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Network Security Services (NSS) 3.0 Plan

Technical contact: Bob Relyea
Yell at the manager: Bob Lord


In January of this year, we announced that we would contribute NSS and PSM to Mozilla. On 2/11, we released tar files which included all the code we knew we could publish. Now that we have gotten through the first publishing process and have committed ourselves to developing our code in the open, it's time to get our code checked into the Mozilla CVS server. Our goals include:
  1. All our unencumbered code is available on the Mozilla CVS server. The Netscape engineers use that server.

  2. Our encumbered code remains inside the firewall.

  3. We bundle OpenNSS with RSAref. It compiles. Sample code compiles and runs.

  4. Netscape engineers (who build NSS for iPlanet server products) will pull from the Mozilla CVS server and the internal server to form a complete package equivalent to what we have today.

  5. In summary: most of the time NSS developers do not notice any significant difference from the time when all the code was inside the firewall.

  6. The end result is that we will have two similar, but different products.

    1. Mozilla NSS 3.0: This product will be based on RSAref. It may not have the same performance characteristics as the iPlanet version at this time. Over time, we will add back any lost performance.

    2. iPlanet NSS 3.0: This product will contain our licensed version of BSAFE. It will have similar functionality and performance to NSS 2.8. This is the version that all iPlanet servers and PSM will take. We will QA it, and support it. This is the version we license to the OEMs. It is a commercial product.


    This is still very tentative.

    The only major milestone we want to track at this point is making NSS code that compiles available on Our current target is mid-April, 2000.


  • NSPR 4.0 support (and not 3.51). We need NSPR 4.0 for PSM 1.2 (which needs to use the Mozilla standard). Note: By using NSPR 4.0, we lose binary backwards compatibility with NSS 2.8

  • As much API backwards compatibility with NSS 2.8 as possible We will need to document all the changes. There are some items listed below.

  • Improved S/MIME Toolkit first landing

API Changes

Here are some of the items we already know will change:
  1. There will be some new header files, and some stuff will move around, so current NSS users will probably have to change some #includes in their sources.

  2. We're adding new libraries, so developers will have to change their Makefiles to link with a new list of NSS libraries.

  3. The RNG interface (Random number generator) is being completely replaced, because it was RSA proprietary. So, if NSS developers have any RNG calls, they'll have to change them.

Proposal to Isolate Licensed Code

We want to maintain our source so that we have two separate builds, from two separate sets of sources: one open source and public, one that continues to use the crypto code we have licensed (and so cannot make public).

The major parts of the proposal are:

  1. We define a new abstracted interface (API) that will be the definition of the APIs provided by the different implementations. This API will be free of RSA encumbrance. Each and every one of the implementations will implement one library that provides exactly this API. Let's call this the bottom-layer crypto API. There will be no calls to functions in these libraries from code outside these libraries, other than to the functions defined in the bottom layer API.

  2. Each of the different implementations will live in a separate directory.

    1. All our existing, licensed BSAFE source code goes into one directory. No Netscape code that is independent of that RSA-encumbered code will be in that directory.

    2. A second directory/library will be the "glue" that implements this API atop BSAFE's public API.

    3. A third directory/library will be the "glue" that implements this API atop RSAref (probably a modified version of RSAref).

    4. There is a "line" that separates the PK11 wrapper layer above from the PKCS11 implementation below (e.g. the software tokens). In this proposal, no directory will contain both "above" code and "below" code. Each source directory in security/lib will be either above or below, not both. The libraries produced from these source directories will also reflect this separation. That means that security/lib/pkcs11 must be split in two, as well as numerous other source directories.

    5. All the calls to functions in the "bottom layer" API must come from code in "below the line" libraries (that is, from inside the software PKCS #11 token). No "above the line" code may include the header file that defines the bottom layer API, or call any of its functions.

    6. These changes will mean a reorganization of the code and breaking up the header files. Lots of #include directives will have to be changed in existing code, but the function prototypes should remain the same.

Benefits of this proposal:

  1. This proposal allows us to have multiple different implementations of basic crypto library functions (public key, symmetric crypto, hashes, MACs, RNG...) some of which can live on, others of which can live inside the Netscape firewall and can "overlay" a working tree from

  2. This proposal allows us to have BSAFE-public-API-based and RSAREF-based implementations on, and BSAFE-internal-based implementation internally, as well as a complete non-BSAFE replacement alternative internally that's waiting to be put on when the patent expires.

  3. This proposal also facilitates multiple people working in parallel on the short term tasks of replacing BSAFE-internal code with BSAFE-public or RSAREF code, and of producing the long term replacement crypto code.