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1.1 SASL Overview

SASL is a framework for application protocols, such as SMTP or IMAP, to add authentication support. For example, SASL is used to prove to the server who you are when you access an IMAP server to read your e-mail.

The SASL framework does not specify the technology used to perform the authentication, that is the responsibility for each SASL mechanism. Popular SASL mechanisms include CRAM-MD5 and GSSAPI (for Kerberos V5).

Typically a SASL negotiation works as follows. First the client requests authentication (possibly implicitly by connecting to the server). The server responds with a list of supported mechanisms. The client chose one of the mechanisms. The client and server then exchange data, one round-trip at a time, until authentication either succeeds or fails. After that, the client and server knows more about who is on the other end of the channel.

For example, in SMTP communication happens like this: Hello [], pleased to meet you
     250 HELP
     334 PDk5MDgwNDEzMDUwNTUyMTE1NDQ5LjBAbG9jYWxob3N0Pg==
     235 2.0.0 OK Authenticated

Here the first three lines are sent by the server and contains the list of supported mechanisms (DIGEST-MD5, CRAM-MD5, etc). The next line is sent by the client to select the CRAM-MD5 mechanism. The server replies with a challenge, which is a message that can be generated by calling GNU SASL functions. The client replies with a response, which also is a message that can be generated by GNU SASL functions. Depending on the mechanism, there can be more than one round trip, so do not assume all authentication exchanges consists of one message from the server and one from the client. The server accepts the authentication. At that point it knows it is talking to a authenticated client, and the application protocol can continue.

Essentially, your application is responsible for implementing the framing protocol (e.g., SMTP or XMPP) according to the particular specifications. Your application uses GNU SASL to generate the authentication messages.