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This repository is part of the source code of Wire. You can find more information at wire.com or by contacting opensource@wire.com.

You can find the published source code at github.com/wireapp.

For licensing information, see the attached LICENSE file and the list of third-party licenses at wire.com/legal/licenses/.

Cryptobox - C API

cryptobox-c provides a high-level C API for the cryptobox library.

Disclaimer: This project is an early work-in-progress.






Valgrind must be installed, then

make test


The current build can produce a basic Debian package. Makedeb must be installed, then

make dist

will place the package into target/release/. These debian packages are usually attached to every release and can be downloaded via github.

Language Bindings

  • Java / Android: A Java API through JNI with support for cross-compilation to Android is provided by cryptobox-jni.
  • Objective-C / iOS: Cross-compiled binaries for iOS as well as an Objective-C API is provided by cryptobox-ios.
  • Haskell: Haskell FFI bindings are available through cryptobox-haskell.

API Overview

The following is an API overview. For detailed function signatures, refer to the cbox.h header file.


A CBox is an opaque container for all the necessary key material of a single client (e.g. a single device of a user). A CBox is allocated with a call to cbox_file_open. It takes a path as an argument which must be a valid file path pointing to an existing directory. That directory becomes the root directory for all data stored by that CBox or any of the CBoxSessions obtained from it.

Note: Do not create multiple CBoxes that operate on the same or overlapping directories.

Opened CBoxes should typically be used for an extended period of time to obtain sessions and in turn encrypt and decrypt messages.

Note: Every call to cbox_file_open must be paired with a cbox_close to properly deallocate the CBox.


A CBoxSession represents a cryptographic session between two endpoints (e.g. devices). Sessions are identified through a session ID, which is an opaque C string for the CryptoBox API. A session ID should uniquely identify a remote client or device.

Obtaining an existing session

Before deciding to initialise a new session, a client typically tries to obtain an existing session using cbox_session_get. If no session is found, the CBOX_NO_SESSION error code is returned.

Initialising a new session

If no session for a given session ID exists, a new session can be initialised either through cbox_session_init_from_prekey or cbox_session_init_from_message.

A client who wants to send a message to another client with whom no session exists obtains a prekey from its peer (directly or indirectly) and uses cbox_session_init_from_prekey.

A client who receives an encrypted message from another client with whom he has no existing session uses cbox_session_init_from_message.

Encrypting and decrypting messages

Once a session is obtained it can be used to encrypt and decrypt messages via cbox_encrypt and cbox_decrypt, respectively.

The encrypt and decrypt operations fill CBoxVec structures which provide access to the encrypted or decrypted data via cbox_vec_data as well as its length through cbox_vec_len. Once the data has been consumed and is no longer needed, a CBoxVec must be freed using cbox_vec_free.

Note: Every call to cbox_session_get, cbox_session_init_from_prekey or cbox_session_init_from_message must be paired with a cbox_session_close to properly deallocate the CBoxSession.

Saving a session

After successfully encrypting and/or decrypting one or more messages, a session can be saved through cbox_session_save. Once a session is saved, the changes to the key material are permanent, e.g. a decrypt operation cannot be repeated. It can therefore be advisable to save a session only once the decrypted plaintext has been safely stored.


In order to establish sessions, one client must be able to obtain a prekey from another. To generate a prekey, cbox_new_prekey is used, which fills a CBoxVec with the public key meterial of the newly generated prekey which can then be sent directly to another client or uploaded to a server for others to download.


Public key fingerprints can be compared out-of-band to protect against MITM attacks. The functions cbox_fingerprint_local and cbox_fingerprint_remote are provided for that purpose.


The API is not thread-safe. However, distinct CBoxes and CBoxSessions can be used independently (and concurrently). It is up to client code or higher-level language bindings to provide thread-safety as necessary for the desired usage pattern.

Note: When sessions are used concurrently, it is important to make sure not to have two or more sessions with the same session ID in use at the same time.