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OpenSSH vs OpenSSL: What are the differences?

OpenSSH and OpenSSL are two widely used open-source security software libraries that provide cryptographic functions and protocols for secure communication over the internet. Let's explore the key differences between them.

  1. Transport Layer vs. Cryptographic Library: OpenSSH primarily focuses on providing secure remote login and file transfer capabilities, acting as a transport layer protocol. On the other hand, OpenSSL is a general-purpose cryptography library that offers cryptographic functions, protocols, and algorithms for various applications beyond just secure communication.

  2. SSH Protocol vs. SSL/TLS Protocol: OpenSSH is designed to provide secure communication through the SSH (Secure Shell) protocol, which is primarily used for secure remote access and file transfers. OpenSSL, on the other hand, supports the SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) and TLS (Transport Layer Security) protocols, which are widely used for secure communication in web applications, email protocols, VPNs, and more.

  3. Authentication and Key Management: OpenSSH provides authentication mechanisms such as password-based authentication, public key authentication, and host-based authentication. It also includes features like key management and agent forwarding. OpenSSL, on the other hand, focuses on cryptographic functions and does not provide built-in authentication mechanisms. It requires integration with other protocols or applications to handle authentication and key management.

  4. Specific Use Cases: OpenSSH is commonly used for secure remote login (via SSH) to manage remote servers, perform administrative tasks, and transfer files securely. It is widely used in the Unix/Linux world. OpenSSL, on the other hand, is used in a broader range of applications where secure communication and encryption are required. This includes web servers, email servers, VPN gateways, digital certificates, and more.

  5. License: OpenSSH is released under the BSD (Berkeley Software Distribution) license, which allows for easy adoption, modification, and redistribution. OpenSSL, on the other hand, has a dual license model, offering both an Apache-style license and an OpenSSL license. This provides flexibility for developers and users in terms of licensing and usage.

  6. Community Support and Development: OpenSSH has a dedicated development community that focuses on maintaining and improving the software. It receives regular updates and security patches to address vulnerabilities and enhance functionality. While OpenSSL also has a strong community, it has faced some security challenges and vulnerabilities in the past. However, efforts have been made to improve the overall security and reliability of the OpenSSL software.

In summary, OpenSSH is primarily used for secure remote login and file transfers, while OpenSSL provides a broader range of cryptographic functions and protocols for various applications.

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What is OpenSSH?

It is the premier connectivity tool for remote login with the SSH protocol. It encrypts all traffic to eliminate eavesdropping, connection hijacking, and other attacks. In addition, OpenSSH provides a large suite of secure tunneling capabilities, several authentication methods, and sophisticated configuration options.

What is OpenSSL?

It is a robust, commercial-grade, and full-featured toolkit for the Transport Layer Security (TLS) and Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) protocols. It is also a general-purpose cryptography library.

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What companies use OpenSSH?
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What are some alternatives to OpenSSH and OpenSSL?
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