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Compare SSL libraries

This comparison only involves SSL/TLS libraries that libcurl can be built to use.

Feature OpenSSL[6] GnuTLS NSS WolfSSL QSOSSL PolarSSL / mbedTLS axTLS Secure Channel ("WinSSL") Secure Transport ("DarwinSSL")
Native cert check no yes yes yes yes yes yes yes yes
CRL manual manual automatic automatic no manual no automatic automatic
SSLv2 yes no yes no no yes no yes yes
SSLv3 yes yes yes yes yes yes no yes yes
TLSv1.0 yes yes yes yes yes yes yes yes yes
TLSv1.1 yes yes yes yes yes [5] yes yes yes yes [2]
TLSv1.2 yes yes yes yes yes [5] yes yes yes [4] yes [2]
TLSv1.3 no [9] no yes no no no no no no
TLS SRP yes yes no no no no no no no
TLS ECC yes yes yes yes ? yes no yes [3] yes [2]
ALPN yes yes yes yes no yes no yes [7] no
NPN yes no yes no no no no yes [7] no
Small no no no yes N/A yes yes N/A N/A
Platforms POSIX, Windows, VMS POSIX, Windows POSIX, Windows POSIX, Windows IBM i POSIX, Windows POSIX, Windows Windows (CE and NT) Darwin (inc. iOS and Mac OS X)
Uses Certificate/Key Files yes yes yes yes ? yes yes no no
Uses Certificate/Key Database no yes yes no ? no no yes yes
Crypto module/token support PKCS#11 [8] PKCS#11 PKCS#11 no ? no no Microsoft CryptoAPI Keychain
Select Certificates/Keys with PKCS#11 URI yes [8] yes no N/A ? N/A N/A N/A N/A
Integrates with system token database yes [8] yes no no ? no no yes yes
FIPS-140 yes yes yes no no no no yes yes
OpenSSL-like API N/A limited separate yes limited no limited no digests only
Vendor OpenSSL Project Free Software Foundation Mozilla Foundation wolfSSL IBM Corporation mbed TLS Cameron Rich Microsoft Corporation Apple Inc.
License 4-clause BSD LGPL MPL/LGPL/GPL GPLv2 / prop ? GPLv2 / prop BSD Proprietary APSL 2.0
First release 1998 2004? ? 2006 ? 2006 2006 2000 2003?
Famous Application Apache HTTPD GNOME Mozilla Firefox MySQL IBM HTTPD Hiawatha HTTPD ? Microsoft Internet Explorer Apple Safari

[2] = Requires iOS 5.0 or later, or OS X 10.8.0 or later
[3] = Requires Windows Vista or later
[4] = Requires Windows 7 or later
[5] = Requires IBM i 7.1 TR6 or later
[6] = Mostly the same feature set is also provided by LibreSSL and BoringSSL.
[7] = support for ALPN and NPN was added in Windows 8.1 / Server 2012 R2.
[8] = Via external engine_pkcs11;
[9] = the BoringSSL fork supports TLS1.3

Glossary of Terms

Native cert check: If yes, then this means that the engine will automatically check the domain name in the server's certificate against the domain name used to connect to the server, unless CURLOPT_VERIFYHOST was manually disabled. If no, then libcurl will perform this check manually.

CRL: CRL means "Certificate Revocation List" and is used to check to see if any certificates in the server's chain have been revoked for some reason. If automatic, then the engine will automatically download a CRL and use it to evaluate the trust of the server's certificate chain when performing the TLS handshake. If manual, then the engine will not automatically use a CRL, but you can provide one that has been downloaded separately by using the CURLOPT_CRL option. If no, then the CURLOPT_CRL option will be ignored.

SSLv2: This was the first public release of the SSL protocol. It is deprecated and really should no longer be used, because it has a number of serious security problems. Even if your engine supports it, libcurl will never default to allowing SSLv2 when performing a TLS handshake. Support for SSLv2 is only provided here if you need to connect to a very old (circa 1995) SSL server that does not support a newer version of the protocol.

SSLv3: This version of SSL fixed all of the major weaknesses in SSLv2. It is still widely supported on the public Internet, mainly because Microsoft Internet Explorer 6 does not support TLS by default, although TLS is a preferred protocol.

TLSv1.0: TLS is a slight variation on SSLv3 that was the first version of the protocol to be approved of by the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF). This version of TLS has been available since 1999 and is by far the most widely supported version on the public Internet. There have been a few minor security vulnerabilities found in TLSv1.0 which were fixed later, but all of them (so far) have been easily worked around, which has contributed to the longevity of this version of TLS.

TLSv1.1: TLSv1.1 is similar to v1.0, except that it has a better fix for the CBC (Cipher Block Chain) cipher-suite attack that lead to the BEAST (Browser Exploit Against SSL/TLS) vulnerability in TLSv1.0. Unfortunately it was released seven years after v1.0, and took even longer to start appearing in TLS engines, so it's not very widely supported by servers yet.

TLSv1.2: TLSv1.2 provides even better security than TLSv1.1 and earlier, with support for many all-new cipher suites that are even more difficult to crack. Unfortunately TLSv1.2 is not widely used on the public Internet yet for the same reasons that v1.1 support is scarce.

TLSv1.3: TLSv1.3 provides even better security than TLSv1.2, with more data encrypted in the handshake etc. It also offers less roundtrip handshakes.

TLS SRP: SRP means "Secure Remote Password" and it is a method of performing client-side authentication with a TLS server by using a user name and password, sometimes coupled with a certificate. It is not yet widely supported, but for the engines that do support it, you can provide the credentials to curl by using the CURLOPT_TLSAUTH_USERNAME and CURLOPT_TLSAUTH_PASSWORD options.

TLS ECC: ECC means "Elliptic Curve Cryptography" and it is an advanced set of cipher-suites that are used in TLS connections (typically with TLSv1.2). Not all engines support ECC.

Uses Certificate/Key Files: Some engines, such as OpenSSL, read certificates and keys from files rather than a central database. These engines require you to use a certificate bundle in order to verify a server's certificate chain; this is usually set at build time but can also be set by using the CURLOPT_CAINFO option.

Uses Certificate/Key Database: Some engines, such as Apple's Security framework, use a central database instead of separate files to store certificates and keys. Apple's Security framework database, for instance, is called the Keychain. For engines that use a database and don't also support files, the CURLOPT_CAINFO option is ignored.

Crypto module/token support: Support for cryptographic hardware tokens and software databases is typically provided via ; PKCS#11 on POSIX platforms, and via platform-specific APIs on Windows and Darwin. Examples of PKCS#11 software tokens include the GNOME keyring, and the NSS "soft token" database.

Integrates with system token database: Platforms often have a system-wide configuration which specifies which crypto modules/token should be visible in which applications. Many Linux distributions have chosen to use p11-kit; to provide this configuration, and some now consider it a bug for applications not to automatically use the tokens configured therein.

Select Certificates/Keys with PKCS#11 URI: RFC 7512 defines a standard URI format for specifying objects within PKCS#11 tokens/databases.

FIPS-140: FIPS-140 is a security standard used by the United States and Canada for transferring information that is sensitive but not classified. If yes, and you are using curl or a libcurl-based application in the US or Canadian government, or in a government contractor, then it's okay for you to use the engine when building curl/libcurl.

License: If you are deploying an application that uses libcurl, then the license used by the engine may affect whether or not you are able to distribute your application legally. OpenSSL's 4-clause BSD license, for instance, is not compatible with the GNU GPL.

More reading

The mentioned libraries: OpenSSL, GnuTLS, NSS, wolfSSL, mbed TLS, axTLS, Secure Channel, Secure Transport.

More comparisons in the extensive feature-by-feature comparison on wikipedia.

curl's documentation of SSL problems.

Please mail us corrections if this table is incorrect, or tell us other features we should compare!