Jiajun Yao

Stay hungry, Stay foolish.

OpenSSL Read Ahead & Epoll

Use epoll with a ssl socket and ignore the OpenSSL read ahead feature


I write a python program to implement IMAP client that uses the IDLE command. So I have a ssl client socket and I use epoll level triggered mode to implement non-blocking socket.

However, epoll doesn’t work correctly. For example, in the IDLE mode, IMAP server sends two lines at a time. My client select.epoll() function returns because the ssl socket is readable. Then I read one line and call select.epoll() again. Because I use epoll level triggered mode so the select.epoll() should return immediately because the socket still has one line that is ready for read. But in fact, when I call select.epoll() again, it blocks and doesn’t return.


OpenSSL has read ahead feature, which means that it may read more data to its internal buffer. So when I read one line, it may indead read two lines, decrypt and store them to the internal buffer. That is why select.epoll() blocks because all the data in the underlying socket is read to the OpenSSL internal buffer and the socket is unreadable.


Use pending() method to see whether ssl has decrypted bytes that are available for read.


For more information about OpenSSL read ahead feature, you can refer to “SSL and TLS Designing and Building Secure Systems” section 8.9.