Public Notary Transparency                                      S. Kent
Internet Draft                                         BBN Technologies
Expires: April July 2016                                     January 30, 2016                                     October 6, 2015
Intended Status: Informational

           Attack Model and Threat for Certificate Transparency


   This document describes an attack model and discusses threats for
   the Web PKI context in which security mechanisms to detect mis-issuance mis-
   issuance of web site certificates are being developed. The model
   provides an analysis of detection and remediation mechanisms for
   both syntactic and semantic mis-issuance. The model introduces an
   outline of attacks to organize the discussion. The model also
   describes the roles played by the elements of the Certificate
   Transparency (CT) system, to establish a context for the model.

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Table of Contents

1. Introduction....................................................... 3
2. Threats............................................................ 7 8
3. Semantic mis-issuance.............................................. 9
 3.1. Non-malicious Web PKI CA context ............................... 9
   3.1.1. Certificate logged ......................................... 9 ........................................ 10 Benign log.............................................. 9 log............................................. 10 Self-monitoring Subject ............................. 9 ............................ 10 Benign third party Monitor .......................... 9 ......................... 10 Misbehaving log........................................ 10 Self-monitoring Subject ............................ 10 11 Benign third party Monitor ......................... 10 11 Misbehaving third party Monitor........................ 11 12
   3.1.2. Certificate not logged .................................... 11 12 Self-monitoring Subject................................ 12 CT-enabled browser..................................... 12
 3.2. Malicious Web PKI CA context .................................. 12 13
   3.2.1. Certificate logged ........................................ 12 13 Benign log............................................. 12 13 Self-monitoring Subject ............................ 13 Benign third party Monitor ......................... 13 Misbehaving log........................................ 13 14 Monitors - third party and self .................... 13 14 Misbehaving third party Monitor........................ 13 14
   3.2.2. Certificate not logged .................................... 14 CT-aware browser....................................... 14 15
4. Syntactic mis-issuance............................................ 14 15
 4.1. Non-malicious Web PKI CA context .............................. 14 15
   4.1.1. Certificate logged ........................................ 15 Benign log............................................. 15 Misbehaving log or third party Monitor................. 16 Self-monitoring Subject and Benign third party Monitor. 16 17 CT-enabled browser..................................... 16 17
   4.1.2. Certificate not logged .................................... 17
 4.2. Malicious Web PKI CA context .................................. 17
   4.2.1. Certificate logged ........................................ 17 18 Benign log............................................. 17 18 Misbehaving log or third party Monitor................. 18 Self-monitoring Subject and Benign third party Monitor. 18 CT-enabled browser..................................... 18
   4.2.2. Certificate is not logged ................................. 18 19
5. Issues Applicable to Sections 3 and 4............................. 19
 5.1. How does a Subject know which Monitor(s) to use? .............. 19
 5.2. How does a Monitor discover new logs? ......................... 19
 5.3. CA response to report of a bogus or erroneous certificate ..... 19 20
 5.4. Browser behavior .............................................. 20
 5.5. Remediation for a malicious CA ................................ 20
 5.6. Auditing - detecting misbehaving logs ......................... 20 21
6. Security Considerations........................................... 22
7. IANA Considerations............................................... 22
8. Acknowledgments................................................... 22 23
9. References........................................................ 23 24
 9.1. Normative References .......................................... 23 24
 9.2. Informative References ........................................ 23 24
Author's Addresses................................................... 23 24
Copyright Statement.................................................. 24 25

1. Introduction

   Certificate transparency (CT) is a set of mechanisms designed to
   detect, deter, and facilitate remediation of certificate mis-
   issuance. The term certificate mis-issuance is defined here to
   encompass violations of either semantic or syntactic constraints.
   The fundamental semantic constraint for a certificate is that it was
   issued to an entity that is authorized to represent the Subject (or
   Subject Alternative) named in the certificate. (It is also assumed
   that the entity requested the certificate from the CA that issued
   it.) Throughout the remainder of this document we refer to a
   semantically mis-issued certificate as ''bogus.'') "bogus.")
   A certificate is characterized as syntactically mis-issued (aka
   erroneous) if it violates syntax constraints associated with the
   class of certificate that it purports to represent. Syntax
   constraints for certificates are established by certificate
   profiles, and typically are application-specific. For example,
   certificates used in the Web PKI environment might be characterized
   as domain validation (DV) or extended validation (EV) certificates.
   Certificates used with applications such as IPsec or S/MIME have
   different syntactic constraints from those in the Web PKI context.

   There are two classes of beneficiaries of CT: certificate Subjects
   and relying parties (RPs). In the initial focus context of CT, the
   Web PKI, Subjects are web sites and RPs are browsers employing HTTPS
   to access these web sites.

   A certificate Subject benefits from CT because CT helps detect
   certificates that have been mis-issued in the name of that Subject.
   A Subject learns of a bogus certificate (issued in its name), via
   the Monitor function of CT. The Monitor function may be provided by
   the Subject itself, i.e., self-monitoring, or by a third party
   trusted by the Subject. When a Subject is informed of certificate
   mis-issuance by a Monitor, the Subject is expected to request/demand
   revocation of the bogus certificate. Revocation of a bogus
   certificate is the primary means of remedying mis-issuance. (If a
   browser vendor distributes a ''blacklist''

   Certificate Revocations Lists (CRLs) [RFC5280] are the primary means
   of certificate revocation established by IETF (and ISO) standards.
   Unfortunately, most browsers do not make use of CRLs to check the
   revocation status of bogus certificates or presented by a
   bad-CA-list TLS Server
   (Subject). Some browsers make use of certificates Online Certificate Status
   Protocol(OCSP) data [RFC4366] as a standards-based alternative to
   CRLs. Also, most browser vendors employ proprietary means of CAs that have mis-issued certificates
   and modifies the
   revoking certificates, e.g., via a "blacklist" or a bad-CA-list.
   Such capabilities enable a browser vendor to cause browsers to
   reject any certificates on the blacklist or for which the issuing CA
   is on the bad-CA-list, this too bad-CA-list. This approach also remedies mis-issuance.
   Throughout the remainder of this document references to certificate
   revocation as a remedy encompass this and analogous forms of browser
   behavior, if available. Note: there are no IETF standards defining a
   browser blacklist capability.)

   Note that a Subject can benefit from the Monitor function of CT even
   if the Subject's certificate has not been logged. Monitoring of logs
   for certificates issued in the Subject's name suffices to detect
   mis-issuance targeting the Subject, if the bogus/erroneous
   certificate is logged.

   A relying party (e.g., browser) benefits from CT if it rejects a
   bogus certificate, i.e., treats it as invalid. An RP is protected
   from accepting a bogus certificate if that certificate is revoked,
   and if the RP checks the revocation status of the certificate. (An
   RP is also protected if a browser vendor ''blacklists'' "blacklists" a certificate
   or ''bad-CA-lists'' "bad-CA-lists" a CA as noted above.) An RP also may benefit from
   CT if the RP validates an SCT associated with a certificate, and
   rejects the certificate if the SCT Signed certificate Timestamp (SCT)
   [TRANS] is invalid. If an RP verified that a certificate that claims
   to have been logged has a valid log entry, the RP would have a
   higher degree of confidence that the certificate is genuine.
   However, checking logs in this fashion imposes a burden on RPs and
   on logs. Moreover, the existence of a log entry does not ensure that
   the certificate is not mis-issued. Unless the certificate Subject is
   monitoring the log(s) in question, a bogus certificate will not be
   detected by CT mechanisms. Finally, if an RP were to check logs for
   individual certificates, that would disclose to logs the identity of
   web sites being visited by the RP, a privacy violation. Thus this
   attack model assumes that RPs will not check log entries.

   Note that all RPs may benefit from CT even if they do nothing with
   SCTs. If Monitors inform Subjects of mis-issuance, and if a CA
   revokes a certificate in response to a request from the
   certificate's legitimate Subject, then an RP benefits without having
   to implement any CT-specific mechanisms.

   Also note that one proposal for distributing Audit information (to
   detect misbehaving logs) calls for a browser to send SCTs it
   receives to the corresponding website when visited by the browser.
   If a website acquires an inclusion proof from a log for each
   (unique) SCT it receives in this fashion, this would cause a bogus
   SCT to be discovered, and, presumably, trigger a revocation request.

   Logging [TRANS] is the central element of CT. Logging enables a
   Monitor to detect a bogus certificate based on reference information
   provided by the certificate Subject. Logging of certificates is
   intended to deter mis-issuance, by creating a publicly-accessible
   record that associates a CA with any certificates that it mis-
   issues. Logging does not remedy mis-issuance; but it does facilitate
   remediation by providing the information needed to enable detection
   and consequently revocation of bogus certificates in some

   Auditing is a function employed by CT to detect misbehavior by logs
   and to deter mis-issuance that is abetted by misbehaving logs.
   Auditing detects several types of log misbehavior, including
   failures to adhere to the advertised MMD and STH Maximum Merge Delay (MMD) and
   Signed Tree Head (STH) frequency count, count [TRANS] violating the append-only append-
   only property, and providing inconsistent views of the log to
   different log clients. The first three of these are relatively easy
   for an individual auditor to detect, but the last form of
   misbehavior requires communication among multiple log clients.
   Monitors ought not trust logs that are detected misbehaving. Thus
   the Audit function does not detect mis-issuance per se. There is no
   agreed-upon Audit function design for CT at the time of this
   writing. As a result, the model merely notes where Auditing is
   needed to detect certain classes of attacks.

   Figure 1 (below) illustrates the data exchanges among the major
   elements of the CT system, based on the log specification [TRANS]
   and on the assumed behavior of other CT system elements as described
   above. This Figure does not include the Audit function, because
   there is not yet agreement on how that function will work in a
   distributed, privacy-preserving fashion.

   +----+          +---------+          +---------+
   | CA |---[ 1]-->|   Log   |<---[8]---| Monitor |
   |    |          |         |          |         |
   |    |<--[ 2]---|         |----[9]-->|         |
   |    |          |         |          |         |
   |    |---[ 3]-->|         |<--[10]---|         |
   |    |          |         |          |         |--------+
   |    |<--[ 4]---|         |---[11]-->|         |        |
   |    |          |         |          +---------+        |
   |    |          |         |                             |
   |    |          |         |          +---------+        |
   |    |          |         |<--[8]----|  Self-  |        |
   |    |          |         |          | Monitor |        |
   |    |          |         |---[9]--->|(Subject)|        |
   |    |          |         |          |         |        |
   |    |          |         |<--[10]---|         |      [12]
   |    |          |         |          |         |        |
   |    |          |         |---[11]-->|         |        |
   |    |          +---------+          +---------+        |
   |    |                                                  |
   |    |          +---------+          +---------+        |
   |    |---[ 5]-->| Website |---[7]--->| Browser |        |
   |    |          |(Subject)|          +---------+        |
   |    |<--[ 6]-->|         |<----------------------------+
   +----+          +---------+

       [ 1] Retrieve accepted root certs
       [ 2] accepted root certs
       [ 3] Add chain to log/add PreCertChain to log
       [ 4] SCT (embedded in pre-cert, if applicable)
       [ 5] send cert + SCTs (or cert with embedded SCTs)
       [ 6] Revocation request/response (in response to detected
       [ 7] cert + SCTs (or cert with embedded SCTs)
       [ 8] Retrieve entries from Log
       [ 9] returned entries from log
       [10] Retrieve latest STH
       [11] returned STH
       [12] bogus/erroneous cert notification

  Figure 1. Data Exchanges Between Major Elements of the CT System

   Certificate mis-issuance may arise in one of several ways. The ways
   by which CT enables a Subject (or others) to detect and redress mis-
   issuance depends on the context and the entities involved in the
   mis-issuance. This attack model applies to use of CT in the Web PKI
   context. If CT is extended to apply to other contexts, each context
   will require its own attack model, although most elements of the
   model described here are likely to be applicable.

   Because certificates are issued by CAs, the top level
   differentiation in this analysis is whether the CA that mis-issued a
   certificate did so maliciously or not. Next, for each scenario, the
   model considers whether or not the certificate was logged. Scenarios
   are further differentiated based on whether the logs and monitors
   are benign or malicious and whether a certificate's Subject is self-
   monitoring or is using a third party Monitoring service. Finally,
   the analysis considers whether a browser is performing checking
   relevant to CT. The scenarios are organized as illustrated by the
   following outline:

      Web PKI CA - malicious vs non-malicious
         Certificate - logged vs not logged
               Log - benign vs malicious
               Third party Monitor - benign vs malicious
               Certificate's Subject - self-monitoring (or not)
               Browser - CT-supporting (or not)

   The next section of the document briefly discusses threats.
   Subsequent sections examine each of the cases described above. As
   noted earlier, the focus here is on the Web PKI context, although
   most of the analysis is applicable to other PKI contexts.

Conventions used in this document

   The key words "MUST", "MUST NOT", "REQUIRED", "SHALL", "SHALL NOT",
   document are to be interpreted as described in [RFC2119].

2. Threats

   A threat is defined, traditionally, as a motivated, capable
   adversary. An adversary who is not motivated to attack a system is
   not a threat. An adversary who is motivated but not ''capable'' "capable" also
   is not a threat. Threats change over time; new classes of
   adversaries may arise, new motivations may come into play, and the
   capabilities of adversaries may change. Nonetheless, it is useful to
   document perceived threats against a system to provide a context for
   understanding attacks. Even if the assumptions about adversaries
   prove to be incorrect, documenting the assumptions is valuable.

   As noted above, the goals of CT are to deter, detect, and facilitate
   remediation of attacks on the web PKI. Such attacks can enable an
   attacker to spoof the identity of TLS-enabled web sites. Spoofing
   enables an adversary to acquire information that a TLS-enabled
   client would not communicate if the client were aware of the
   spoofing. Such information may include personal identification and
   authentication information and electronic payment authorization
   information.  Because of the nature of the information that may be
   divulged, the principal adversaries in the CT context are perceived
   to be (cyber) criminals and nation states. Both adversaries are
   motivated to acquire personal identification and authentication
   information. Criminals are also motivated to acquire electronic
   payment authorization information. <want to list other ino targets here?>

   To make use of forged web site certificates, an adversary must be
   able to direct a TLS client to a spoofed web site, to so that it can
   present the forged certificate during a TLS handshake. An adversary
   may achieve this in various ways, e.g., by causing a user to click
   on a link to the website, or by manipulation of the DNS response
   sent to a TLS client. The former type of attack is well within the
   perceived capabilities of both classes of adversary. The latter
   attack may be possible for criminals and is certainly a capability
   available to a nation state within its borders. Nation states also
   may be able to compromise DNS servers outside their own

   The elements of CT may themselves be targets of attacks, as
   described below. A criminal organization might compromise a CA and
   cause it to issue bogus certificates, or it may exert influence over
   a CA (or CA staff) to do so, e.g., through extortion or physical
   threat. (Even though the CA is not intentionally malicious in this
   case, the action is equivalent to a malicious CA, hence the use of
   the term "bogus" here.) A nation state may operate or influence a CA
   that is part of the large set of
   ''root CAs'' "root CAs" in browsers. A CA,
   acting in this fashion, is termed a
   ''malicious'' "malicious" CA. A nation state
   also might compromise a CA in another country, to effect issuance of
   bogus certificates. In this case the (non-malicious) CA, upon
   detecting the compromise (perhaps because of CT) is expected to work
   with Subjects to remedy the mis-issuance.

   A log also might be compromised by a suitably sophisticated criminal
   organization or by a nation state. Compromising a log would enable a
   compromised or rogue CA to acquire SCTs, but log entries would be
   suppressed, either for all log clients or for targeted clients
   (e.g., to selected Monitors or Auditors). It seems unlikely that a
   compromised, non-malicious, log would persist in presenting multiple
   views of its data, but a malicious log would.

   Finally, note that a browser trust store may include a CA that is
   intended to issue certificates to enable monitoring of encrypted
   browser sessions. The inclusion of a trust anchor for such a CA is
   intended to facilitate monitoring encrypted content, via an
   authorized man-in-the-middle (MITM) attack. CT is not designed to
   detect and counter this type of locally-authorized interception.

3. Semantic mis-issuance

3.1. Non-malicious Web PKI CA context

   In this section, we address the case where the CA has no intent to
   issue a bogus certificate.

   A CA may have mis-issued a certificate as a result of an error or,
   in the case of a bogus certificate, because it was the victim of a
   social engineering attack or an attack such as the one that affected
   011/news_diginotar_reports_any security_incident.aspx]. In the case
   of an error, the CA should have a record of the erroneous
   certificate and be prepared to revoke this certificate once it has
   discovered and confirmed the error. In the event of an attack, a CA
   may have no record of a bogus certificate.

3.1.1. Certificate logged Benign log

   The log (or logs) is benign and thus is presumed to provide
   consistent, accurate responses to requests from all clients.

   If a bogus (pre-)certificate has been submitted to one or more logs
   prior to issuance to acquire an embedded SCT, or post-issuance to
   acquire a standalone SCT, detection of this mis-issuance is the
   responsibility of a Monitor. Self-monitoring Subject

   If a Subject is tracking the log(s) to which a certificate was
   submitted, and is performing self-monitoring, then it will be able
   to detect a bogus (pre-)certificate and request revocation. In this
   case, the CA will make use of the log entry (supplied by the
   Subject) to determine the serial number of the bogus certificate,
   and investigate/revoke it. (See Sections 5.1, 5.2 and 5.3.) Benign third party Monitor

   If a benign third party monitor is checking the logs to which a
   certificate was submitted and is protecting the targeted Subject, it
   will detect a bogus certificate and will alert the Subject. The
   Subject, in turn, will ask the CA to revoke the bogus certificate.
   In this case, the CA will make use of the log entry (supplied by the
   Subject) to determine the serial number of the bogus certificate,
   and revoke it (after investigation). (See Sections 5.1, 5.2 and
   5.3.) Misbehaving log

   In this case, the bogus (pre-)certificate has been submitted to one
   or more logs, each of which generate an SCT for the submission. A
   misbehaving log probably will suppress a bogus certificate log
   entry, or it may create an entry for the certificate but report it
   selectively. (A misbehaving log also could create and report entries
   for bogus certificates that have not been issued by the indicated CA
   (hereafter called ''fake''). "fake"). Unless a Monitor validates the associated
   certificate chains up to roots that it trusts, these fake bogus
   certificates could cause the Monitors to report non-existent
   semantic problems to the Subject who would in turn report them to
   the purported issuing CA. This might cause the CA to do needless
   investigative work or perhaps incorrectly revoke and re-issue the
   Subject's real certificate. Note that for every certificate
   submitted to a log, the log MUST verify a complete certificate chain
   up to one of the roots it accepts. So creating a log entry for a
   fake bogus certificate marks the log as misbehaving.) misbehaving. Self-monitoring Subject

   If a misbehaving log suppresses a bogus certificate log entry, a
   Subject performing self-monitoring will not detect the bogus
   certificate. CT relies on an Audit mechanism to detect log
   misbehavior, as a deterrent. (It It is anticipated that logs that are
   identified as persistently misbehaving will cease to be trusted by
   Monitors, non-malicious CAs, and by browser vendors. This assumption
   forms the basis for the perceived deterrent.) deterrent. It is not clear if
   mechanisms to detect this sort of log misbehavior will be viable. Benign third party Monitor

   Because a misbehaving log will suppress a bogus certificate log
   entry (or report such entries inconsistently) a benign third party
   Monitor that is protecting the targeted Subject also will not detect
   a bogus certificate. In this scenario, CT relies on a distributed
   Auditing mechanism [gossip] to detect log misbehavior, as a
   deterrent. (See Section 5.6 below.) However, a Monitor (third-party
   or self) must participate in the Audit mechanism in order to become
   aware of log misbehavior.

   If the misbehaving log has logged the bogus certificate when issuing
   the associated SCT, it will try to hide this from the Subject (if
   self-monitoring) or from the Monitor protecting the Subject. It does
   so by presenting them with a view of its log entries and STH that
   does not contain the bogus certificate. To other entities, the log
   presents log entries and an STH that include the bogus certificate.
   This discrepancy can be detected if there is an exchange of
   information about the log entries and STH between the entities
   receiving the view that excludes the bogus certificate and entities
   that receive a view that includes it, i.e., a distributed Audit

   If a malicious log does not create an entry for a bogus certificate
   (for which an SCT has been issued), then any Monitor/Auditor that
   sees the bogus certificate will detect this when it checks with the
   log for log entries and STH (see Section 3.1.2.) Misbehaving third party Monitor

   A third party Monitor that misbehaves will not notify the targeted
   Subject of a bogus certificate. This is true irrespective of whether
   the Monitor checks the logs or whether the logs are benign or

   Note that independent of any mis-issuance on the part of the CA, a
   misbehaving Monitor could issue false warnings to a Subject that it
   protects. These could cause the Subject to report non-existent
   semantic problems to the issuing CA and cause the CA to do needless
   investigative work or perhaps incorrectly revoke and re-issue the
   Subject's certificate.

3.1.2. Certificate not logged

   If the CA does not submit a pre-certificate to a log, whether a log
   is benign or misbehaving does not matter.  The same is true if a
   Subject is issued a certificate without an SCT and does not log the
   certificate itself, to acquire an SCT. Also, since there is no log
   entry in this scenario, there is no difference in outcome between a
   benign and a misbehaving third party Monitor. In both cases, no
   Monitor (self or third-party) will detect a bogus certificate based
   on Monitor functions and there will be no consequent reporting of
   the problem to the Subject or by the Subject to the CA based on
   examination of log entries. Self-monitoring Subject

   A Subject performing self-monitoring will be able to detect the lack
   of an embedded SCT in the certificate it received from the CA, or
   the lack of an SCT supplied to the Subject via an out-of-band
   channel. A Subject ought to notify the CA if the Subject expected
   that its certificate was to be logged. (A Subject would expect its
   certificate to be logged if there is an agreement between the
   Subject and the CA to do so, or because the CA advertises that it
   logs all of the certificates that it issues.) If the certificate was
   supposed to be logged, but was not, the CA can use the certificate
   supplied by the Subject to investigate and remedy the problem. In
   the context of a benign CA, a failure to log the certificate might
   be the result of an operations error, or evidence of an attack on
   the CA. CT-enabled browser

   If a browser rejects certificates without SCTs (see Section 5.4),
   CAs may be ''encouraged'' "encouraged" to log the certificates they issue. This, in
   turn, would make it easier for Monitors to detect bogus
   certificates. However, the CT architecture does not describe how
   such behavior by browsers can be deployed incrementally throughout
   the Internet. As a result, this attack model does not assume that
   browsers will reject a certificate that is not accompanied by an
   SCT. In the CT architecture certificates have to be logged to enable
   Monitors to detect mis-issuance, and to trigger subsequent
   revocation [CTarch]. Thus the effectiveness of CT is diminished in
   this context.

3.2. Malicious Web PKI CA context

   In this section, we address the scenario in which the mis-issuance
   is intentional, not due to error. The CA is not the victim but the

3.2.1. Certificate logged Benign log

   A bogus (pre-)certificate may be submitted to one or more benign
   logs prior to issuance, to acquire an embedded SCT, or post-issuance
   to acquire a standalone SCT. The log (or logs) replies correctly to
   requests from clients. Self-monitoring Subject

   If a Subject is checking the logs to which a certificate was
   submitted and is performing self-monitoring, it will be able to
   detect the bogus certificate and will request revocation. The CA may
   refuse to revoke, or may substantially delay revoking, the bogus
   certificate. The For example, the CA could make excuses about inadequate
   proof that the certificate is bogus, or argue that it cannot quickly
   revoke the certificate because of legal concerns, etc. In this case,
   the CT mechanisms will have detected mis-issuance, but the
   information logged by CT does not help remedy the problem. (See
   Sections 4 and 6.) Benign third party Monitor

   If a benign third party monitor is checking the logs to which a
   certificate was submitted and is protecting the targeted Subject, it
   will detect the bogus certificate and will alert the Subject. The
   Subject will then ask the CA to revoke the bogus certificate. As in, the CA may or may not revoke the certificate. Misbehaving log

   A bogus (pre-)certificate may have been submitted to one or more
   logs that are misbehaving, e.g., conspiring with an attacker. These
   logs may or may not issue SCTs, but will hide the log entries from
   some or all Monitors. Monitors - third party and self

   If log entries are hidden from a Monitor (third party or self), the
   Monitor will not be able to detect issuance of a bogus certificate.

   The Audit function of CT is intended to detect logs that conspire to
   delay or suppress log entries (potentially selectively), based on
   consistency checking of logs. (See If a Monitor learns
   of misbehaving log operation, it alerts the Subjects that it is
   protecting, so that they no longer acquire SCTs from that log. The
   Monitor also avoids relying upon such a log in the future. However,
   unless a distributed Audit mechanism proves effective in detecting
   such misbehavior, CT cannot be relied upon to detect this form of
   mis-issuance. (See Section 5.6 below.) Misbehaving third party Monitor

   If the third party Monitor that is "protecting" the targeted Subject
   is misbehaving, then it will not notify the targeted Subject of any
   mis-issuance or of any malfeasant log behavior that it detects
   irrespective of whether the logs it checks are benign or
   malicious/conspiring. The CT architecture does not include any
   measures to detect misbehavior by third-party monitors.

3.2.2. Certificate not logged

   Because the CA is presumed malicious, it may choose to not submit a
   (pre-)certificate to a log. This means there is no SCT for the

   When a CA does not submit a certificate to a log, whether a log is
   benign or misbehaving does not matter.  Also, since there is no log
   entry, there is no difference in behavior between a benign and a
   misbehaving third-party Monitor. Neither will report a problem to
   the Subject.

   A bogus certificate would not be delivered to the (legitimate) legitimate
   Subject. So the Subject, acting as a self-Monitor, cannot detect the
   issuance of a bogus certificate in this case. CT-aware browser

   If careful browsers reject certificates without SCTs, CAs may be
   "encouraged" to log certificates (see section 5.4.) However, the CT
   architecture does not describe how such behavior by browsers can be
   deployed incrementally throughout the Internet. As a result, this
   attack model does not assume that browsers will reject a certificate
   that is not accompanied by an SCT. Since certificates have to be
   logged to enable detection of mis-issuance by Monitors, and to
   trigger subsequent revocation, the effectiveness of CT is diminished
   in this context.

4. Syntactic mis-issuance

4.1. Non-malicious Web PKI CA context

   This section analyzes the scenario in which the CA has no intent to
   issue a syntactically incorrect certificate. Throughout the
   remainder of this document As noted in Section 1,
   we refer to a syntactically incorrect certificate as ''erroneous''. erroneous.

4.1.1. Certificate logged Benign log

   If a (pre-)certificate is submitted to a benign log, syntactic mis-
   issuance can (optionally) be detected, and noted. This will happen
   only if the log performs syntactic checks in general, and if the log
   is capable of performing the checks applicable to the submitted
   (pre-)certificate. (A (pre-)certificate SHOULD be logged even if it
   fails syntactic validation; logging takes precedence over detection
   of syntactic mis-issuance.) If syntactic validation fails, this can
   be noted in an SCT extension returned to the submitter.


   If the (pre-)certificate is submitted by the non-malicious issuing
   CA, and if the CA has a record of the certificate content, then the
   CA SHOULD remedy the syntactic problem and re-submit the
   (pre-)certificate to a log or logs. If this is a pre-certificate
   submitted prior to issuance, syntactic checking by a log helps avoid
   issuance of an erroneous certificate. If the CA does not have a
   record of the certificate contents, then presumably it was a bogus
   certificate and the CA SHOULD revoke it.


   If a certificate is submitted by its Subject, and is deemed
   erroneous, then the Subject SHOULD contact the issuing CA and
   request a new certificate. If the Subject is a legitimate subscriber
   of the CA, then the CA will either have a record of the certificate
   content or can obtain a copy of the certificate from the Subject.

   The CA will remedy the syntactic problem and either re-submit a
   corrected (pre-)certificate to a log and send it to the Subject or
   the Subject will re-submit it to a log. Here too syntactic checking
   by a log enables a Subject to be informed that its certificate is
   erroneous and thus may hasten issuance of a replacement certificate.


   If a certificate is submitted by a third party, that party might
   contact the Subject or the issuing CA, but because the party is not
   the Subject of the certificate it is not clear how the CA will

   Bottom line: Syntactic

   This analysis suggests that syntactic mis-issuance of a certificate
   can be avoided by a CA if it makes use of logs that are capable of
   performing these checks for the types of certificates that are
   submitted, and if the CA acts on the feedback it receives. If a CA
   uses a log that does not perform such checks, or if the CA requests
   checking relative to criteria not supported by the log, then
   syntactic mis-issuance will not be detected or avoided by this
   mechanism. Similarly, syntactic mis-issuance can be remedied if a
   Subject submits a certificate to a log that performs syntactic
   checks, and if the Subject asks the issuing CA to fix problems
   detected by the log. (The issuer is presumed to be willing to re-issue re-
   issue the certificate, correcting any problems, because the issuing
   CA is not malicious.) Misbehaving log or third party Monitor

   A log or Monitor that is conspiring with the attacker or is
   independently malicious, will either not perform syntactic checks,
   even though it claims to do so, or simply not report errors. The log
   entry and the SCT for an erroneous certificate will assert that the
   certificate syntax was verified.

   As with detection of semantic mis-issuance, a distributed Audit
   mechanism could, in principle, detect misbehavior by logs or
   Monitors with respect to syntactic checking. For example, if for a
   given certificate, some logs (or Monitors) are reporting syntactic
   errors and some that claim to do syntactic checking, are not
   reporting these errors, this is indicative of misbehavior by these
   logs and/or Monitors.

   Note that a malicious log (or Monitor) could report syntactic errors
   for a syntactically valid certificate.  This could result in
   reporting of non-existent syntactic problems to the issuing CA,
   which might cause the CA to do needless investigative work or
   perhaps incorrectly revoke and re-issue the Subject's certificate. Self-monitoring Subject and Benign third party Monitor

   If a Subject or benign third party Monitor performs syntactic
   checks, it will detect the erroneous certificate and the issuing CA
   will be notified (by the Subject). If the Subject is a legitimate
   subscriber of the CA, then the CA will either have a record of the
   certificate content or can obtain a copy of the certificate from the
   Subject. The CA SHOULD revoke the erroneous certificate (after
   investigation) and remedy the syntactic problem. The CA SHOULD
   either re-submit the corrected (pre-)certificate to one or more logs
   and then send the result to the Subject, or send the corrected
   certificate to the Subject, who will re-submit it to one or more
   logs. CT-enabled browser

   If a browser rejects an erroneous certificate and notifies the
   Subject and/or the issuing CA, then syntactic mis-issuance will be
   detected (see Section 5.) Unfortunately, experience suggests that
   many browsers do not perform thorough syntactic checks on
   certificates, and so it seems unlikely that browsers will be a
   reliable way to detect erroneous certificates. Moreover, a protocol
   used by a browser to notify a Subject and/or CA of an erroneous
   certificate represents a DoS potential, and thus may not be
   appropriate. Additionally, if a browser directly contacts a CA when
   an erroneous certificate is detected, this is a potential privacy
   violation, i.e., the CA learns that the browser user is visiting the
   web site in question. These observations argue for syntactic
   checking to be performed by other elements of the CT system, e.g.,
   logs and/or Monitors.

4.1.2. Certificate not logged

   If a CA does not submit a certificate to a log, there can be no
   syntactic checking by the log. Detection of syntactic errors will
   depend on a Subject performing the requisite checks when it receives
   its certificate from a CA. A Monitor that performs syntactic checks
   on behalf of a Subject also could detect such problems, but the CT
   architecture does not require Monitors to perform such checks.

4.2. Malicious Web PKI CA context

   This section analyzes the scenario in which the CA's issuance of a
   syntactically incorrect certificate is intentional, not due to
   error. The CA is not the victim but the attacker.

4.2.1. Certificate logged Benign log

   Because the CA is presumed to be malicious, the CA may cause the log
   to not perform checks, in one of several ways. (See [DOMVAL] and
   [EXTVAL] for more details on validation checks and CCIDs).

      1. The CA may assert that the certificate is being issued w/o
      regard to any guidelines (the ''no guidelines'' "no guidelines" reserved CCID).

      2. The CA may assert a CCID that has not been registered, and
      thus no log will be able to perform a check.

      3. The CA may check to see which CCIDs a log declares it can
      check, and chose a registered CCID that is not checked by the log
      in question.

      4. The CA may submit a (pre-) certificate to a log that is known
      to not perform any syntactic checks, and thus avoid syntactic
      checking. Misbehaving log or third party Monitor

   A misbehaving log or third party Monitor will either not perform
   syntactic checks or not report any problems that it discovers. (See for further problems). Also, as noted above, the CT
   architecture includes no explicit provisions for detecting a
   misbehaving third-party Monitor. Self-monitoring Subject and Benign third party Monitor

   Irrespective of whether syntactic checks are performed by a log, a
   malicious CA will acquire an embedded SCT, or post-issuance will
   acquire a standalone SCT. If Subjects or Monitors perform syntactic
   checks that detect the syntactic mis-issuance and report the problem
   to the CA, a malicious CA may do nothing or may delay the action(s)
   needed to remedy the problem. CT-enabled browser

   As noted above (, many browsers fail to perform thorough
   syntax checks on certificates. Such browsers would benefit from
   having such checks performed by a log and reported in the SCT.
   (Remember, in this scenario, the log is benign.) However, if a
   browser does not discriminate against certificates that do not
   contain SCTs (or that are not accompanied by an SCT in the TLS
   handshake), only minimal benefits might accrue to the browser from
   syntax checks perform by logs or Monitors.

   If a browser accepts certificates that do not appear to have been
   syntactically checked by a log (as indicated by the SCT), a
   malicious CA need not worry about failing a log-based check.
   Similarly, if there is no requirement for a browser to reject a
   certificate that was logged by an operator that does not perform
   syntactic checks, the fourth attack noted in will succeed as
   well. If a browser were configured to know which versions of
   certificate types are applicable to its use of a certificate, the
   second and third attack strategies noted above could be thwarted.

4.2.2. Certificate is not logged

   Since certificates are not logged in this scenario, a Monitor (third-
   (third-party or self) cannot detect the issuance of an erroneous
   certificate. Thus there is no difference between a benign or a
   malicious/conspiring log or a benign or conspiring/malicious
   Monitor. (A Subject MAY detect a syntax error by examining the
   certificate returned to it by the Issuer.) However, even if errors
   are detected and reported to the CA, a malicious/conspiring CA may
   do nothing to fix the problem or may delay action.

5. Issues Applicable to Sections 3 and 4

5.1. How does a Subject know which Monitor(s) to use?

   If a CA submits a bogus certificate to one or more logs, but these
   logs are not tracked by a Monitor that is protecting the targeted
   Subject, CT will not remedy this type of mis-issuance attack. If
   third-party Monitors advertise which logs they track, Subjects may
   be able to use this information to select an appropriate Monitor (or
   set thereof). Also, it is not clear whether every third-party
   Monitor MUST offer to track every Subject that requests protection.
   If a Subject acts as its own Monitor, this problem is solved for
   that Subject.

5.2. How does a Monitor discover new logs?

   It is not clear how a (self-)Monitor becomes aware of all (relevant)
   logs, including newly created logs. The means by which Monitors
   become aware of new logs MUST accommodate self-monitoring by a
   potentially very large number of web site operators. If there are
   many logs, it may not be feasible for a (self-) Monitor to track all
   of them, or to determine what set of logs suffice to ensure an
   adequate level of coverage.

5.3. CA response to report of a bogus or erroneous certificate

   A CA being presented with evidence of a bogus or erroneous
   certificate, in the form of a log entry and/or SCT, will need to
   examine its records to determine if it has knowledge of the
   certificate in question. It also will likely require the targeted
   Subject to provide assurances that it is the authorized entity
   representing the Subject name (subjectAltname) in question. Thus a
   Subject should not expect immediate revocation of a contested
   certificate. The time frame in which a CA will respond to a
   revocation request usually is described in the CPS for the CA. Other
   certificate fields and extensions may be of interest for forensic
   purposes, but are not required to effect revocation nor to verify
   that the certificate to be revoked is bogus or erroneous, based on
   applicable criteria. The SCT and log entry, because each contains a
   timestamp from a third party, is probably valuable for forensic
   purposes (assuming a non-conspiring log operator).

5.4. Browser behavior

   If a browser is to reject a certificate that lacks an embedded SCT,
   or is not accompanied by an SCT transported via the TLS handshake,
   this behavior needs to be defined in a way that is compatible with
   incremental deployment. Issuing a warning to a (human) user is
   probably insufficient, based on experience with warnings displayed
   for expired certificates, lack of certificate revocation status
   information, and similar errors that violate RFC 5280 path
   validation rules [RFC5280]. Unless a mechanism is defined that
   accommodates incremental deployment of this capability, attackers
   probably will avoid submitting bogus certificates to (benign) logs
   as a means of evading detection.

5.5. Remediation for a malicious CA

   A targeted Subject might ask the parent of a malicious CA to revoke
   the certificate of the non-cooperative CA. However, a request of
   this sort may be rejected, e.g., because of the potential for
   significant collateral damage. A browser might be configured to
   reject all certificates issued by the malicious CA, e.g., using a
   bad-CA-list distributed by a browser vendor. However, if the
   malicious CA has a sufficient number of legitimate clients, treating
   all of their certificates as bogus or erroneous still represents
   serious collateral damage. If this specification were to require
   that a browser can be configured to reject a specific, bogus or
   erroneous certificate identified by a Monitor, then the bogus or
   erroneous certificate could be rejected in that fashion. This
   remediation strategy calls for communication between Monitors and
   browsers, or between Monitors and browser vendors. Such
   communication has not been specified, i.e., there are no standard
   ways to configure a browser to reject individual bogus or erroneous
   certificates based on information provided by an external entity
   such as a Monitor. Moreover, the same or another malicious CA could
   issue new bogus or erroneous certificates for the targeted Subject,
   which would have to be detected and rejected in this (as yet
   unspecified) fashion. Thus, for now, CT does not seem to provide a
   way to remedy this form of attack, even though it provides a basis
   for detecting such attacks.

5.6. Auditing - detecting misbehaving logs

   The combination of a malicious CA and one or more conspiring logs
   motivates the definition of an audit function, to detect conspiring
   logs. If a Monitor protecting a Subject does not see bogus
   certificates, it cannot alert the Subject. If one or more SCTs are
   present in a certificate, or passed via the TLS handshake, a browser
   has no way to know that the logged certificate is not visible to
   Monitors. Only if Monitors and browsers reject certificates that
   contain SCTs from conspiring logs (based on information from an
   auditor) will CT be able to detect and deter use of such logs. Thus
   the means by which a Monitor performing an audit function detects
   such logs, and informs browsers must be specified for CT to be
   effective in the context of misbehaving logs.

   Absent a well-defined mechanism that enables Monitors to verify that
   data from logs are reported in a consistent fashion, CT cannot claim
   to provide protection against logs that are malicious or may
   conspire with, or are victims of, attackers effecting certificate
   mis-issuance. The mechanism needs to protect the privacy of users
   with respect to which web sites they visit. It needs to scale to
   accommodate a potentially large number of self-monitoring Subjects
   and a vast number of browsers, if browsers are part of the
   mechanism. Even when an Audit mechanism is defined, it will be
   necessary to describe how the CT system will deal with a misbehaving
   or compromised log. For example, will there be a mechanism to alert
   all browsers to reject SCTs issued by such a log? Absent a
   description of a remediation strategy to deal with misbehaving or
   compromised logs, CT cannot ensure detection of mis-issuance in a
   wide range of scenarios.

   Monitors play a critical role in detecting semantic certificate mis-
   issuance, for Subjects that have requested monitoring of their
   certificates. A monitor (including a Subject performing self-
   monitoring) examines logs for certificates associated with one or
   more Subjects that are being ''protected''. "protected". A third-party Monitor must
   obtain a list of valid certificates for the Subject being monitored,
   in a secure manner, to use as a reference. It also must be able to
   identify and track a potentially large number of logs on behalf of
   its Subjects. This may be a daunting task for Subjects that elect to
   perform self-monitoring.

   Note:  A Monitor must not rely on a CA or RA database for its
   reference information or use certificate discovery protocols; this
   information must be acquired by the Monitor based on reference
   certificates provided by a Subject. If a Monitor were to rely on a
   CA or RA database (for the CA that issued a targeted certificate),
   the Monitor would not detect mis-issuance due to malfeasance on the
   part of that CA or the RA, or due to compromise of the CA or the
   RA.  If a CA or RA database is used, it would support detection of
   mis-issuance by an unauthorized CA.  A Monitor must not rely on
   certificate discovery mechanisms to build the list of valid
   certificates since such mechanisms might result in bogus or
   erroneous certificates being added to the list.

   As noted above, Monitors represent another target for adversaries
   who wish to effect certificate mis-issuance. If a Monitor is
   compromised by, or conspires with, an attacker, it will fail to
   alert a Subject to a bogus or erroneous certificate targeting that
   Subject, as noted above. It is suggested that a Subject request
   certificate monitoring from multiple sources to guard against such
   failures. Operation of a Monitor by a Subject, on its own behalf,
   avoids dependence on third party Monitors. However, the burden of
   Monitor operation may be viewed as too great for many web sites, and
   thus this mode of operation ought not be assumed to be universal
   when evaluating protection against Monitor compromise.

6. Security Considerations

   An attack and threat model is, by definition, a security-centric
   document. Unlike a protocol description, a threat model does not
   create security problems nor does it purport to address security
   problems. This model postulates a set of threats (i.e., motivated,
   capable adversaries) and examines classes of attacks that these
   threats are capable of effecting, based on the motivations ascribed
   to the threats. It then analyses the ways in which the CT
   architecture addresses these attacks.

7. IANA Considerations


8. Acknowledgments

   The author would like to thank David Mandelberg and Karen Seo for
   their assistance in reviewing and preparing this document, and other
   members of the TRANS working group for reviewing it.

9. References

9.1. Normative References

   [RFC2119] Bradner, S., "Key words for use in RFCs to Indicate
             Requirement Levels," BCP 14, RFC 2119, March 1997.

   [CTarch] Kent, S., Mandelberg, D., Seo, K., ''Certificate "Certificate
             Transparency (CT) System Architecture'', draft-kent-trans-architecture-
             00, Architecture", draft-kent-trans-
             architecture-00, (October 2015), work in progress.

9.2. Informative References

    [TRANS]  Laurie, B., Langley, A., Kasper, E., Messeri, E.,
             Stradling, R., "Certificate Transparency," draft-ietf-
             trans-rfc6962-bis-07 (March 9, 2015), work in progress.

    [DOMVAL] Kent, S., ''Syntactic "Syntactic and Semantic Checks for Domain
             Validation Certificates,'' Certificates," draft-kent-trans-domain-
             validation-cert-checks-01, (December 2014), work in

    [EXTVAL] Kent, S., ''Syntactic "Syntactic and Semantic Checks for Extended
             Validation Certificates,'' Certificates," draft-kent-trans-extended-
             validation-cert-checks-01 (December 2014), work in

    [gossip] Nordberg, L, Gillmore, D, ''Gossiping "Gossiping in CT,'' CT," draft-linus-
             trans-gossip-ct-01, (March 9, 2015), work in progress

    [RFC5280] Cooper, D., Santession, S., Farrell, S., Boeyen, S.,
             Housley, R., Polk, W., ''Internet "Internet X.509 Public Key
             Infrastructure Certificate and Certificate Revocation List
             (CRL) Profile,'' Profile," RFC 5280, May 2008.

Author's Addresses

   Stephen Kent
   BBN Technologies
   10 Moulton Street
   Cambridge MA 02138
   Phone: +1 (617) 873-3988

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