"The OpenSSL Project is a collaborative effort to develop a robust, commercial-grade, full-featured, and Open Source toolkit implementing the Secure Sockets Layer (SSL v2/v3) and Transport Layer Security (TLS v1) protocols as well as a full-strength general purpose cryptography library. The project is managed by a worldwide community of volunteers that use the Internet to communicate, plan, and develop the OpenSSL toolkit and its related documentation. "
Ultimately its a general purpose security library used by various SECURE protocols (such as SSH and Apache, SCP, etc) for secure communication.
EDIT: you DO need it and you DO need the latest version of it for most features/security. (various vulnerabilities were discovered in old versions). A good general practive is to keep your OpenSSL and OpenSSH updated to the latest stable version available to avoid any possible exploits.
Last edited by Mikhail_16; 08-31-2004 at 01:12 PM.