The Secure Socket API: TLS as an Operating System Service


Mark O'Neill, Scott Heidbrink, Jordan Whitehead, Tanner Perdue, Luke Dickinson, Torstein Collett, Nick Bonner, Kent Seamons, and Daniel Zappala, Brigham Young University
2018 Internet Defense Prize First Runner Up


SSL/TLS libraries are notoriously hard for developers to use, leaving system administrators at the mercy of buggy and vulnerable applications. We explore the use of the standard POSIX socket API as a vehicle for a simplified TLS API, while also giving administrators the ability to control applications and tailor TLS configuration to their needs. We first assess OpenSSL and its uses in open source software, recommending how this functionality should be accommodated within the POSIX API. We then propose the Secure Socket API (SSA), a minimalist TLS API built using existing network functions and find that it can be employed by existing network applications by modifications requiring as little as one line of code. We next describe a prototype SSA implementation that leverages network system calls to provide privilege separation and support for other programming languages. We end with a discussion of the benefits and limitations of the SSA and our accompanying implementation, noting avenues for future work.

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@inproceedings {217505,
author = {Mark O{\textquoteright}Neill and Scott Heidbrink and Jordan Whitehead and Tanner Perdue and Luke Dickinson and Torstein Collett and Nick Bonner and Kent Seamons and Daniel Zappala},
title = {The Secure Socket {API}: {TLS} as an Operating System Service},
booktitle = {27th USENIX Security Symposium (USENIX Security 18)},
year = {2018},
isbn = {978-1-939133-04-5},
address = {Baltimore, MD},
pages = {799-816},
url = {},
publisher = {USENIX Association},
month = aug

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