The Cryptographic Application Programming Interface (also known variously as CryptoAPI, Microsoft Cryptography API, MS-CAPI or simply CAPI) is an application programming interface included with Microsoft Windows operating systems that provides services to enable developers to secure Windows-based applications usingcryptography. It is a set of dynamically linked libraries that provides an abstraction layer which isolates programmers from the code used to encrypt the data. The Crypto API was first introduced in Windows NT 4.0 and enhanced in subsequent versions.
CryptoAPI supports both public-key and symmetric key cryptography, though persistent symmetric keys are not supported. It includes functionality for encrypting and decrypting data and for authentication using digital certificates. It also includes a cryptographically secure pseudorandom number generator function CryptGenRandom.
CryptoAPI works with a number of CSPs (Cryptographic Service Providers) installed on the machine. CSPs are the modules that do the actual work of encoding and decoding data by performing the cryptographic functions. Vendors of HSMs may supply a CSP which works with their hardware.