How SSL Works in Visual Studio .NET

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How SSL Works
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The foundation of SSL is encryption SSL defines how and what type of encryption is used to secure network communication In the following sections I discuss the different types of encryption and their applications in SSL
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19 Securing Apache with SSL
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Understanding encryption
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When data travels from one point of the Internet to another, it goes through a number of computers such as routers, gateways, and other network devices For example, when a visitor to a Web site at wwwniteccom enters his or her credit card number in an HTML form found on the site, it is quite possible that the information travels on a path similar to the one shown in Figure 19-2
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Figure 19-2: Data traveling from one point to another on the Internet
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As you can see from the figure, the data must travel through many nodes, so there s a chance it can be intercepted by someone at one of these nodes Although data packets travel at a very high speed (usually milliseconds), interception is still a possibility This is why we need a secured mechanism for exchanging sensitive data This security is achieved through encryption
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Part IV Securing Your Web Site
Technically speaking, encryption is the mathematical encoding scheme that ensures that only the intended recipient can access the data; it hides the data from eavesdroppers Encryption schemes are widely used to restrict access to resources For example, if you log onto a Unix or Windows 2000/NT system, the passwords or keys that you use are typically stored in the server computer in an encrypted format On most Unix systems, a user s password is encrypted and matched with the encrypted password stored in an /etc/passwd file If this comparison is successful, the user is given access to the requested resource Two kinds of encryption schemes are available: Symmetric encryption: This scheme is similar to the keys and locks you probably use on a daily basis You unlock your car with a key, and also lock it with the same key Similarly, in symmetric encryption, a single key is used for both locking and unlocking purposes Figure 19-3 shows an example of such a scheme
Sender
key 123456 Data Hello Encryption Algorithm
Receiver
key 123456
Decryption Algorithm
Hello
Zello Encrypted Data
Network
Zello Encrypted Data
Figure 19-3: An example of a symmetric encryption scheme
Because a single key is used in this scheme, all involved parties must know what this key is to make the scheme work Asymmetric encryption: Asymmetric encryption works a bit differently from symmetric encryption, as its name suggests With this scheme, there are two keys: a public key and a private key The extra key is the public key hence this scheme is also known as public key encryption Figure 19-4 shows an example of how this encryption scheme works
19 Securing Apache with SSL
Sender
Receiver's Public Key
Receiver
Own Private Key
Data Hello Encryption Algorithm Decryption Algorithm Hello
Zello Encrypted Data
Network
Zello Encrypted Data
Figure 19-4: An example of the asymmetric encryption scheme
As the figure shows, when data is encrypted with the public key, it can only be decrypted using the private key, and vice versa Unlike symmetric encryption, this scheme does not require that the sender know the private key that the receiver needs to unlock the data The public key is widely distributed, so anyone who wants to initiate a secure data communication can use it The private key is never distributed; it is always to be kept secret
Understanding certificates
A certificate is encrypted information that associates a public key with the true identity of an individual, a server, or some other entity, known as the subject It also includes the identification and signature of the issuer of the certificate The issuer is known as a Certificate Authority (CA) Such a certificate may contain other information such as serial number, the period of time when the certificate is valid, and so on, which helps the CA to manage certificates Using an SSL-enabled Web browser such as Netscape Navigator and Microsoft Internet Explorer, you can view a server s certificate quite easily The entity being identified in a certificate is represented using distinguished name fields, which are defined in the X509 standard Table 19-1 shows the distinguished name fields in a certificate