blob: 7b33797620ce99a51444b5da11736d6e0cb92be1 [file] [log] [blame] [view]
# BoringSSL API Conventions
This document describes conventions for BoringSSL APIs. The [style
guide](/ also includes guidelines, but this document is targeted at
both API consumers and developers.
## Documentation
All supported public APIs are documented in the public header files, found in
`include/openssl`. The API documentation is also available
Some headers lack documention comments. These are functions and structures from
OpenSSL's legacy ASN.1, X.509, and PEM implementation. If possible, avoid using
them. These are left largely unmodified from upstream and are retained only for
compatibility with existing OpenSSL consumers.
## Forward declarations
Do not write `typedef struct foo_st FOO` or try otherwise to define BoringSSL's
types. Including `openssl/base.h` (or `openssl/ossl_typ.h` for consumers who
wish to be OpenSSL-compatible) will forward-declare each type without importing
the rest of the library or invasive macros.
## Error-handling
Most functions in BoringSSL may fail, either due to allocation failures or input
errors. Functions which return an `int` typically return one on success and zero
on failure. Functions which return a pointer typically return `NULL` on failure.
However, due to legacy constraints, some functions are more complex. Consult the
API documentation before using a function.
On error, most functions also push errors on the error queue, an `errno`-like
mechanism. See the documentation for
for more details.
As with `errno`, callers must test the function's return value, not the error
queue to determine whether an operation failed. Some codepaths may not interact
with the error queue, and the error queue may have state from a previous failed
When ignoring a failed operation, it is recommended to call `ERR_clear_error` to
avoid the state interacting with future operations. Failing to do so should not
affect the actual behavior of any functions, but may result in errors from both
operations being mixed in error logging. We hope to
[improve]( this
situation in the future.
Where possible, avoid conditioning on specific reason codes and limit usage to
logging. The reason codes are very specific and may change over time.
## Memory allocation
BoringSSL allocates memory via `OPENSSL_malloc`, found in `mem.h`. Use
`OPENSSL_free`, found in the same header file, to release it. BoringSSL
functions will fail gracefully on allocation error, but it is recommended to use
a `malloc` implementation that `abort`s on failure.
## Object initialization and cleanup
BoringSSL defines a number of structs for use in its APIs. It is a C library,
so the caller is responsible for ensuring these structs are properly
initialized and released. Consult the documentation for a module for the
proper use of its types. Some general conventions are listed below.
### Heap-allocated types
Some types, such as `RSA`, are heap-allocated. All instances will be allocated
and returned from BoringSSL's APIs. It is an error to instantiate a heap-
allocated type on the stack or embedded within another object.
Heap-allocated types may have functioned named like `RSA_new` which allocates a
fresh blank `RSA`. Other functions may also return newly-allocated instances.
For example, `RSA_parse_public_key` is documented to return a newly-allocated
`RSA` object.
Heap-allocated objects must be released by the corresponding free function,
named like `RSA_free`. Like C's `free` and C++'s `delete`, all free functions
internally check for `NULL`. Consumers are not required to check for `NULL`
before calling.
A heap-allocated type may be reference-counted. In this case, a function named
like `RSA_up_ref` will be available to take an additional reference count. The
free function must be called to decrement the reference count. It will only
release resources when the final reference is released. For OpenSSL
compatibility, these functions return `int`, but callers may assume they always
successfully return one because reference counts use saturating arithmetic.
C++ consumers are recommended to use `bssl::UniquePtr` to manage heap-allocated
objects. `bssl::UniquePtr<T>`, like other types, is forward-declared in
`openssl/base.h`. Code that needs access to the free functions, such as code
which destroys a `bssl::UniquePtr`, must include the corresponding module's
header. (This matches `std::unique_ptr`'s relationship with forward
### Stack-allocated types
Other types in BoringSSL are stack-allocated, such as `EVP_MD_CTX`. These
types may be allocated on the stack or embedded within another object.
However, they must still be initialized before use.
Every stack-allocated object in BoringSSL has a *zero state*, analogous to
initializing a pointer to `NULL`. In this state, the object may not be
completely initialized, but it is safe to call cleanup functions. Entering the
zero state cannot fail. (It is usually `memset(0)`.)
The function to enter the zero state is named like `EVP_MD_CTX_init` or
`CBB_zero` and will always return `void`. To release resources associated with
the type, call the cleanup function, named like `EVP_MD_CTX_cleanup`. The
cleanup function must be called on all codepaths, regardless of success or
failure. For example:
uint8_t md[EVP_MAX_MD_SIZE];
unsigned md_len;
EVP_MD_CTX_init(&ctx); /* Enter the zero state. */
int ok = EVP_DigestInit_ex(&ctx, EVP_sha256(), NULL) &&
EVP_DigestUpdate(&ctx, "hello ", 6) &&
EVP_DigestUpdate(&ctx, "world", 5) &&
EVP_DigestFinal_ex(&ctx, md, &md_len);
EVP_MD_CTX_cleanup(&ctx); /* Release |ctx|. */
Note that `EVP_MD_CTX_cleanup` is called whether or not the `EVP_Digest*`
operations succeeded. More complex C functions may use the `goto err` pattern:
int ret = 0;
if (!some_other_operation()) {
goto err;
uint8_t md[EVP_MAX_MD_SIZE];
unsigned md_len;
if (!EVP_DigestInit_ex(&ctx, EVP_sha256(), NULL) ||
!EVP_DigestUpdate(&ctx, "hello ", 6) ||
!EVP_DigestUpdate(&ctx, "world", 5) ||
!EVP_DigestFinal_ex(&ctx, md, &md_len) {
goto err;
ret = 1;
return ret;
Note that, because `ctx` is set to the zero state before any failures,
`EVP_MD_CTX_cleanup` is safe to call even if the first operation fails before
`EVP_DigestInit_ex`. However, it would be illegal to move the `EVP_MD_CTX_init`
below the `some_other_operation` call.
As a rule of thumb, enter the zero state of stack-allocated structs in the
same place they are declared.
C++ consumers are recommended to use the wrappers named like
`bssl::ScopedEVP_MD_CTX`, defined in the corresponding module's header. These
wrappers are automatically initialized to the zero state and are automatically
cleaned up.
### Data-only types
A few types, such as `SHA_CTX`, are data-only types and do not require cleanup.
These are usually for low-level cryptographic operations. These types may be
used freely without special cleanup conventions.
## Thread safety
BoringSSL is internally aware of the platform threading library and calls into
it as needed. Consult the API documentation for the threading guarantees of
particular objects. In general, stateless reference-counted objects like `RSA`
or `EVP_PKEY` which represent keys may typically be used from multiple threads
simultaneously, provided no thread mutates the key.