to encrypt the data stream.

For functions to manage and evaluate certificates, see Certificate, Key, and Trust Services.