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Writing Apache Modules with Perl and C by Lincoln Stein, Doug MacEachern

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6.6. Authentication with the Secure Sockets Layer

The Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) is a widely used protocol for encrypting Internet transmissions. It was originally introduced by Netscape for use with its browser and server products and has been adapted by the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) for use in its standard Transport Layer Security (TLS) protocol.

When an SSL-enabled browser talks to an SSL-enabled server, they exchange cryptographic certificates and authenticate each other using secure credentials known as digital certificates. They then set up an encrypted channel with which to exchange information. Everything that the browser sends to the server is encrypted, including the requested URI, cookies, and the contents of fill-out forms, and everything that the server returns to the browser is encrypted as well.

For the purposes of authentication and authorization, SSL can be used in two ways. One option is to combine SSL encryption with Basic authentication. The Basic authentication protocol continues to work exactly as described in the previous section, but now the user's password is protected from interception because it is part of the encrypted data stream. This option is simple and doesn't require any code changes.

The other option is to use the browser's digital certificate for authorization. The server automatically attempts to authenticate the browser's digital certificate when it first sets up the SSL connection. If it can't, the SSL connection is refused. ...

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