Public Notary Transparency                                       S. Kent
Internet-Draft                                          BBN Technologies                                               Independent
Intended status: Informational                          October 13, 2017
Expires:                            April 13, 2017 12, 2018
Expires: October 14, 2018

          Attack and Threat Model 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
   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
     1.1.  Conventions used in this document . . . . . . . . . . . .   7
   2.  Threats . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   7
   3.  Semantic mis-issuance . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   9
     3.1.  Non-malicious Web PKI CA context  . . . . . . . . . . . .   9
       3.1.1.  Certificate logged  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   9
       3.1.2.  Certificate not logged  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  11
     3.2.  Malicious Web PKI CA context  . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  12
       3.2.1.  Certificate logged  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  12
       3.2.2.  Certificate not logged  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  14
     3.3.  Undetected Compromise of CAs or Logs  . . . . . . . . . .  15
       3.3.1.  Compromised CA, Benign Log  . . . . . . . . . . . . .  15
       3.3.2.  Benign CA, Compromised Log  . . . . . . . . . . . . .  17
       3.3.3.  Compromised CA, Compromised Log . . . . . . . . . . .  17
     3.4.  Attacks Based on Exploiting Multiple Certificate Chains .  18
     3.5.  Attacks Related to Distribution of Revocation Status  . .  20
   4.  Syntactic mis-issuance  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  21
     4.1.  Non-malicious Web PKI CA context  . . . . . . . . . . . .  21
       4.1.1.  Certificate logged  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  21
       4.1.2.  Certificate not logged  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  23
     4.2.  Malicious Web PKI CA context  . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  23
       4.2.1.  Certificate logged  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  24
       4.2.2.  Certificate is not logged . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  25
   5.  Issues Applicable to Sections 3 and 4 . . . . . . . . . . . .  25
     5.1.  How does a Subject know which Monitor(s) to use?  . . . .  25
     5.2.  How does a Monitor discover new logs? . . . . . . . . . .  25
     5.3.  CA response to report of a bogus or erroneous certificate  26
     5.4.  Browser behavior  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  26
     5.5.  Remediation for a malicious CA  . . . . . . . . . . . . .  26
     5.6.  Auditing - detecting misbehaving logs . . . . . . . . . .  27
   6.  Security Considerations . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  28
   7.  IANA Considerations . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  28
   8.  Acknowledgments . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  29
   9.  References  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  29
     9.1.  Normative References  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  29
     9.2.  Informative References  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  29
     9.3.  URIs  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  30
   Author's Address  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  30

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."

   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 three classes of beneficiaries of CT: certificate Subjects,
   CAs, 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.  Thee CAs that benefit are issuers
   of certificates used to authenticate 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.

   Certificate Revocations Lists (CRLs) [RFC5280] are the primary means
   of certificate revocation established by IETF standards.
   Unfortunately, most browsers do not make use of CRLs to check the
   revocation status of certificates presented by a TLS Server
   (Subject).  Some browsers make use of Online Certificate Status
   Protocol (OCSP) data [RFC6960] as a standards-based alternative to
   CRLs.  If a certificate contains an Authority Information Access
   (AIA) extension [RFC5280], it directs a relying party to an OCSP
   server to which a request can be directed.  This extension also may
   be used by a browser to request OCSP responses from a TLS server with
   which it is communicating [RFC6066][RFC6961].

   RFC 5280 does not require inclusion of an AIA extension in
   certificates, so a browser cannot assume that this extension will be
   present.  The Certification Authority and Browser Forum (CABF)
   baseline requirements and extended validation guidelines do mandate
   inclusion of this extension in EE certificates (in conjunction with
   their certificate policies).  (See [1] for the
   most recent versions of these policies.)

   In addition to the revocation status data dissemination mechanisms
   specified by IETF standards, most browser vendors employ proprietary
   means of conveying certificate revocation status information to their
   products, e.g., via a blacklist that enumerates revoked certificates
   (EE or CA).  Such capabilities enable a browser vendor to cause
   browsers to reject any certificates on the blacklist.  This approach
   also can be employed to remedy 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

   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" a certificate
   or "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 Signed certificate Timestamp (SCT)
   [I-D.ietf-trans-rfc6962-bis] 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 does not assume that all RPs will
   check log entries.

   A CA benefits from CT when it detects a (mis-issued) certificate that
   represents the same Subject name as a legitimate certificate issued
   by the CA.

   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 [I-D.ietf-trans-gossip] 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

   Logging [I-D.ietf-trans-rfc6962-bis] 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 circumstances.

   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 Maximum Merge Delay (MMD) and Signed Tree
   Head (STH) frequency count [I-D.ietf-trans-rfc6962-bis] violating the
   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.  The CT design
   identifies audit functions designed to detect several types of
   misbehavior.  However, mechanisms to detect some forms of log
   misbehavior are not yet standardized.

   Figure 1 (below) illustrates the data exchanges among the major
   elements of the CT system, based on the log specification

   [I-D.ietf-trans-rfc6962-bis] 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
       [ 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.

1.1.  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" 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 perform many types of attacks, e.g., delivery
   of malware to a client, reporting bogus information, or acquiring
   information that a 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 (or misinformation or malware that may be
   delivered), 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.

   To make use of forged web site certificates, an adversary must be
   able to direct a TLS client to a spoofed web site, so that it can
   present the forged certificate during a TLS handshake.  An adversary
   may achieve this in various ways, e.g., by manipulation of the DNS
   response sent to a TLS client or via a man-in-the-middle attack.  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 jurisdiction.

   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.  A CA
   may be the victim of social engineering, causing it to issue a
   certificate to an inappropriate Subject.  (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" in browsers.  A CA, acting in this fashion, is termed a
   "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
   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
   DigiNotar [
   news_archive/2011/news_diginotar_reports_any security_incident.aspx
   [2]].  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").  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.  Self-monitoring Subject & Benign third party Monitor

   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 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.  It is not clear if
   mechanisms to detect this sort of log misbehavior will be viable.

   Similarly, when a misbehaving log suppresses 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 [I-D.ietf-trans-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" 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
   [I-D.kent-trans-architecture].  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.  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 may not suffice to remedy the problem.  (See
   Sections 4 and 6.)

   A malicious CA might revoke a bogus certificate to avoid having
   browser vendors take punitive action against the CA and/or to
   persuade them to not enter the bogus certificate on a vendor-
   maintained blacklist.  However, the CA might provide a "good" OCSP
   response (from a server it operates) to a targeted browser instance
   as a way to circumvent the remediation nominally offered by
   revocation.  No component of CT is tasked with detecting this sort of
   misbehavior by a CA.  (The misbehavior is analogous to a log offering
   split views to different clients, as discussed later.  The Audit
   element of CT is tasked with detecting this sort of attack.)  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 and it might
   revoke the certificate but provide "good" OCSP responses to a
   targeted browser instance.  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 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.

3.3.  Undetected Compromise of CAs or Logs

   Sections 3.1 and 3.2 examined attacks in the context of non-malicious
   and malicious CAs, and benign and misbehaving logs.  Another class of
   attacks might occur in the context of a non-malicious CA and/or a
   benign log.  Specifically these CT elements might be compromised and
   the compromise might go undetected.  Compromise of CAs and logs was
   noted in Section 2, as was coercion of a CA.  As noted there, a
   compromised CA is essentially a malicious CA, and thus the
   discussions in Section 3.2 are applicable.  Section 3.3 explored the
   undetected compromise of a CA in the context of attacks designed to
   issue a bogus certificate that might avoid revocation (because the
   certificate would appear on distinct certificate paths).

   The section focuses on undetected compromise of CAs.  Such
   compromises warrant some additional discussion, since some relying
   parties may see signed objects issued by the legitimate (non-
   malicious) CA, others may see signed objects from its compromised
   counterpart, and some may see objects from both.  In the case of a
   compromised CA or log the adversary is presumed to have access to the
   private key used by a CA to sign certificates, or used by a log to
   sign SCTs and STHs.  Because the compromise is undetected, there will
   be no effort by a CA to have its certificate revoked or by a log to
   shut down the log.

3.3.1.  Compromised CA, Benign Log

   In the case of a compromised (non-malicious) CA, an attacker uses the
   purloined private key to generate a bogus certificate (that the
   compromised CA would not issue).  If this certificate is submitted to
   a (benign) log, then it subject to detection by a Monitor, as
   discussed in  If the bogus certificate is submitted to a
   misbehaving log, then an SCT can be generated, but there will be no
   entry for it, as discussed in  If the bogus certificate is
   not logged, then there will be no SCT, and the implications are as
   described in 3.1.2.

   This sort of attack may be most effective if the CA that is the
   victim of the attack has issued a certificate for the targeted
   Subject.  In this case the bogus certificate will then have the same
   certification path as the legitimate certificate, which may help hide
   the bogus certificate.  However, means of remedying the attack are
   independent of this aspect, i.e., revocation can be effected
   irrespective of whether the targeted Subject received its certificate
   from the compromised CA.

   A compromised (non-malicious) CA may be able to revoke the bogus
   certificate if it is detected by a Monitor, and the targeted Subject
   has been notified.  It can do so only when the serial number of the
   bogus certificate is made known to this CA and assuming that the
   bogus certificate was not issued with an Authority Information Access
   (AIA) or CRL Distribution Point (CRL DP) extension that enables only
   the malicious twin to revoke the certificate.  (The AIA extension in
   the bogus certificate could be used to direct relying parties to an
   OCSP server controlled by the malicious twin.  The CRL DP extension
   could be used to direct relying parties to a CRL controlled by the
   malicious twin.)  If the bogus certificate contains either extension,
   the compromised CA cannot effectively revoke it.  However, the
   presence of either of these extensions provides some evidence that an
   entity other than the compromised CA issued the certificate in
   question.  (If the extensions differ from those in other certificates
   issued by the compromised CA, that is suspicious.)

   If the serial number of the bogus certificate is the same as for a
   valid, not-expired certificate issued by the CA (to the target or to
   another Subject), then revocation poses a problem.  This is because
   revocation of the bogus certificate will also invalidate a legitimate
   certificate.  This problem may cause the compromised CA to delay
   revocation, thus allowing the bogus certificate to remain a danger
   for a longer time.

   The compromised CA may not realize that the bogus certificate was
   issued by a malicious twin; one occurrence of this sort might be
   regarded as an error, and not cause the CA to transition to a new key
   pair.  (This assumes that the bogus certificate does not contain an
   AIA or CRL DP extension that wrests control of revocation from the
   compromised CA.)  If the compromised CA does determine that its
   private key has been stolen, it probably will take some time to
   transition to a new key pair, and reissue certificates to all of its
   legitimate Subjects.  Thus an attack of this sort probably will take
   a while to be remedied.

   Also note that the malicious twin of the compromised CA may be
   capable of issuing its own CRL or OCSP responses, without changing
   any AIA/CRL DP data present in the targeted certificate.  The
   revocation status data from the evil twin will appear as valid as
   those of the compromised CA.  If the attacker has the ability to
   control the sources of revocation status data available to a targeted
   user (browser instance), then the user may not become aware of the

   A bogus certificate issued by the malicious CA will not match the SCT
   for the legitimate certificate, since they are not identical, e.g.,
   at a minimum the private keys do not match.  Thus a CT-aware browser
   that rejects certificates without SCTs (see will reject a
   bogus certificate created under these circumstances if it is not
   logged.  If the bogus certificate is detected and logged, browsers
   that require an SCT will reject the bogus certificate.

3.3.2.  Benign CA, Compromised Log

   A benign CA does not issue bogus certificates, except as a result of
   an accident or attack.  So, in normal operation, it is not clear what
   behavior by a compromised log would yield an attack.  If a bogus
   certificate is issued by a benign CA (under these circumstances) is
   submitted to a compromised (non-malicious) log, then both an SCT and
   a log entry will be created.  Again, it is not clear what additional
   adverse actions the compromised log would perform to further an
   attack on CT.

   It is worth noting that if a benign CA was attacked and thus issued
   one or more bogus certificates, then a malicious log might provide
   split views of its log to help conceal the bogus certificate from
   targeted users.  Specifically, the log would show an accurate set of
   log entries (and STHs) to most clients, but would maintain a separate
   log view for targeted users.  This sort of attack motivates the need
   for Audit capabilities based on "gossiping" [I-D.ietf-trans-gossip].
   However, even if such mechanisms are employed, they might be thwarted
   if a user is unable to exchange log information with trustworthy

3.3.3.  Compromised CA, Compromised Log

   As noted in 3.4.1, an evil twin CA may issue a bogus certificate that
   contains the same Subject name as a legitimate certificate issued by
   the compromised CA.  Alternatively, the bogus certificate may contain
   a different name but reuse a serial number from a valid, not revoked
   certificate issued by that CA.

   An attacker who compromises a log might act in one of two ways.  It
   might use the private key of the log only to generate SCTs for a
   malicious CA or the evil twin of a compromised CA.  If a browser
   checks the signature on an SCT but does not contact a log to verify
   that the certificate appears in the log, then this is an effective
   attack strategy.  Alternatively, the attacker might not only generate
   SCTs, but also pose as the compromised log, at least with regard to
   requests from targeted users.  In the latter case, this "evil twin"
   log could respond to STH requests from targeted users, making appear
   that the compromised log was offering a split view (thus acting as a
   malicious log).  To detect this attack an Auditor needs to employ a
   gossip mechanism that is able to acquire CT data from diverse
   sources, a feature not yet part of the base CT system.

   An evil twin CA might submit a bogus certificate to the evil twin of
   a compromised log.  (The same adversary may be controlling both.)
   The operator of the evil twin log can use the purloined private key
   to generate SCTs for certificates that have not been logged by its
   legitimate counterpart.  These SCTs will appear valid relative to the
   public key associated with the legitimate log.  However, an STH
   issued by the legitimate log will not correspond to a tree
   (maintained by the compromised log) containing these SCTs.  Thus
   checking the SCTs issued by the evil twin log against STHs from the
   compromised log will identify this discrepancy.  As noted above, if
   an attacker uses the key to generate log entries and respond to log
   queries, the effect is analogous to a malicious log.)

   An Auditor checking for log consistency and with access to bogus
   SCTs, might conclude that the compromised log is acting maliciously,
   and is presenting a split view to its clients.  In this fashion the
   compromised log may be shunned and forced to shut down.  However, if
   an attacker targets a set of TLS clients that do not have access to
   the legitimate log, they may not be able to detect this
   inconsistency.  In this case CT would need to rely on a distributed
   gossiping audit mechanism to detect the compromise (see Section 5.6).

3.4.  Attacks Based on Exploiting Multiple Certificate Chains

   Section 3.2 examined attacks in which a malicious CA issued a bogus
   certificate and either tried to prevent the Subject from detecting
   the bogus certificate, or reported the bogus certificate as valid, to
   at least some relying parties, even if the Subject requested
   revocation.  These attacks are limited in that if the bogus
   certificate is not submitted to a log, then it may not be accepted by
   CT-aware browsers, and submitting the bogus certificate to a log
   increases the chances that the CA's malicious behavior will be

   In general, if a CA is discovered to be acting maliciously, its
   certificates will no longer be accepted, either because its parent
   will revoke its CA certificate, its CA certificate will be added to
   browsers' blacklists, or both.  However, a malicious CA may be able
   to obtain an SCT for each bogus certificate that it issues and
   continue to have those certificates accepted by relying parties even
   after its malicious behavior has been detected.  It can do this by
   creating more than one path validation chain for the certificates, as
   shown in Figure 2.

          +-----------------+    +-----------------+
          |       CA A      |    |      CA B       |
          +-----------------+    +-----------------+
                         \          /
                          \        /
          CA certificate 1 \      / CA certificate 2
                            \    /
                       |  malicious CA  |
                               | bogus EE certificate
                      | targeted Subject |

       Figure 2: Multiple Certificate Chains for a Bogus Certificate

   In Figure 2, the malicious CA has been issued CA certificates by two
   different parent CAs.  The parent CAs may be two different trust
   anchors, or one or both of them may be an intermediate CA (i.e., it
   is subordinate to some trust anchor).  If both parent CAs are
   intermediate CAs, they may be subordinate to the same trust anchor or
   to different trust anchors.  The malicious CA may have obtained
   certificates from the two parents by applying to them for the
   certificates, or by compromising the parent CAs and creating the
   certificates without the knowledge of the CAs.  If the malicious CA
   applied for its certificates from these CAs, it may have presented
   credentials that cause each parent
   false information as input to believe that the parent is
   dealing CA's normal issuance procedures,
   with a different CA, despite the fact result that the CA CAs do not realize that a certificate with
   the same subject name and public key are identical. has been issued by another CA.

   Because there are two certificate path validation chains, the
   malicious CA could provide the chain that includes CA A when
   submitting a bogus certificate to one or more logs, but an attacker
   (colluding with the malicious CA) could provide the chain that
   includes CA B to targeted browsers.  If the CA's malicious behavior
   is detected, then CA A and browser vendors may be alerted (e.g., via
   the CT Monitor function) and revoke/blacklist CA certificate 1.
   However, CA certificate 2 does not appear in any logs, and CA A is
   unaware that CA B has issued a certificate to the malicious CA.  Thus
   those who detected the malicious behavior may not discover the second
   chain and so may not alert CA B or browser vendors of the need to
   revoke/blacklist CA certificate 2.  In this case, targeted browsers
   would continue to accept the bogus certificates issued by the
   malicious CA, since the certificate chain they are provided is valid
   and because the SCT issued for the bogus certificate it the same
   irrespective of which certificate chain is presented.

3.5.  Attacks Related to Distribution of Revocation Status

   A bogus certificate that has been revoked may still appear valid to a
   browser under certain circumstances.  In part this is because
   certificate revocation generally depends on the certificate path
   (chain) used
   revocation information seen by a relying party when validating is partly under the
   control of the CA and/or the certificate subject.  As a certificate. result,
   different relying parties may be presented with different revocation
   information.  This is true irrespective of whether revocation is
   effected via use of a CRL or OCSP.  Additionally, an attacker can
   steer a browser to specific revocation status data via various means,
   preventing a targeted browser from acquiring accurate revocation
   status information for a bogus certificate.

   The bogus certificate might contain an AIA extension pointing to an
   OCSP server controlled by the malicious CA (or the attacker).  As
   noted in Section, the malicious CA could send a "good" OCSP
   response to a targeted browser instance, even if other parties are
   provided with a "revoked" response.  A TLS server can supply an OCSP
   response to a browser as part of the TLS handshake [RFC6961], if
   requested by the browser.  A TLS server posing as the entity named in
   the bogus certificate also could acquire a "good" OCSP response from
   the malicious CA to effect the attack.  Only if the browser relies
   upon a trusted, third-party OCSP responder, one not part of the
   collusion, would these OCSP-based attacks fail.

   The bogus certificate could contain a CRL distribution point
   extension instead of an AIA extension.  In that case a site supplying
   CRLs for the malicious CA could supply different CRLs to different
   requestors, in an attempt to hide the revocation status of the bogus
   certificate from targeted browser instances.  This is analogous to a
   split-view attack effected by a CT log.  However, as noted in
   Section and, no element of CT is responsible for
   detecting inconsistent reporting of certificate revocation status
   data.  (Monitoring in the CT context tracks log entries made by CAs
   or Subjects.  Auditing is designed to detect misbehavior by logs, not
   by CAs per se.)

   The failure of a bogus certificate to be detected as revoked (by a
   browser) is not the fault of CT.  In the class of attacks described
   above, CT achieves its goal of detecting the bogus certificate when
   that certificate is logged and a Monitor observes the log entry.
   Detection is intended to trigger revocation, to effect remediation,
   the details of which are outside the scope of CT.  However the SCT
   mechanism is intended to assure a relying party that certificate has
   been logged, is susceptible to being detected as bogus by a Monitor,
   and presumably will be revoked if detected as such.  In the context
   of these attacks, because of the way revocation may be implemented,
   the assurance provided by the SCT may not have the anticipated

   This type of attack might be thwarted in several ways.  For example,
   if all intermediate (i.e., CA) certificates had to be logged, then CA
   certificate 2 might be rejected by CT-aware browsers.  If a malicious
   CA is discovered, a browser vendor might blacklist it by public key
   (not by its serial number and the name of the parent CA or by a hash
   of the certificate).  This approach to revocation would cause CA
   certificate 2 to be rejected as well as CA certificate 1.  However
   none of these mechanisms are part of the CT specification
   [I-D.ietf-trans-rfc6962-bis] nor general IETF PKI standards (e.g.,

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.  As noted in Section 1,
   we refer to a syntactically incorrect certificate as 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, 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

   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 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

   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
   [I-D.kent-trans-domain-validation-cert-checks] and
   [I-D.kent-trans-extended-validation-cert-checks] 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" 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

   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 (, most browsers fail to perform thorough
   syntax checks on certificates.  Such browsers might benefit from
   having syntax checks performed by a log and reported in the SCT,
   although the pervasive nature of syntactically-defective certificates
   may limit the utility of such checks.  (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

   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-
   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

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
   facilitate remediation of 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

   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".  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.  Most of the
   text of Section 3.4 was provided by David Cooper, motivated by
   observations from Daniel Kahn Gilmor.  Thanks also go to Daiming Li
   for her editorial assistance.

9.  References

9.1.  Normative References

              Kent, S., Mandelberg, D., and K. Seo, "Certificate
              Transparency (CT) System Architecture", draft-kent-trans-
              architecture-07 (work in progress), August 2016. December 2017.

   [RFC2119]  Bradner, S., "Key words for use in RFCs to Indicate
              Requirement Levels", BCP 14, RFC 2119,
              DOI 10.17487/RFC2119, March 1997,

9.2.  Informative References

              Nordberg, L., Gillmor, D., and T. Ritter, "Gossiping in
              CT", draft-ietf-trans-gossip-03 draft-ietf-trans-gossip-05 (work in progress), July
              January 2018.

              Laurie, B., Langley, A., Kasper, E., Messeri, E., and R.
              Stradling, "Certificate Transparency", draft-ietf-trans-
              rfc6962-bis-19 Transparency Version 2.0", draft-
              ietf-trans-rfc6962-bis-28 (work in progress), August 2016. March 2018.

              Kent, S. and R. Andrews, "Syntactic and Semantic Checks
              for Domain Validation Certificates", draft-kent-trans-
              domain-validation-cert-checks-02 (work in progress),
              December 2015.

              Kent, S. and R. Andrews, "Syntactic and Semantic Checks
              for Extended Validation Certificates", draft-kent-trans-
              extended-validation-cert-checks-02 (work in progress),
              December 2015.

   [RFC5280]  Cooper, D., Santesson, S., Farrell, S., Boeyen, S.,
              Housley, R., and W. Polk, "Internet X.509 Public Key
              Infrastructure Certificate and Certificate Revocation List
              (CRL) Profile", RFC 5280, DOI 10.17487/RFC5280, May 2008,

   [RFC6066]  Eastlake 3rd, D., "Transport Layer Security (TLS)
              Extensions: Extension Definitions", RFC 6066,
              DOI 10.17487/RFC6066, January 2011,

   [RFC6960]  Santesson, S., Myers, M., Ankney, R., Malpani, A.,
              Galperin, S., and C. Adams, "X.509 Internet Public Key
              Infrastructure Online Certificate Status Protocol - OCSP",
              RFC 6960, DOI 10.17487/RFC6960, June 2013,

   [RFC6961]  Pettersen, Y., "The Transport Layer Security (TLS)
              Multiple Certificate Status Request Extension", RFC 6961,
              DOI 10.17487/RFC6961, June 2013,

9.3.  URIs



Author's Address

   Stephen Kent