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HOWTO: PHP TCP Server/Client with SSL Encryption using Streams

Thursday 5 May, 2011



PHP provides methods to allow you to listen on a TCP port, accept incoming connections and then send and receive SSL encrypted data over the established link.

How it works

First you need to prepare a SSL Certificate for PHP to use in its communication. In this example i will get PHP to create a new self-signed cert everytime the serverside script is started. (But you could use a standard cert as long as its in the pem format).

Then you set PHP to listen on a TCP IP:Port and accept any new incoming connections using the "streams" php extension. At the point of accepting a new connection PHP will queue the commands for each client which connects and run them in order. When a connection is closed it will move the to the next queued client. This allows multiple connections to be active at once without you worrying about manually forking for each. Each connection will get answered, in the order they connected. If your scripts take a long time to execute or you need a concurrency, You may also wish to fork a new process at this point, but we have not included that in this example.

Because we are using the streams extension, once your connection is established, you can read and write to the connection just like you would a local file, using fread/fwrite. But at the other end of the fread/fwrite is not a file, but another program.

Server side script

For the purpose of this example, I will presume you are running a cli php script (which wont timeout etc). I've also only implemented one command being run on each connection, but it is fairly straight forward to change this so you can have a flow of commands and responses going back and forth.

The script will take the following steps;

  • Create a Self-signed SSL Certificate
  • Attach to a TCP IP:Port and listen for connections
  • Accept an incoming connection
  • Switch to SSL
  • Wait and accept a command from the client
  • Respond to command
  • Close the connection

Client side script

This is the script which will run on the client side of the connection

The script will take the following steps;

  • Connect to IP:PORT
  • Switch to SSL
  • Send a command
  • Receive a response
  • Close the connection
  • Echo out the response Received


Download Server/Client Example

You can Download the example code listed below, with the proper tab formatting.


Server side script Code

Make sure you set all of the example variables with your information.

 *  Example of HOWTO: PHP TCP Server/Client with SSL Encryption using Streams
 *  Server side Script
 *  Website :

$ip="";               //Set the TCP IP Address to listen on
$port="8099";                  //Set the TCP Port to listen on
$pem_passphrase = "<your password>";   //Set a password here
$pem_file = "filename.pem";    //Set a path/filename for the PEM SSL Certificate which will be created.

//The following array of data is needed to generate the SSL Cert
$pem_dn = array(
 "countryName" => "UK",                 //Set your country name
 "stateOrProvinceName" => "Herts",      //Set your state or province name
 "localityName" => "St. Albans",        //Ser your city name
 "organizationName" => "Your Company",  //Set your company name
 "organizationalUnitName" => "Your Department", //Set your department name
 "commonName" => "Your full hostname",  //Set your full hostname.
 "emailAddress" => "[email protected]"  //Set your email address

//create ssl cert for this scripts life.
echo "Creating SSL Cert\n";
createSSLCert($pem_file, $pem_passphrase, $pem_dn);

//setup and listen to a tcp IP/port, returning the socket stream
echo "Listening to {$ip}:{$port} for connections\n";
$socket = setupTcpStreamServer($pem_file, $pem_passphrase, $ip, $port);

//enter a loop until an exit command is received.
while($exit==false) {

 //Accept any new connections
 $forkedSocket = stream_socket_accept($socket, "-1", $remoteIp);

 echo "New connection from $remoteIp\n";

 //start SSL on the connection
 stream_set_blocking ($forkedSocket, true); // block the connection until SSL is done.
 stream_socket_enable_crypto($forkedSocket, true, STREAM_CRYPTO_METHOD_SSLv3_SERVER);

 //Read the command from the client. This will read 8192 bytes of data, If you need to read more you may need to increase this. However some systems will fragment the command over 8192 anyway, so you would instead need to write a loop waiting for the command input to end before proceeding.
 $command = fread($forkedSocket, 8192);

 //unblock connection
 stream_set_blocking ($forkedSocket, false);

 //run a switch on the command to determine what we need to do
 switch($command) {
  //exit command will cause this script to quit out
  CASE "exit";
   echo "exit command received \n";

  //hi command
  CASE "hi";
   //write back to the client a response.
   fwrite($forkedSocket, "Hello {$remoteIp}. This is our $i command run!");

   echo "hi command received \n";

 //close the connection to the client

function createSSLCert($pem_file, $pem_passphrase, $pem_dn) {
//create ssl cert for this scripts life.

 //Create private key
 $privkey = openssl_pkey_new();

 //Create and sign CSR
 $cert    = openssl_csr_new($pem_dn, $privkey);
 $cert    = openssl_csr_sign($cert, null, $privkey, 365);

 //Generate PEM file
 $pem = array();
 openssl_x509_export($cert, $pem[0]);
 openssl_pkey_export($privkey, $pem[1], $pem_passphrase);
 $pem = implode($pem);

 //Save PEM file
 file_put_contents($pem_file, $pem);
 chmod($pem_file, 0600);

function setupTcpStreamServer($pem_file, $pem_passphrase, $ip, $port) {
//setup and listen to a tcp IP/port, returning the socket stream

 //create a stream context for our SSL settings
 $context = stream_context_create();

 //Setup the SSL Options
 stream_context_set_option($context, 'ssl', 'local_cert', $pem_file);  // Our SSL Cert in PEM format
 stream_context_set_option($context, 'ssl', 'passphrase', $pem_passphrase); // Private key Password
 stream_context_set_option($context, 'ssl', 'allow_self_signed', true);
 stream_context_set_option($context, 'ssl', 'verify_peer', false);

 //create a stream socket on IP:Port
 $socket = stream_socket_server("tcp://{$ip}:{$port}", $errno, $errstr, STREAM_SERVER_BIND|STREAM_SERVER_LISTEN, $context);
 stream_socket_enable_crypto($socket, false);

 return $socket;


Client side script Code

Make sure you set all of the example variables with your information.

 *  Example of HOWTO: PHP TCP Server/Client with SSL Encryption using Streams
 *  Client side Script
 *  Website :

$ip="";     //Set the TCP IP Address to connect too
$port="8099";        //Set the TCP PORT to connect too
$command="hi";       //Command to run

//Connect to Server
$socket = stream_socket_client("tcp://{$ip}:{$port}", $errno, $errstr, 30);

if($socket) {
 //Start SSL
 stream_set_blocking ($socket, true);
 stream_socket_enable_crypto ($socket, true, STREAM_CRYPTO_METHOD_SSLv3_CLIENT);
 stream_set_blocking ($socket, false);

 //Send a command
 fwrite($socket, $command);

 $buf = null;
 //Receive response from server. Loop until the response is finished
 while (!feof($socket)) {
  $buf .= fread($socket, 20240);

 //close connection

 //echo our command response
 echo $buf;

Written By...

Lee Simpson

Software Engineer, Linux Wizard, proud father of 3 boys