I use Gem in a Box, a Ruby project that allows to create personal self-hosted gem repositories. Gem in a Box uses httpclient to connect to the gem repository. After reviewing my server's TLS setup in the aftermath of the OpenSSL heartbleed bug, I decided only to allow protocol versions of TLSv1 and higher on my server. A decision quite a few fellow administrators made too, because of security vulnerabilities in SSLv3 and below.

Now after I did this change, Gem in a Box refused to work with the following message:

OpenSSL::SSL::SSLError: SSL_connect returned=1 errno=0 state=SSLv3 read server hello A: sslv3 alert handshake failure

I traced this problem back until I found the source in httpclient. Even though OpenSSL can find the best protocol version to use by itself, you set it only to use SSLv3 by default. I think this is a very bad idea and created a patch which lets OpenSSL do its own decision again by default.

As I am not so familiar with OpenSSL itself and the documentation of the Ruby binding is severely lacking I want to prevent introducing more problems than there were originally. Please review my changes and verify that it is doing what I intended.

It is quite hard to post the actual changes here because they are only meaningful if one knows the context. So now I will try to describe what I did:

httpclient has a class called SSLConfig which seems to produce helper objects to configure OpenSSL sockets. It sets some default configurations in its #initialize method. Originally it had the @ssl_version instance variable set to "SSLv3", When using the library an instance of SSLConfig is created and its #set_context method is called which applies the aforementioned defaults onto an instance of OpenSSL::SSL::SSLContext, which afterwards seems to be used to create OpenSSL sockets.

I now changed to initial value of @ssl_version to the symbol :auto and modified the #set_context method to only set the actual value of @ssl_version to the SSLContext object, if its value is not :auto.

Manual testing so far resulted in the exact effect I wanted to achieve.

Here are some relevant snippets from lib/httpclient/ssl_config.rb:

class SSLConfig


  # Which TLS protocol version (also called method) will be used. Defaults
  # to :auto which means that OpenSSL decides (In my tests this resulted 
  # with always the highest available protocol being used).
  # See the content of OpenSSL::SSL::SSLContext::METHODS for a list of
  # available versions in your specific Ruby environment.
  attr_reader :ssl_version


  # Creates a SSLConfig.
  def initialize(client)
    return unless SSLEnabled
    @client = client
    @cert_store = X509::Store.new
    @client_cert = @client_key = @client_ca = nil
    @verify_depth = nil
    @verify_callback = nil
    @dest = nil
    @timeout = nil
    @ssl_version = :auto
    @options = defined?(SSL::OP_ALL) ? SSL::OP_ALL | SSL::OP_NO_SSLv2 : nil
    # OpenSSL 0.9.8 default: "ALL:!ADH:!LOW:!EXP:!MD5:+SSLv2:@STRENGTH"
    @ciphers = "ALL:!aNULL:!eNULL:!SSLv2" # OpenSSL >1.0.0 default
    @cacerts_loaded = false


  # interfaces for SSLSocketWrap.
  def set_context(ctx) # :nodoc:
    load_trust_ca unless @cacerts_loaded
    @cacerts_loaded = true
    # Verification: Use Store#verify_callback instead of SSLContext#verify*?
    ctx.cert_store = @cert_store
    ctx.verify_mode = @verify_mode
    ctx.verify_depth = @verify_depth if @verify_depth
    ctx.verify_callback = @verify_callback || method(:default_verify_callback)
    # SSL config
    ctx.cert = @client_cert
    ctx.key = @client_key
    ctx.client_ca = @client_ca
    ctx.timeout = @timeout
    ctx.options = @options
    ctx.ciphers = @ciphers
    ctx.ssl_version = @ssl_version unless @ssl_version == :auto



Here's what is using the #set_context method in lib/httpclient/session.rb:


def create_openssl_socket(socket)
  ssl_socket = nil
  if OpenSSL::SSL.const_defined?("SSLContext")
    ctx = OpenSSL::SSL::SSLContext.new
    ssl_socket = OpenSSL::SSL::SSLSocket.new(socket, ctx)
    ssl_socket = OpenSSL::SSL::SSLSocket.new(socket)


I've got a few things to say about the code, but having looked at the diff:

-      @ssl_version = "SSLv3"
+      @ssl_version = :auto


-      ctx.ssl_version = @ssl_version
+      ctx.ssl_version = @ssl_version unless @ssl_version == :auto

your code changes seem minimal, and to the point doing exactly what they are supposed to do, and nothing more.

What I think you should add are the tests to show your changes, and make sure no-one will break your code in the future.


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