# Typical usage case of Marble Testing for RxJS

### What’s Marble Testing

RxJS is a powerful tool to handle various asynchronous tasks. Sometime RxJS observables are hard to test. In the community, there is one particular unit testing solution for RxJS observables called marble testing.

For marble testing, you can refer to these articles. They all do an excellent job of introducing what it is.

### A real case to show Marble Testing’s power

Recently in my development work, I came across a case where I used marble testing properly to solve the issue.

The background is for my application in the root index.html file, there is one third-party javascript library/SDK. For some business reasons, after the third-party library is loaded, we bind some value to the global window object.

Before the loaded event is triggered, the window.SecretLibary was undefiend. After the event is triggered, it will be assigned some value.

This global value is vital for my application since one of the UI components depends on it to determine to show or hide.

Since the script was loaded with async flag for performance consideration, this component needs to check the window.SecretLibrary value repeatedly.

The interesting part comes from the getSecretLibraryLoadStatus function. It utilizes the timer, map, takeWhile, and pluck operators of RxJS library to realize the repeatedly status checking and updating purpose.

RxJS operator is not this article’s topic, so I will not dig deep into it. Just add one comment for the takeWhile part, which seems a little hard to understand at the first look. It defines two conditions to stop the observable: first case is the window.SecretLibrary value is not undefined, which means the script is loaded; the second case is it reaches the maximum time limit (30 seconds).

### How to test it: marble testing

Traditionally we use subscribe and assert pattern to test RxJS observables. But for the case, as mentioned above: time-based observables, the traditional solution can’t handle it well. We can’t wait 30 seconds when we run the unit tests during local development or in CI pipeline. That’s unacceptable.

Marble testing can fix this issue correctly by the concept of virtual time. For what is virtual time, you can refer to these great articles. I will not discuss it at a detailed level in this post. Simply speaking, virtual time empowers us to test asynchronous RxJS observable synchronously. In virtual time asynchronous functions like setTimeout and setInterval will use fake time instead of actual time. And the magic comes from the TestScheduler of RxJS.

The marble testing solution as following:

Let me emphasize several key points to understand the above testing case. getSecretLibraryLoadStatus will repeatedly check the status of window.SecretLibrary every 500 milliseconds and return a boolean value stream.

I manually set the window.SecretLibrary value after 2 seconds by calling this:

So Let’s imagine what the result should be: the first four emit value will be false, and the last value is true. That’s the expected observable.

But please notice that scheduler.run, everything run inside the callback will use virtual time. So we didn’t wait 2 seconds for the timer operator. Instead, it runs synchronously.

The second point needs to notice is the syntax of the marble string a 499ms b 499ms c 499ms d 499ms (e|). Yes, it looks a little wired, but be careful that’s the correct way to represent marble. The alphanumeric values represent an actual emitted value, which advances time one virtual frame.

Here I only show the case where the third-party script load successfully. Of course, to have full testing coverage, we need to consider the negative case where the script failed to load. You can figure it out.

### Summary

In this post, I didn’t go into the detailed syntax of marble testing. I think the reader can find the related document easily. I record a real usage case in the development where marble testing can show its power to handle async observables.

# algo-part2

## Part 2

### Circular List

Judge a linked list is circular or not

solution:

### binary Gap

A binary gap within a positive integer N is any maximal sequence of consecutive zeros that is surrounded by ones at both ends in the binary representation of N.

For example, number 9 has binary representation 1001 and contains a binary gap of length 2. The number 529 has binary representation 1000010001 and contains two binary gaps: one of length 4 and one of length 3. The number 20 has binary representation 10100 and contains one binary gap of length 1. The number 15 has binary representation 1111 and has no binary gaps. The number 32 has binary representation 100000 and has no binary gaps.

### Bug and Sell Stock

You will be given a list of stock prices for a given day and your goal is to return the maximum profit that could have been made by buying a stock at the given price and then selling the stock later on. For example if the input is: [45, 24, 35, 31, 40, 38, 11] then your program should return 16 because if you bought the stock at $24 and sold it at$40, a profit of \$16 was made and this is the largest profit that could be made. If no profit could have been made, return -1.

# algo-part1

The Coding Interview Bootcamp: Data structure and algorithm.

## Part 1

### Paldinromes

another way is based on recursive method:

method1

method2

### Printing Steps

The effect we need is as following:

solution based on recursive methods

### Enter the Matrix Spiral

The requirement goes as following:

solution:

### Fibonacci

solution based on memoization and recursive.

The most simplified method goes as following:

Make it more abstract like below:

# What happens when you run apt commands

### Background

In Linux world softwares are delivered in the form of package. As a software engineer wants to work in Linux platform, you’ll run package management commands again and again. So you need to understand what actually happens when you run such commands. In this article, I’ll introduce this topic.

Note that different Linux distros have different package management tool. In this article let’s focus on Ubuntu system and the package management tool is apt.

### Software repositories

Nowadays, everybody is familiar with app store, which is one central location. And users can retrieve applications there. In Linux world, software repositories work just like app store. Software repositories are generally made available in the form of mirros, to which your Linux system subscribe.

There are many repository mirrors in the world, you can decide which ones to use. In Ubuntu system, it’s defined in the config file of /etc/apt/sources.list as follows:

The URLs defined in the file are just software repositories.

### Package index

The APT package index is essentially a database of available packages from the repositories mentioned above.

In Ubuntu system, the package index files are stored in /var/lib/apt/lists

### apt update

Based on the above two points, we can easily understand what happens when we run apt update. It doesn’t update any installed packages, instead it updates the package index files in your local machine by sending new network requests to the software repositories. That’s also the reason why we need to run it before we run apt upgrade or apt install. Because the upgraded version or the newly installed version will depend on the updated package index files. In this way users will get the lastest version of the target package.

Before you actually install a package, you can run apt-cache search command with the package name to get the list of any matched available packages. This can help you in case that you don’t know the exact package name in advance.

apt-cache command doesn’t send any network request, instead it works based on the package index files in your local machine. How to prove this point? Of course the most direct way is reading the source code. But I want to show you another way to prove it with the tool of strace.

strace is a tool can show you all the invoked system call when you run a command. If our guess about apt-cache search is correct, it should invoke system call to read the files in the package index directory /var/lib/apt/lists, right? Let’s have a look by running this command:

Not that the 2>&1 part in the preceding command, this is because strace writes all its output to stderr, not stdout. And a pipe redirects stdout, not stderr. So you need to redirect stderr of strace to stdout before piping to grep. The output is very long but contains the following lines:

Same as what we guessed. All right.

### apt install

There are many people asking questions on the forums about the secret of apt install like this one. Does apt install download the source code of packages and then build it on your machine? That’s also one of the question came to my mind when I first touched Linux world. My intuition tells me there shouldn’t be compiling and building process involved when I run apt install. Because I think it’s too time consuming.

In fact, apt install is used to install the prebuilt binary package to your machine. Simply speaking, it does two tasks:

• Download the package, a Debian package, to /var/cache/apt/archives
• Extract files from the Debian package and copy them to the specific system location

Because Ubuntu is originated from Debian system, so the package you install on Ubuntu is in fact a Debian package which is an archive file with the name ending .deb. For instance, the openvpn Debian package is as follows:

Then we can use ar x <package_name.deb> command to extract the package, you will find that there are three files inside each Debian package:

• debian-binary – A text file indicating the version of the .deb package format.
• control.tar.gz – A compressed file and it contains md5sums and control directory for building package.
• data.tar.xz – A compressed file and it contains all the files to be installed on your system. This is what we need continue to exmpolre.

Run the following tar command to open this tarball

Note that the tarball contains the following directories:

take a look into the usr directory, you’ll find the prebuild binaries.

# How to use libraries in Linux C program

### Background

After you learn and understand how to write small C programs in Linux (that means you know the syntax of C language and how to compile your programs with gcc), you will want to have some adventures to write more powerful and larger programs. To be a great software engineer, you need this passion to explore, right?

To write a larger program, you can’t build everything from scratch. This means you need to import and use libraries developed by others in your program.

For new developers of Linux C programming, the whole handling of libraries can be a mystery, which requires knowledge about gcc compiler, Linux system, GNU conventions and so on. In this article, I will focus on this topic and piece all these together. After reading this post, I hope you can feel free and confident to add the shared libraries from the open source world to your program.

Note: To illustrate the discussion more clearly, this article is based on this demo github app. And my demo app is forked from Stephan Avenwedde’s original repo. Thanks for that.

The code logic of this demo app is very straightforward, so I will not review the code line by line in this article, which is not the target of this post.

### Static library vs Shared library

Generally speaking, there are two types of libraries: Static and Shared.

• static library: is simply a collection of ordinary object files; conventionally, static libraries end with the .a suffix. This collection is created using ar command. For example, in the demo app, we build the static library like this:

In our case, the static library will be installed in the subdirectory ./lib/static and named as libmy_static.a.

When the application links against a static library, the library’s code becomes part of the resulting executable. So you can run the application without any further setting or configuration. That’s the biggest advantage of the static library, and you’ll see how it works in the next section.

Static libraries aren’t used as often as they once were, since shared library has more advantages.

• shared library: end with .so which means shared object. The shared library is loaded into memory when the application starts. If multiple applications use the same shared library, the shared library will be loaded only once. In our demo app, the shared library is built as follows:

The shared library libmy_shared.so is installed inside ./lib/shared subdirectory. Note that the shared library is built with some special options for gcc, like -fPIC and -shared. In detail, you can check the document of gcc.

### Naming convention

Generally speaking, the name of shared library follows the pattern: lib + name of library + .so. Of course, version information is very important, but in this article, let’s ignore the version issue.

After building the libraries, next step you need to import the libraries in your app. For our app, the source code is the file of demo/main.c as follows:

Note that we import three header file of our libraries. The next question is how to build the demo app.

Let’s recall the building process of a C program as follows:

This is a two-step process: compile and link. Firstly, the source code file of main.c will be compiled to an object file, let’s say main.o file. In this step, the critical thing is telling gcc where to find the header file of the libraries. Next, link the main.o object file with our libraries: libmy_static.a and libmy_shared.so. gcc needs to know the name of library it should link and where to find these libraries, right?

These information can be defined by the following three options:

• I: add the include directory for header files,
• l: name of the library
• L: the directory for the library

In our case, the make command to build the demo app is as follows:

Since we have two libraries: libmy_static.a and libmy_shared.so, based on the naming convention we mentioned above, the -l option for library name should be my_static and my_shared. We can use two -l options for each library.

For the -L option, we need to provide the directory path where to find the libraries. We can use the path ../lib/shared and ../lib/static relative to the demo’s source code file. Right? And the same rule applies to the -I option for the include header file as well.

Run make demo command, and you can build the demo app with the libraries linked together successfully.

### Filesystem placement convention

As I show above, the libraries are placed inside the subdirectory of this project. This is inconvenient for others to import your library. Most open source software tends to follow the GNU standards. The GNU standards recommend installing by default all libraries in /usr/local/lib and all the header files in /usr/local/include when distributing source code. So let’s add one more make command to install the library file and header file to the directory based on the GNU convention:

You can find the similar make command in my open source projects for this purpose.

The benefit is gcc compiler (which is also from GNU and follows the same convention) will look for the libraries by default in these two directories: /usr/local/lib and /usr/local/include. So you don’t need to set -L and -I options. For example, after we run make install command above and install the library into the system directory, you can build the demo app as follows:

Understand the GNU convention can make your development more easier, right?

Then next step let’s run the demo app by simply calling ./my_app, but you’ll get the following error message:

What’s happening?

When we start up an executable, the Linux kernel automatically runs the dynamic linker (or dynamic loader). This dynamic linker, in turn, finds and loads all other shared libraries used by the program.

In fact, the executable file in Linux system is usually in the format of ELF which abbreviates Executable and Linkable Format. The ELF executable contains linking information, and the dynamic linker just reads that information to load shared libraries.

In Linux system, the dynamic linker is name ld.so

Based on the above error message, we can say that the dynamic linker cannot find the shared library. We can verify this point by running ldd command, which is used to print the shared objects (shared libraries) required by each program or shared object specified on the command line.

Clearly, our shared library libmy_shared.so is not found. We need to take a look how at ld.so works. The best way to find such information is running man command. We can get the following information in the ld.so man document:

Based on this screenshot, we can solve this issue in three ways:

• install the shared library in the directory: /lib or /usr/lib
• edit the environment variable LD_LIBRARY_PATH by appending the path of directories containing our library
• update the cache file /etc/ld.so.cache

The first two methods can work well based on my test, but personally I recommend to use the third method, which is a more systematic way to register a library.

### Register library

To register a new library, we need to use command ldconfig which configures dynamic linker run-time bindings.

How does ldconfig work? It will search .so library files in some specific directories, and the search result will be updated to dynamic linker’s cache file /etc/ld.so.cache.

And one of the directory ldconfig will look at is /etc/ld.so.conf. In our Ubuntu system, it’s in fact a file as follows:

it is expanded to all the .conf files inside ld.so.conf.d, in my case, there is one default file libc.conf as follows:

Note that /usr/local/lib is defined inside the file, then ldconfig will search .so libraries in this directory.

As we mentioned in above section, /usr/local/lib is just the place to install shared library based on GNU convention. Right?

So we can simply run ldconfig command without any option to register a new library (make sure the library is install in that directory):

In the above screenshot, you can see the change before and after running command sudo ldconfig. (ldconfig -p will list the current libraries reading from cache file /etc/ld.so.cache). After registering the library, it is added into the cache file of dynamic linker, right? Let’s verify this again with ldd:

Our new shared library can be found! Then we can run the app successfully as well.

### Summary

In this article we discussed several important tools like ld.so, ldd, ldconfig and gcc, which help you build and import shared libraries. Another thing is GNU convention or standard which defines the behavior of these tools.

# How HTTPS works: part five - manual verification of SSL/TLS certificates

### Background

In the previous articles of this series, we examined how digital signatures and certificates make the TLS handshake process work. Generally speaking, this process is handled by platforms like web browsers. In this article, I want to demystify the process of TLS handshake by manual verification of SSL/TLS certificates step by step.

### Certificate chain

In this previous article, we mentioned that the server returns not one, but multiple certificates. These associated certificates form a certificate chain as follows:

The intermediate CA signs the server certificate, and Root CA signs the certificate of the intermediate CA (There can be multiple intermediate CAs). Pay attention to the subject and issuer names of each certificate, and you can notice that one certificate’s issue name is another certificate’s subject name. Certificates can find their CA’s certificate in the chain with this information.

For example, the following openssl command prints the certificate chain of google.com:

The previous article explained that the chain contains three certificates. Let us extract the google.com server certificate into file google_com.pem and the intermediate CA certificate into file intermediate_ca.pem. These two files are the input data for this manual verification experiment.

### Manual verification of SSL/TLS certificates

The entire process can be illustrated as follows:

Let us go through it step by step.

#### Extract the public key of intermediate CA

Since the certificate of the google.com server is signed with intermediate CA’s private key. The first step is to extract the public key of intermediate CA from its certificate.

The content of file intermediate_ca_pub.pem goes as follows:

You can look at the public key in PEM format (which is not readable to humans).

#### Extract the signature

Next, let us extract the digital signature of the google.com server’s certificate. This task is a little bit complex, and we need several Linux commands to form a data stream pipeline as follows:

• openssl x509: extract the digital signature. openssl command supports certopt option, which allows multiple arguments separated by commas. The output of the first command should be:
• grep -v: invert the sense of matching and select non-matching lines (because of -v option).Signature Algorithm: sha256WithRSAEncryption is matched, but only the Hex code lines are selected based on the invert-match rule. The data stream after filtering should be:

Note Signature Algorithm: sha256WithRSAEncryption means that the signature is signed with SHA-256 hash function and RSA encryption algorithm. When we need to re-compute the hash again, we must use the same hash function: SHA-256.

• tr -d: delete the colons. The colons are to make it more readable. After removing the formatting colons, the output only contains Hex code.

• xxd -r -p: convert the Hex code into binary format and redirect to file certificate-signature.bin

#### Decrypt the signature

Now that we have both the digital signature and the public key of the intermediate CA. We can decrypt the signature as follows:

Store the decrypted signature in file certificate-signature-decrypted.bin. We can view the hash with openssl like so:

The output is:

The hash is in the last line: 66EFBE4CEA76272C76CEE8FA297C1BF70C41F8E049C7E0E4D23C965CBE8F1B84.

#### Re-compute the hash

Now that we got the original hash of the certificate, we need to verify whether we can re-compute the same hash using the same hashing function (as mentioned above SHA-256 in this case).

The previous article explained that the digital signature is signed based on all of the information instead of only public key. We need to extract everything but the signature from the certificate.

We can extract the data and output it to file google_com_cert_body.bin as follows:

Note: you can refer to this openssl document to have a deeper understanding about the behavior of this command.

Finally, let us re-compute the hash with SHA256 as follows:

The re-computed hash is 66efbe4cea76272c76cee8fa297c1bf70c41f8e049c7e0e4d23c965cbe8f1b84, which matches with the original hash. So we can get the conclusion that: the intermediate CA signs the goole.com server certificate.

### Summary

In this article, we go through the verification process of SSL/TLS certificates step by step manually. I have to admit that the concepts of digital signatures and certificates are too abstract to understand, especially in the details. I hope the experiment, which carries out with certificates from the real world, can help you do that.

### Reference

x509 Certificate Manual Signature Verification written by George Bolo.

# How HTTPS works: part four - digital signature

### Background

The second article of this series shows that we should not directly exchange public key to establish a secure channel. Instead, certificates should be used to establish trust between clients and servers. And the last article examines the content of certificates, which encodes two very crucial pieces of information: the server’s public key and a digital signature that can confirm the certificate’s authenticity. In this article, let us examine what digital signature is and how it works.

### Digital Signature

The concept of digital signature can be illustrated as follows:

When the server sends a message to the client, how can we prevent the attackers from eavesdropping on the message? The solution is that the server attaches its signature to the message, and the client accepts the message only if the verification of the certificate passes. So this process can be divided into two parts: sign the message to get the digital signature and verify the digital signature.

• Sign the message: means hash the message and encrypt the hash with the server’s private key. The encrypted hash is called digital signature.

• Verify the signature: means decrypt the signature with the server’s public key to get the hash, re-compute the hash of the message again, and compare the identity of two hashes.

What can we benefit from signing and verifying the digital signature? To verify the digital signature is to confirm two things:

• Message Integrity: the message has not changed since the signature was attached because it is based on a cryptographic hash of the message.

• Proof of Origin: the signature belongs to the person who alone has access to the private key. In this way, the recipient of the message can be sure of the origin of the message.

Information security has other attributes, but integrity and authentication are the two traits you must know.

### Secrets behind digital signature

As mentioned in the above section, the digital signature can prove the integrity of the message and the authenticity of the message’s owner. To understand how it works, you must understand the following two facts:

• Hash is irreversible

In the previous articles, we explained that cryptography is a two-way algorithm. You can encrypt the plaintext to the ciphertext and decrypt the ciphertext back to the plaintext. It means the cryptographic algorithm is reversible.

Different from cryptographic algorithms, A hash is irreversible!. This irreversibility is the whole point.

The goal of any cryptographic hashing algorithm is to reduce the arbitrarily sized input into a fixed-sized hash. The cryptographic hashing algorithm should guarantee that no two different messages can produce an identical hash. That is collide.

In this way, it is impossible for attackers to reverse engineer such a collision.

The attacker intercepts the message and changes it. Then the verification process of the signature on the client-side can not pass since the re-computed hashing can not match the original hashing.

I will write about how to implement a hash function in the future. In this article, you can ignore the details. Just remember that hashing is irreversible.

The private key prove identity

The attack shown above does not pass the verification because the signature and the forged message do not match. Then this time, the attacker compute a new hash based on the forged message and sign the hash with his private key. Can this attack work?

When the client gets the digital signature, the first step is to decrypt it. The decryption breaks for this new attack because the forged signature is signed with the attacker’s private key instead of the server’s private key.

It’s impossible for anybody except the owner of the private key to generate something that can be decrypted using the public key. This is the nature of public-key cryptography. I will write other articles to explain it mathematically in the future.

In a word, the private key can prove identity.

### How does signature make certificate secure?

The digital signature is not designed only for TLS certificates, and it has other applications, which is not the focus of my article. The important thing is to understand how to apply digital signature in the PKI framework and how it makes certificates more secure.

The key is that the certificate associates the public key with the server you are connecting to. As we see in last article, the certificate must contain some information about the identity of the server, such as the domain name of the server. For example, the Subject property of the certificate we examined in the last article

And the digital signature is signed based on all of the information instead of only public key. It can prevent man-in-the-middle attack in the two following cases:

• The attacker intercepts the server’s certificate and changes the public key or any other information, the hash code in the signature does not match the hash code of the content of the forged certificate, and the client rejects it. It is Message Integrity mentioned above.

• The attacker can obtain a certificate signed by the trusted CA by pretending as a legitimate business. When the client requests a certificate from the server, the attacker can replace it with his own. The validation on the client-side can not pass. Although the attacker’s certificate is signed by a trusted CA, the domain name(or other server information) does not match the expected one. It is Proof of Origin mentioned above.

So far, I hope you can understand (roughly) the beauty of this Internet security framework.

### Summary

In this article, I examined how a digital signature works. You see how to sign a signature and how to verify it. Digital signature and certificate are the most abstract part of the PKI framework. So in the following article, let me illustrate the whole process by manually going through the certificate verification process step by step. We will use openssl to examine the result in each step.

# How HTTPS works: part three - the anatomy of certificate

### Background

In the last article, we examined the importance of certificates, which prevent us from the man-in-the-middle attacks. But we did not explain the mechanics of certificates, and it will be the focus of the following articles. In this article, let us first examine how the TLS certificate looks like and what kind of information it contains?

### Anatomy of certificate

The official name of SSL/TLS certificate is X.509 certificate. Before we can examine the content of the certificate, we must get it. We can do this with openssl. openssl is a popular tool in the network security field. In the following articles, we will use it a lot. For the use of openssl, you can refer to this online document.

Let us pull the certificate from google.com domain as follows:

The output contains a large amount of information, and I omit some unnecessary codes to make it compact as follows:

Note: if you want to take a look at the full content of the above output, please refer to this online gist file

Based on the format of the output, you can figure out that the content between -----BEGIN CERTIFICATE----- and -----END CERTIFICATE----- markers is a certificate.

Another remarkable point is that the server returns not one, but three certificates. These associated certificates form a certificate chain. I will examine it in future articles. In the current post, let us focus on the certificate itself.

As shown above, the default format of the certificate is PEM(Privacy Enhanced Mail). PEM is a Base64 encoded binary format. We can convert it to a human-readable format with openssl.

First, let us extract the google.com server certificate into a file named google_com.pem. Remember to include the BEGIN and END markers, but nothing more. You can refer to this file.

Then, run the following openssl command:

here is the output (with some content omitted):

The certificate contains many elements. They are specified using a syntax
referred to as ASN.1(Abstract Syntax Notation). As you can see, the certificate consists of two parts: Data and Signature Algorithm. The Data part contains the identity information about this server certificate. And the second part is the digital signature of this certificate. I’ll highlight the following elements:

• Issuer: identifies who issues this certificate, also known as CA(certificate authority).
• Subject: identifies to whom the certificate is issued. In the case of the server certificate, the Subject should be the organization that owns the server. But in the certificate chain, the Issuer of the server certificate is the Subject of the intermediate certificate. I’ll examine this relationship in detail in the following article.
• Subject Public Key Info: the server’s public key. As we mentioned above, we created the certificate just to send the public key to the client.
• Signature Algorithm: refers to the element at the bottom of the certificate. The sha256WithRSAEncryption part denotes the hash function and encryption algorithm used to sign the certificate. In the above case, the server uses sha256 as the hash function and RSA as the encryption algorithm. And the following block contains the signed hash of X.509 certificate data, called digital signature. The digital signature is the key information in certificates to establish trust between clients and servers. I’ll explain how a digital certificate works in the next article.

### Summary

This article examines the information contained inside certificates using the tool openssl. We highlight some critical elements, and in the following article let us take a deep look at digital signature.

# How HTTPS works: part two - why we need public key and certificate

### Background

In the first article of this series, I gave a high-level overview of TLS handshake. It covers many complex concepts like encryption/decryption hash function public key private key and digital certificate. These concepts are defined in the framework of Public Key Infrastructure (PKI).

Let’ continue exploring the PKI. This article focuses on understanding the certificates used to establish trust between clients and servers.

### Symmetric plus Asymmetric

Last post examined the TLS handshake. What is remarkable in this process is both symmetric encryption and asymmetric encryption are used.

symmetric encryption and asymmetric encryption are the two broad categories of cryptographic algorithms.

Symmetric key encryption uses the same key on both sides of the communication channel to encrypt or decrypt data. In HTTPS case, the client and server agree upon new keys to use for symmetric encryption, called session key. The HTTP messages are encrypted by this symmetric session key.

It has the advantage of being very fast with low overhead. In this way, it can minimize the performance impact TLS will have on the network communications.

But the real challenge of symmetric encryption is how to keep the key private and secure! The client and server must exchange keys without letting an interested eavesdropper see them. This seems like a chicken and egg problem; you can’t establish keys over an insecure channel, and you can’t establish a secure channel without keys. Right?

This key management turns out to be the most difficult part of encryption operations and is where asymmetric or public-key cryptography enters.

Simply speaking, a secure channel is firstly established with asymmetric cryptography and then the symmetric session key is exchanged through this secure channel.

Note: Cryptography is a complex topic, which isn’t in the scope of this series of articles. You can find tons of documents on the internet about it for deeper understanding. You can regard it as a block box and ignore the details. This doesn’t influence your understanding of HTTPS in high level

### Why do we need certificates

Now we know public-key cryptography is needed to establish a secure channel. Can we directly transmit the public key from servers to clients? Why do we need a certificate as the carrier to pass the public key? Can we exchange the public key without certificates as follows:

But the ultimate question is how you(as the client) know that the public key can be trusted as authentic? Assume that an attacker can not only view traffic, but also can intercept and modify it. Then the attacker can carry out man-in-the-middle attack as follows:

The attacker can replace the server’s public key with its own and send it to the client. The client doesn’t feel anything wrong and keeps using this public key as normal. The client encrypts the session key with the forged public key(the one from attackers) and sends it out. The attacker decrypts the session key with its private key, re-encrypt the session key with the server’s public key, and sends it to the server. As normal, the server decrypts the session key and agrees on it. But this session key is in the attacker’s hand too. The attacker can decrypt all the subsequent network traffic.

The problem here is that the client blindly trusts that the public key belongs to the server. That’s the reason why we need the certificates to establish trust between clients and servers.

### Summary

In this article, we understand the importance of public-key cryptography and certificates. In the next article, we will take a deep look at the certificate.

# How HTTPS works: part one - TLS handshake

### Background

At present, everybody knows about the lock icon in the browser’s address bar indicating that the session is protected by HTTPS.In this series of articles, I’ll show you how HTTPS works based on my research.

Simply speaking, HTTPS = HTTP + SSL/TLS.

In the HTTP protocol, the client communicates with the server by transmitting the message over the network. But the message is in the original format known as plaintext. The bad guys (attackers) can easily eavesdrop on the message. That’s the reason why we need SSL/TLS.

There are tons of articles online describing the relationship between SSL and TLS. You can regard TLS as the modern and advanced version of SSL. By conversion, we generally put them together as the name of the network security protocol.

In the OSI model, the HTTP protocol is in layer 7, which is at the top of protocol stacks, how about TLS protocol. Although TLS is short for Transport Layer Security, it’s not in layer 4(transport layer). You can roughly regard it as layer 5(session layer).

This means there is no nontrivial difference between HTTP and HTTPS in terms of message transmission. This series of articles will focus on the security part of HTTPS. If you want to understand HTTP itself, please read my other articles.

As the first article of this series, I will talk about how to establish an HTTPS connection. This introduces a new concept: TLS handshake.

### TLS Handshake

In my previous article, I wrote about TCP three way handshake to establish a TCP connection. For HTTP protocol, that’s all it needs to do. But HTTPS has to do TLS handshake as well. The process can be illustrated as follows:

Note TLS handshakes occur after a TCP connection has been opened via a TCP handshake.

Note to understand each detail of the above processing, you need to have some prerequisite knowledge such as encryption/decryption, hash function, public key, private key, and digital certificate. If you don’t know, don’t worry. After reading this series of articles, you’ll have it under your belt. In this article, I’ll go through this process roughly and ignore the detail of each step.

• Client hello message: the client starts the handshake by sending a “hello” message to the server. This “hello” message includes the TLS version and the cipher suites supported on the client-side. cipher suites is a fancy name for the set of encryption algorithms for use in establishing a secure connection.

• Server hello message: the server chooses the best(or suitable) SSL/TLS version and encryption algorithm among the candidates sent by the client. The server’s chosen cipher suite and certificate are sent to the client. certificate makes SSL/TLS encryption possible, which is critical to understand the entire process. For now, you need to know certificates contain the server’s public key which is sent to the client. And the private key is kept secret on the server.

• Authentication: The client verifies the server’s certificate (I’ll investigate the certificate verification process at a very detailed level in another article).

• Encrypt the pre-master key: The client generates one random “pre-master” key, encrypts “pre-master” key with the server’s public key (extract from the certificate) and sends the encrypted “pre-master” key to the server.

• Decrypt the pre-master key: The server decrypts the “pre-master” key with its private key (The premaster key is encrypted with the public key and can only be decrypted with the private key by the server. This is called asymmetric encryption).

• Session key created: Both client and server will generate a session key based on the “pre-master” key. The session key should be the same on both sides.

• HTTP message encryption: Until the last step, the handshake is completed. The client and server will use the agreed session key to encrypt the following HTTP messages and continue the communication (since both sides use the same key, this is called symmetric encryption).

That’s all about TLS handshake process.

### Summary

As the first article of this series, I go through the entire process of TLS handshake. In future articles, I’ll show you the mysteries of each part.