in Index   Prev   Next

RFC 4158

Internet X.509 Public Key Infrastructure: Certification Path Building

Pages: 81
Part 4 of 4 – Pages 60 to 81
First   Prev   None

Top   ToC   RFC4158 - Page 60   prevText

4. Forward Policy Chaining

It is tempting to jump to the conclusion that certificate policies offer little assistance to path building when building from the target certificate. It's easy to understand the "validate as you go" approach from the trust anchor, and much less obvious that any value can be derived in the other direction. However, since policy validation consists of the intersection of the issuer policy set with the subject policy set and the mapping of policies from the issuer set to the subject set, policy validation can be done while building a path in the forward direction as well as the reverse. It is simply a matter of reversing the procedure. That is not to say this is as ideal as policy validation when building from the trust anchor, but it does offer a method that can be used to mostly eliminate what has long been considered a weakness inherent to building in the forward (from the target certificate) direction.
Top   ToC   RFC4158 - Page 61

4.1. Simple Intersection

The most basic form of policy processing is the intersection of the policy sets from the first CA certificate through the target certificate. Fortunately, the intersection of policy sets will always yield the same final set regardless of the order of intersection. This allows processing of policy set intersections in either direction. For example, if the trust anchor issues a CA certificate (A) with policies {X,Y,Z}, and that CA issues another CA certificate (B) with policies {X,Y}, and CA B then issues a third CA certificate (C) with policy set {Y,G}, one normally calculates the policy set from the trust anchor as follows: 1) Intersect A{X,Y,Z} with B{X,Y} to yield the set {X,Y} 2) Intersect that result, {X,Y} with C{Y,G} to yield the final set {Y} Now it has been shown that certificate C is good for policy Y. The other direction is exactly the same procedure, only in reverse: 1) Intersect C{Y,G} with B{X,Y} to yield the set {Y} 2) Intersect that result, {Y} with A{X,Y,Z} to yield the final set {Y} Just like in the reverse direction, it has been shown that certificate C is good for policy Y, but this time in the forward direction. When building in the forward direction, policy processing is handled much like it is in reverse -- the software lends preference to certificates that propagate policies. Neither approach guarantees that a path with valid policies will be found, but rather both approaches help guide the path in the direction it should go in order for the policies to propagate. If the caller has supplied an initial-acceptable-policy set, there is less value in using it when building in the forward direction unless the caller also set inhibit-policy-mapping. In that case, the path builder can further constrain the path building to propagating policies that exist in the initial-acceptable-policy-set. However, even if the inhibit-policy-mapping is not set, the initial-policy-set can still be used to guide the path building toward the desired trust anchor.
Top   ToC   RFC4158 - Page 62

4.2. Policy Mapping

When a CA issues a certificate into another domain, an environment with disparate policy identifiers to its own, the CA may make use of policy mappings to map equivalence from the local domain's policy to the non-local domain's policy. If in the prior example, A had included a policy mapping that mapped X to G in the certificate it issued to B, C would be good for X and Y: 1) Intersect A{X,Y,Z} with B{X,Y} to yield the set {X,Y} 2) Process Policy Mappings in B's certificate (X maps to G) to yield {G,Y} (same as {Y,G}) 3) Intersect that result, {G,Y} with C{Y,G} to yield the final set {G,Y} Since policies are always expressed in the relying party's domain, the certificate C is said to be good for {X, Y}, not {Y, G}. This is because "G" doesn't mean anything in the context of the trust anchor that issued A without the policy mapping. When building in the forward direction, policies can be "unmapped" by reversing the mapping procedure. This procedure is limited by one important aspect: if policy mapping has occurred in the forward direction, there is no mechanism by which it can be known in advance whether or not a future addition to the current path will invalidate the policy chain (assuming one exists) by setting inhibit-policy- mapping. Fortunately, it is uncommon practice to set this flag. The following is the procedure for processing policy mapping in the forward direction: 1) Begin with C's policy set {Y,G} 2) Apply the policy mapping in B's certificate (X maps to G) in reverse to yield {Y,X} (same as {X,Y}) 3) Intersect the result {X,Y} with B{X,Y} to yield the set {X,Y} 4) Intersect that result, {X,Y}, with A{X,Y,Z} to yield the final set {X,Y} Just like in the reverse direction, it is determined in the forward direction that certificate C is good for policies {X,Y}. If during this procedure, an inhibit-policy-mapping flag was encountered, what should be done? This is reasonably easy to keep track of as well. The software simply maintains a flag on any policies that were propagated as a result of a mapping; just a simple Boolean kept with
Top   ToC   RFC4158 - Page 63
   the policies in the set.  Imagine now that the certificate issued to
   A has the inhibit-policy-mapping constraint expressed with a skip
   certificates value of zero.

   1) Begin with C's policy set {Y,G}

   2) Apply the policy mapping in B's certificate and mark X as
      resulting from a mapping. (X maps to G) in reverse to yield {Y,Xm}
      (same as {Xm,Y})

   3) Intersect the result {Xm,Y} with B{X,Y} to yield the set {Xm,Y}

   4) A's certificate expresses the inhibit policy mapping constraint,
      so eliminate any policies in the current set that were propagated
      due to mapping (which is Xm) to yield {Y}

   5) Intersect that result, {Y} with A{X,Y,Z} to yield the final set

   If in our example, the policy set had gone to empty at any point (and
   require-explicit-policy was set), the path building would back up and
   try to traverse another branch of the tree.  This is analogous to the
   path-building functionality utilized in the reverse direction when
   the policy set goes to empty.

4.3. Assigning Scores for Forward Policy Chaining

Assuming the path-building module is maintaining the current forward policy set, weights may be assigned using the following procedure: 1) For each CA certificate being scored: a. Copy the current forward policy set. b. Process policy mappings in the CA certificate in order to "un-map" policies, if any. c. Intersect the resulting set with CA certificate's policies. The larger the policy set yielded, the larger the score for that CA certificate. 2) If an initial acceptable set was supplied, intersect this set with the resulting set for each CA certificate from (1). The larger the resultant set, the higher the score is for this certificate.
Top   ToC   RFC4158 - Page 64
   Other scoring schemes may work better if the operating environment

5. Avoiding Path-Building Errors

This section defines some errors that may occur during the path- building process, as well as ways to avoid these errors when developing path-building functions.

5.1. Dead Ends

When building certification paths in a non-hierarchical PKI structure, a simple path-building algorithm could fail prematurely without finding an existing path due to a "dead end". Consider the example in Figure 14. +----+ +---+ | TA | | Z | +----+ +---+ | | | | V V +---+ +---+ | C |<-----| Y | +---+ +---+ | | V +--------+ | Target | +--------+ Figure 14 - Dead End Example Note that in the example, C has two certificates: one issued by Y, and the other issued by the Trust Anchor. Suppose that a simple "find issuer" algorithm is used, and the order in which the path builder found the certificates was Target(C), C(Y), Y(Z), Z(Z). In this case, Z has no certificates issued by any other entities, and so the simplistic path-building process stops. Since Z is not the relying party's trust anchor, the certification path is not complete, and will not validate. This example shows that in anything but the simplest PKI structure, additional path-building logic will need to handle the cases in which entities are issued multiple certificates from different issuers. The path-building algorithm will also need to have the ability to traverse back up the decision tree and try another path in order to be robust.
Top   ToC   RFC4158 - Page 65

5.2. Loop Detection

In a non-hierarchical PKI structure, a path-building algorithm may become caught in a loop without finding an existing path. Consider the example below: +----+ | TA | +----+ | | +---+ +---+ | A | ->| Z | +---+ / +---+ | / | | / | V / V +---+ +---+ | B |<-----| Y | +---+ +---+ | | V +--------+ | Target | +--------+ Figure 15 - Loop Example Let us suppose that in this example the simplest "find issuer" algorithm is used, and the order in which certificates are retrieved is Target(B), B(Y), Y(Z), Z(B), B(Y), Y(Z), Z(B), B(Y), ... A loop has formed that will cause the correct path (Target, B, A) to never be found. The certificate processing system will need to recognize loops created by duplicate certificates (which are prohibited in a path by [X.509]) before they form to allow the certification path- building process to continue and find valid paths. The authors of this document recommend that the loop detection not only detect the repetition of a certificate in the path, but also detect the presence of the same subject name / subject alternative name/ subject public key combination occurring twice in the path. A name/key pair should only need to appear once in the path. (See Section 2.4.2 for more information on the reasoning behind this recommendation.)
Top   ToC   RFC4158 - Page 66

5.3. Use of Key Identifiers

Inconsistent and/or incompatible approaches to computing the subject key identifier and authority key identifier in public key certificates can cause failures in certification path-building algorithms that use those fields to identify certificates, even though otherwise valid certification paths may exist. Path-building implementations should use existing key identifiers and not attempt to re-compute subject key identifiers. It is extremely important that Key Identifiers be used only as sorting criteria or hints. KIDs are not required to match during certification path validation and cannot be used to eliminate certificates. This is of critical importance for interoperating across domains and multi-vendor implementations where the KIDs may not be calculated in the same fashion. Path-building and processing implementations should not rely on the form of authority key identifier that uses the authority DN and serial number as a restrictive matching rule, because cross- certification can lead to this value not being matched by the cross- certificates.

5.4. Distinguished Name Encoding

Certification path-building software should not rely on DNs being encoded as PrintableString. Although frequently encoded as PrintableString, DNs may also appear as other types, including BMPString or UTF8String. As a result, software systems that are unable to process BMPString and UTF8String encoded DNs may be unable to build and validate some certification paths. Furthermore, [RFC3280] compliant certificates are required to encode DNs as UTF8String as of January 1, 2004. Certification path-building software should be prepared to handle "name rollover" certificates as described in [RFC3280]. Note that the inclusion of a "name rollover" certificate in a certification path does not constitute repetition of a DN and key. Implementations that include the "name rollover" certificate in the path should ensure that the DNs with differing encoding are regarded as dissimilar. (Implementations may instead handle matching DNs of different encodings and will therefore not need to include "name rollover" certificates in the path.)
Top   ToC   RFC4158 - Page 67

6. Retrieval Methods

Building a certification path requires the availability of the certificates and CRLs that make up the path. There are many different methods for obtaining these certificates and CRLs. This section lists a few of the common ways to perform this retrieval, as well as some suggested approaches for improving performance. This section is not intended to provide a complete reference for certificate and CRL retrieval methods or optimizations that would be useful in certification path building.

6.1. Directories Using LDAP

Most applications utilize the Lightweight Directory Access Protocol (LDAP) when retrieving data from directories following the X.500 model. Applications may encounter directories which support either LDAP v2 [RFC1777] or LDAP v3 [RFC3377]. The LDAP v3 specification defines one attribute retrieval option, the "binary" option. When specified in an LDAP retrieval request, this option was intended to force the directory to ignore any string-based representations of BER-encoded directory information, and send the requested attribute(s) in BER format. Since all PKI objects of concern are BER-encoded objects, the "binary" option should be used. However, not all directories support the "binary" option. Therefore, applications should be capable of requesting attributes with and without the "binary" option. For example, if an application wishes to retrieve the userCertificate attribute, the application should request "userCertificate;binary". If the desired information is not returned, robust implementations may opt to request "userCertificate" as well. The following attributes should be considered by PKI application developers when performing certificate retrieval from LDAP sources: userCertificate: contains certificates issued by one or more certification authorities with a subject DN that matches that of the directory entry. This is a multi-valued attribute and all values should be received and considered during path building. Although typically it is expected that only end entity certificates will be stored in this attribute, (e.g., this is the attribute an application would request to find a person's encryption certificate) implementers may opt to search this attribute when looking in CA entries to make their path builder more robust. If it is empty, the overhead added by including this attribute when already requesting one or both of the two below is marginal.
Top   ToC   RFC4158 - Page 68
   cACertificate: contains self-issued certificates (if any) and any
      certificates issued to this certification authority by other
      certification authorities in the same realm.  (Realm is dependent
      upon local policy.)  This is a multi-valued attribute and all
      values should be received and considered during path building.

   crossCertificatePair: in conformant implementations, the
      crossCertificatePair is used to contain all, except self-issued
      certificates issued to this certification authority, as well as
      certificates issued by this certification authority to other
      certification authorities.  Each attribute value is a structure
      containing two elements.  The issuedToThisCA element contains
      certificates issued to this certification authority by other
      certification authorities.  The issuedByThisCA element contains
      certificates issued by this certification authority to other
      certification authorities.  Both elements of the
      crossCertificatePair are labeled optional in the ASN.1 definition.
      If both elements are present in a single value, the issuer name in
      one certificate is required to match the subject name in the other
      and vice versa, and the subject public key in one certificate
      shall be capable of verifying the digital signature on the other
      certificate and vice versa.  As this technology has evolved,
      different standards have had differing requirements on where
      information could be found.  For example, the LDAP v2 schema
      [RFC2587] states that the issuedToThisCA (once called 'forward')
      element of the crossCertificatePair attribute is mandatory and the
      issuedByThisCA (once called 'reverse') element is optional.  In
      contrast, Section 11.2.3 of [X.509] requires the issuedByThisCA
      element to be present if the CA issues a certificate to another CA
      if the subject is not a subordinate CA in a hierarchy.  Conformant
      directories behave as required by [X.509], but robust path-
      building implementations may want to retrieve all certificates
      from the cACertificate and crossCertificatePair attributes to
      ensure all possible certification authority certificates are

   certificateRevocationList: the certificateRevocationList attribute
      contains a certificate revocation list (CRL).  A CRL is defined in
      [RFC3280] as a time stamped list identifying revoked certificates,
      which is signed by a CA or CRL issuer and made freely available in
      a public repository.  Each revoked certificate is identified in a
      CRL by its certificate serial number.  There may be one or more
      CRLs in this attribute, and the values should be processed in
      accordance with [RFC3280].
Top   ToC   RFC4158 - Page 69
   authorityRevocationList: the authorityRevocationList attribute also
      contains CRLs.  These CRLs contain revocation information
      regarding certificates issued to other CAs.  There may be one or
      more CRLs in this attribute, and the values should be processed in
      accordance with [RFC3280].

   Certification path processing systems that plan to interoperate with
   varying PKI structures and directory designs should at a minimum be
   able to retrieve and process the userCertificate, cACertificate,
   crossCertificatePair, certificateRevocationList, and
   authorityRevocationList attributes from directory entries.

6.2. Certificate Store Access via HTTP

Another possible method of certificate retrieval is using HTTP as an interface mechanism for retrieving certificates and CRLs from PKI repositories. A current PKIX document [CERTSTORE] provides a protocol for a general-purpose interface capability for retrieving certificates and CRLs from PKI repositories. Since the [CERTSTORE] document is a work in progress as of the writing of this document, no details are given here on how to utilize this mechanism for certificate and CRL retrieval. Instead, refer to the [CERTSTORE] document or its current version. Certification path processing systems may wish to implement support for this interface capability, especially if they will be used in environments that will provide HTTP-based access to certificates and CRLs.

6.3. Authority Information Access

The authority information access (AIA) extension, defined within [RFC3280], indicates how to access CA information and services for the issuer of the certificate in which the extension appears. If a certificate with an AIA extension contains an accessMethod defined with the id-ad-caIssuers OID, the AIA may be used to retrieve one or more certificates for the CA that issued the certificate containing the AIA extension. The AIA will provide a uniform resource identifier (URI) [RFC3986] when certificates can be retrieved via LDAP, HTTP, or FTP. The AIA will provide a directoryName when certificates can be retrieved via directory access protocol (DAP). The AIA will provide an rfc822Name when certificates can be retrieved via electronic mail. Additionally, the AIA may specify the location of an OCSP [RFC2560] responder that is able to provide revocation information for the certificate. If present, AIA may provide forward path-building implementations with a direct link to a certificate for the issuer of a given certificate. Therefore, implementations may wish to provide support for decoding the AIA extension and processing the LDAP, HTTP, FTP,
Top   ToC   RFC4158 - Page 70
   DAP, or e-mail locators.  Support for AIA is optional; [RFC3280]
   compliant implementations are not required to populate the AIA
   extension.  However, implementers of path-building and validation
   modules are strongly encouraged to support AIA, especially the HTTP
   transport; this will provide for usability and interoperability with
   many existing PKIs.

6.4. Subject Information Access

The subject information access (SIA) extension, defined within [RFC3280], indicates how to access information and services for the subject of the certificate in which the extension appears. If a certificate with an SIA extension contains an accessMethod defined with the id-ad-caRepository OID, the SIA may be used to locate one or more certificates (and possibly CRLs) for entities issued certificates by the subject. The SIA will provide a uniform resource identifier (URI) [RFC3986] when data can be retrieved via LDAP, HTTP, or FTP. The SIA will provide a directoryName when data can be retrieved via directory access protocol (DAP). The SIA will provide an rfc822Name when data can be retrieved via electronic mail. If present, the SIA extension may provide reverse path-building implementations with the certificates required to continue building the path. Therefore, implementations may wish to provide support for decoding the SIA extension and processing the LDAP, HTTP, FTP, DAP, or e-mail locators. Support for SIA is optional; [RFC3280] compliant implementations are not required to populate the SIA extension. However, implementers of path-building and validation modules are strongly encouraged to support SIA, especially the HTTP transport; this will provide for usability and interoperability with many existing PKIs.

6.5. CRL Distribution Points

The CRL distribution points (CRLDP) extension, defined within [RFC3280], indicates how to access CRL information. If a CRLDP extension appears within a certificate, the CRL(s) to which the CRLDP refer are generally the CRLs that would contain revocation information for the certificate. The CRLDP extension may point to multiple distribution points from which the CRL information may be obtained; the certificate processing system should process the CRLDP extension in accordance with [RFC3280]. The most common distribution points contain URIs from which the appropriate CRL may be downloaded, and directory names, which can be queried in a directory to retrieve the CRL attributes from the corresponding entry.
Top   ToC   RFC4158 - Page 71
   If present, CRLDP can provide certificate processing implementations
   with a link to CRL information for a given certificate.  Therefore,
   implementations may wish to provide support for decoding the CRLDP
   extension and using the information to retrieve CRLs.  Support for
   CRLDP is optional and [RFC3280] compliant implementations need not
   populate the CRLDP extension.  However, implementers of path-building
   and validation modules are strongly encouraged to support CRLDPs.  At
   a minimum, developers are encouraged to consider supporting the LDAP
   and HTTP transports; this will provide for interoperability across a
   wide range of existing PKIs.

6.6. Data Obtained via Application Protocol

Many application protocols, such as SSL/TLS and S/MIME, allow one party to provide certificates and CRLs to another. Data provided in this method is generally very valuable to path-building software (will provide direction toward valid paths), and should be stored and used accordingly. Note: self-signed certificates obtained via application protocol are not trustworthy; implementations should only consider the relying party's trust anchors when building paths.

6.7. Proprietary Mechanisms

Some certificate issuing systems and certificate processing systems may utilize proprietary retrieval mechanisms, such as network mapped drives, databases, or other methods that are not directly referenced via the IETF standards. Certificate processing systems may wish to support other proprietary mechanisms, but should only do so in addition to supporting standard retrieval mechanisms such as LDAP, AIA, and CRLDP (unless functioning in a closed environment).

7. Improving Retrieval Performance

Retrieval performance can be improved through a few different mechanisms, including the use of caches and setting a specific retrieval order. This section discusses a few methods by which the performance of a certificate processing system may be improved during the retrieval of PKI objects. Certificate processing systems that are consistently very slow during processing will be disliked by users and will be slow to be adopted into organizations. Certificate processing systems are encouraged to do whatever possible to reduce the delays associated with requesting and retrieving data from external sources.
Top   ToC   RFC4158 - Page 72

7.1. Caching

Certificate processing systems operating in a non-hierarchical PKI will often need to retrieve certificates and certificate revocation lists (CRLs) from a source outside the application protocol. Typically, these objects are retrieved from an X.500 or LDAP repository, an Internet URI [RFC3986], or some other non-local source. Due to the delays associated with establishing connections as well as network transfers, certificate processing systems ought to be as efficient as possible when retrieving data from external sources. Perhaps the best way to improve retrieval efficiency is by using a caching mechanism. Certificate processing systems can cache data retrieved from external sources for some period of time, but not to exceed the useful period of the data (i.e., an expired certificate need not be cached). Although this comes at a cost of increased memory/disk consumption by the system, the cost and performance benefit of reducing network transmissions is great. Also, CRLs are often issued and available in advance of the nextUpdate date in the CRL. Implementations may wish to obtain these "fresher" CRLs before the nextUpdate date has passed. There are a number of different ways in which caching can be implemented; the specifics of these methods can be used as distinguishing characteristics between certificate processing systems. However, some things that implementers may wish to consider when developing caching systems are as follows: - If PKI objects are cached, the certification path-building mechanism should be able to examine and retrieve from the cache during path building. This will allow the certificate processing system to find or eliminate one or more paths quickly without requiring external contact with a directory or other retrieval mechanism. - Sharing caches between multiple users (via a local area network or LAN) may be useful if many users in one organization consistently perform PKI operations with another organization. - Caching not only PKI objects (such as certificates and CRLs) but also relationships between PKI objects (storing a link between a certificate and the issuer's certificate) may be useful. This linking may not always lead to the most correct or best relationship, but could represent a linking that worked in another scenario. - Previously built paths and partial paths are quite useful to cache, because they will provide information on previous successes or failures. Additionally, if the cache is safe from
Top   ToC   RFC4158 - Page 73
        unauthorized modifications, caching validation and signature
        checking status for certificates, CRLs, and paths can also be

7.2. Retrieval Order

To optimize efficiency, certificate processing systems are encouraged to also consider the order in which different PKI objects are retrieved, as well as the mechanism from which they are retrieved. If caching is utilized, the caches can be consulted for PKI objects before attempting other retrieval mechanisms. If multiple caches are present (such as local disk and network), the caches can be consulted in the order in which they can be expected to return their result from fastest to slowest. For example, if a certificate processing system wishes to retrieve a certificate with a particular subject DN, the system might first consult the local cache, then the network cache, and then attempt directory retrieval. The specifics of the types of retrieval mechanisms and their relative costs are left to the implementer. In addition to ordering retrieval mechanisms, the certificate processing system ought to order the relative merits of the different external sources from which a PKI object can be retrieved. If the AIA is present within a certificate, with a URI [RFC3986] for the issuer's certificate, the certificate processing system (if able) may wish to attempt to retrieve the certificate first from local cache and then by using that URI (because it is expected to point directly to the desired certificate) before attempting to retrieve the certificates that may exist within a directory. If a directory is being consulted, it may be desirable to retrieve attributes in a particular order. A highly cross-certified PKI structure will lead to multiple possibilities for certification paths, which may mean multiple validation attempts before a successful path is retrieved. Therefore, cACertificate and userCertificate (which typically contain certificates from within the same 'realm') could be consulted before attempting to retrieve the crossCertificatePair values for an entry. Alternately, all three attributes could be retrieved in one query, but cross-certificates then tagged as such and used only after exhausting the possibilities from the cACertificate attribute. The best approach will depend on the nature of the application and PKI environment.

7.3. Parallel Fetching and Prefetching

Much of this document has focused on a path-building algorithm that minimizes the performance impact of network retrievals, by preventing those retrievals and utilization of caches. Another way to improve
Top   ToC   RFC4158 - Page 74
   performance would be to allow network retrievals to be performed in
   advance (prefetching) or at the same time that other operations are
   performed (parallel fetching).  For example, if an email application
   receives a signed email message, it could download the required
   certificates and CRLs prior to the recipient viewing (or attempting
   to verify) the message.  Implementations that provide the capability
   of parallel fetching and/or prefetching, along with a robust cache,
   can lead to greatly improved performance or user experience.

8. Security Considerations

8.1. General Considerations for Building a Certification Path

Although certification path building deals directly with security relevant PKI data, the PKI data itself needs no special handling because its integrity is secured with the digital signature applied to it. The only exception to this is the appropriate protection of the trust anchor public keys. These are to be kept safe and obtained out of band (e.g., not from an electronic mail message or a directory) with respect to the path-building module. The greatest security risks associated with this document revolve around performing certification path validation while certification paths are built. It is therefore noted here that fully implemented certification path validation in accordance with [RFC3280] and [X.509] is required in order for certification path building, certification path validation, and the certificate using application to be properly secured. All of the Security Considerations listed in Section 9 of [RFC3280] apply equally here. In addition, as with any application that consumes data from potentially untrusted network locations, certification path-building components should be carefully implemented so as to reduce or eliminate the possibility of network based exploits. For example, a poorly implemented path-building module may not check the length of the CRLDP URI [RFC3986] before using the C language strcpy() function to place the address in a 1024 byte buffer. A hacker could use such a flaw to create a buffer overflow exploit by encoding malicious assembly code into the CRLDP of a certificate and then use the certificate to attempt an authentication. Such an attack could yield system level control to the attacker and expose the sensitive data the PKI was meant to protect. Path building may be used to mount a denial of service (DOS) attack. This might occur if multiple simple requests could be performed that cause a server to perform a number of path developments, each taking time and resources from the server. Servers can help avoid this by limiting the resources they are willing to devote to path building,
Top   ToC   RFC4158 - Page 75
   and being able to further limit those resources when the load is
   heavy.  Standard DOS protections such as systems that identify and
   block attackers can also be useful.

   A DOS attack can be also created by presenting spurious CA
   certificates containing very large public keys.  When the system
   attempts to use the large public key to verify the digital signature
   on additional certificates, a long processing delay may occur.  This
   can be mitigated by either of two strategies.  The first strategy is
   to perform signature verifications only after a complete path is
   built, starting from the trust anchor.  This will eliminate the
   spurious CA certificate from consideration before the large public
   key is used.  The second strategy is to recognize and simply reject
   keys longer than a certain size.

   A similar DOS attack can occur with very large public keys in end
   entity certificates.  If a system uses the public key in a
   certificate before building and validating that certificate's
   certification path, long processing delays may occur.  To mitigate
   this threat, the public key in an end entity certificate should not
   be used for any purpose until a complete certification path for that
   certificate is built and validated.

8.2. Specific Considerations for Building Revocation Signer Certification Paths

If the CRL Signer certificate (and certification path) is not identical to the Certification Authority certificate (and certification path), special care should be exercised when building the CRL Signer certification path. If special consideration is not given to building a CRL Signer certification path, that path could be constructed such that it terminates with a different root or through a different certification path to the same root. If this behavior is not prevented, the relying party may end up checking the wrong revocation data, or even maliciously substituted data, resulting in denial of service or security breach. For example, suppose the following certification path is built for E and is valid for an example "high assurance" policy. A->B->C->E When the building/validation routine attempts to verify that E is not revoked, C is referred to as the Certification Authority certificate. The path builder finds that the CRL for checking the revocation status of E is issued by C2; a certificate with the subject name "C",
Top   ToC   RFC4158 - Page 76
   but with a different key than the key that was used to sign E.  C2 is
   referred to as the CRL Signer.  An unrestrictive certification path
   builder might then build a path such as the following for the CRL
   Signer C2 certificate:


   If a path such as the one above is permitted, nothing can be
   concluded about the revocation status of E since C2 is a different CA
   from C.

   Fortunately, preventing this security problem is not difficult and
   the solution also makes building CRL Signer certification paths very
   efficient.  In the event the CRL Signer certificate is identical to
   the Certification Authority certificate, the Certification Authority
   certification path should be used to verify the CRL; no additional
   path building is required.  If the CRL Signer certificate is not
   identical to the Certification Authority certificate, a second path
   should be built for the CRL Signer certificate in exactly the same
   fashion as for any certificate, but with the following additional

   1.  Trust Anchor:  The CRL Signer's certification path should start
       with the same trust anchor as the Certification Authority's
       certification path.  Any trust anchor certificate with a subject
       DN matching that of the Certification Authority's trust anchor
       should be considered acceptable though lower in priority than the
       one with a matching public key and subject DN.  While different
       trust anchor public keys are acceptable at the beginning of the
       CRL signer's certification path and the Certification Authority's
       certification path, both keys must be trusted by the relying
       party per the recommendations in Section 8.1.

   2.  CA Name Matching:  The subject DNs for all CA certificates in the
       two certification paths should match on a one-to-one basis
       (ignoring self-issued certificates) for the entire length of the
       shorter of the two paths.

   3.  CRL Signer Certification Path Length:  The length of the CRL
       Signer certification path (ignoring self-issued certificates)
       should be equal to or less than the length of the Certification
       Authority certification path plus (+) one.  This allows a given
       Certification Authority to issue a certificate to a
       delegated/subordinate CRL Signer.  The latter configuration
       represents the maximum certification path length for a CRL Signer
Top   ToC   RFC4158 - Page 77
   The reasoning behind the first guideline is readily apparent.
   Lacking this and the second guideline, any trusted CA could issue
   CRLs for any other CA, even if the PKIs are not related in any
   fashion.  For example, one company could revoke certificates issued
   by another company if the relying party trusted the trust anchors
   from both companies.  The two guidelines also prevent erroneous CRL
   checks since Global uniqueness of names is not guaranteed.

   The second guideline prevents roaming certification paths such as the
   previously described example CRL Signer certification path for
   A->B->C->E.  It is especially important that the "ignoring self-
   issued certificates" is implemented properly.  Self-issued
   certificates are cast out of the one-to-one name comparison in order
   to allow for key rollover.  The path-building algorithm may be
   optimized to only consider certificates with the acceptable subject
   DN for the given point in the CRL Signer certification path while
   building the path.

   The third and final guideline ensures that the CRL used is the
   intended one.  Without a restriction on the length of the CRL Signer
   certification path, the path could roam uncontrolled into another
   domain and still meet the first two guidelines.  For example, again
   using the path A->B->C->E, the Certification Authority C, and a CRL
   Signer C2, a CRL Signer certification path such as the following
   could pass the first two guidelines:


   In the preceding example, the trust anchor is identical for both
   paths and the one-to-one name matching test passes for A->B->C.
   However, accepting such a path has obvious security consequences, so
   the third guideline is used to prevent this situation.  Applying the
   second and third guideline to the certification path above, the path
   builder could have immediately detected this path was not acceptable
   (prior to building it) by examining the issuer DN in C2.  Given the
   length and name guidelines, the path builder could detect that
   "RogueCA" is not in the set of possible names by comparing it to the
   set of possible CRL Signer issuer DNs, specifically, A, B, or C.

   Similar consideration should be given when building the path for the
   OCSP Responder certificate when the CA is the OCSP Response Signer or
   the CA has delegated the OCSP Response signing to another entity.
Top   ToC   RFC4158 - Page 78

9. Acknowledgements

The authors extend their appreciation to David Lemire for his efforts coauthoring "Managing Interoperability in Non-Hierarchical Public Key Infrastructures" from which material was borrowed heavily for use in the introductory sections. This document has also greatly benefited from the review and additional technical insight provided by Dr. Santosh Chokhani, Carl Wallace, Denis Pinkas, Steve Hanna, Alice Sturgeon, Russ Housley, and Tim Polk.

10. Normative References

[RFC3280] Housley, R., Polk, W., Ford, W., and D. Solo, "Internet X.509 Public Key Infrastructure Certificate and Certificate Revocation List (CRL) Profile", RFC 3280, April 2002.

11. Informative References

[MINHPKIS] Hesse, P., and D. Lemire, "Managing Interoperability in Non-Hierarchical Public Key Infrastructures", 2002 Conference Proceedings of the Internet Society Network and Distributed System Security Symposium, February 2002. [RFC1777] Yeong, W., Howes, T., and S. Kille, "Lightweight Directory Access Protocol", RFC 1777, March 1995. [RFC2560] Myers, M., Ankney, R., Malpani, A., Galperin, S., and C. Adams, "X.509 Internet Public Key Infrastructure Online Certificate Status Protocol - OCSP", RFC 2560, June 1999. [RFC2587] Boeyen, S., Howes, T., and P. Richard, "Internet X.509 Public Key Infrastructure LDAPv2 Schema", RFC 2587, June 1999. [RFC3377] Hodges, J. and R. Morgan, "Lightweight Directory Access Protocol (v3): Technical Specification", RFC 3377, September 2002. [RFC3820] Tuecke, S., Welch, V., Engert, D., Pearlman, L., and M. Thompson, "Internet X.509 Public Key Infrastructure (PKI) Proxy Certificate Profile", RFC 3820, June 2004. [RFC3986] Berners-Lee, T., Fielding, R., and L. Masinter, "Uniform Resource Identifier (URI): Generic Syntax", STD 66, RFC 3986, January 2005.
Top   ToC   RFC4158 - Page 79
   [X.501]     ITU-T Recommendation X.501: Information Technology - Open
               Systems Interconnection - The Directory: Models, 1993.

   [X.509]     ITU-T Recommendation X.509 (2000 E): Information
               Technology - Open Systems Interconnection - The
               Directory: Authentication Framework, March 2000.

   [PKIXALGS]  Bassham, L., Polk, W. and R. Housley, "Algorithms and
               Identifiers for the Internet X.509 Public Key
               Infrastructure Certificate and Certificate Revocation
               Lists (CRL) Profile", RFC 3279, April 2002.

   [CERTSTORE] P. Gutmann, "Internet X.509 Public Key Infrastructure
               Operational Protocols: Certificate Store Access via
               HTTP", Work in Progress, August 2004.
Top   ToC   RFC4158 - Page 80

Authors' Addresses

Matt Cooper Orion Security Solutions, Inc. 1489 Chain Bridge Rd, Ste. 300 McLean, VA 22101, USA Phone: +1-703-917-0060 EMail: Yuriy Dzambasow A&N Associates, Inc. 999 Corporate Blvd Ste. 100 Linthicum, MD 21090, USA Phone: +1-410-859-5449 x107 EMail: Peter Hesse Gemini Security Solutions, Inc. 4451 Brookfield Corporate Dr. Ste. 200 Chantilly, VA 20151, USA Phone: +1-703-378-5808 x105 EMail: Susan Joseph Van Dyke Technologies 6716 Alexander Bell Drive Columbia, MD 21046 EMail: Richard Nicholas BAE Systems Information Technology 141 National Business Parkway, Ste. 210 Annapolis Junction, MD 20701, USA Phone: +1-301-939-2722 EMail:
Top   ToC   RFC4158 - Page 81
Full Copyright Statement

   Copyright (C) The Internet Society (2005).

   This document is subject to the rights, licenses and restrictions
   contained in BCP 78, and except as set forth therein, the authors
   retain all their rights.

   This document and the information contained herein are provided on an

Intellectual Property

   The IETF takes no position regarding the validity or scope of any
   Intellectual Property Rights or other rights that might be claimed to
   pertain to the implementation or use of the technology described in
   this document or the extent to which any license under such rights
   might or might not be available; nor does it represent that it has
   made any independent effort to identify any such rights.  Information
   on the procedures with respect to rights in RFC documents can be
   found in BCP 78 and BCP 79.

   Copies of IPR disclosures made to the IETF Secretariat and any
   assurances of licenses to be made available, or the result of an
   attempt made to obtain a general license or permission for the use of
   such proprietary rights by implementers or users of this
   specification can be obtained from the IETF on-line IPR repository at

   The IETF invites any interested party to bring to its attention any
   copyrights, patents or patent applications, or other proprietary
   rights that may cover technology that may be required to implement
   this standard.  Please address the information to the IETF at ietf-


   Funding for the RFC Editor function is currently provided by the
   Internet Society.