[Servercert-wg] Ballot SC22: Reduce Certificate Lifetimes (v2)

Doug Beattie doug.beattie at globalsign.com
Tue Sep 3 12:58:31 MST 2019

Yes, that is exactly what I will send to our customers to document the Google position on shorter validity certificates that GlobalSign does not endorse, perfect.




From: Ryan Sleevi <sleevi at google.com> 
Sent: Tuesday, September 3, 2019 1:05 PM
To: Doug Beattie <doug.beattie at globalsign.com>
Cc: CA/B Forum Server Certificate WG Public Discussion List <servercert-wg at cabforum.org>
Subject: Re: [Servercert-wg] Ballot SC22: Reduce Certificate Lifetimes (v2)




On Tue, Sep 3, 2019 at 12:19 PM Doug Beattie <doug.beattie at globalsign.com <mailto:doug.beattie at globalsign.com> > wrote:



If I understood and agreed with the reasons for these changes, then I could certainly convey this to our customers, but you continue to skirt the real subject which is there is not a definitive place where the authors of this ballot have laid out the reasons for the change and tied that to the proposed timeline.  I’m more than willing to send along the position statement and provide commentary on it.


You've said that, but what is and remains unclear is how the Ballot is not that. That's why I'm again trying to understand what it is you feel is lacking.


GlobalSign has previously been supportive of shorter lived certificates - for example, https://www.globalsign.com/en/blog/ssl-certificate-validity-capped-at-maximum-two-years/ and https://www.globalsign.com/en/blog/ssl-certificate-validity-capped-at-maximum-two-years/ - so it's clear GlobalSign sees benefits and has been able to communicate those benefits in the past with its customers. Do those benefits not apply to one year reductions?


I don’t buy the comment that incident reports are the driving reason for shorter periods, or that shorter periods will reduce the number of incident reports.  




In this incident, GlobalSign oversaw a third-party Sub-CA to issue certificates, which then violated the Baseline Requirements. In this scenario, because this customer issued certificates at 30 days or less, they were able to reconfigure and replace the affected certificates rapidly, and in the worse case, would have been no more than 30 days from remediation. However, other certificates were manually managed, and required significant manual effort to replace, which would have created non-trivial impact if GlobalSign and its Sub-CA followed the BR-required timeline of 5 days.


In the course of that response, concerns with the Sub-CA were raised. However, GlobalSign's response was that because the majority of the certificates were expired, it was reasonable to delay revocation and focus on holistic replacement, rather than taking immediate steps to protect users. Here, the overall reduction in lifetime allowed for a better risk management calculus for those certificates still in use, without having to worry about 'legacy' certificates that might no longer be used, but were unexpired.




GlobalSign employees failed to appropriately validate certificates. During the course of investigation, GlobalSign was able to focus only on unexpired certificates, and did not examine certificates that had previously expired. This risk calculus is likely because GlobalSign understands that expired certificates can "do no harm", even if they may provide useful insight into the systemic issues behind the failure of GlobalSign and its employees to validate the data correctly. 




GlobalSign failed to properly validate domain names or follow RFC 5280, as well as oversee that of its technically constrained sub-CAs. In this situation, GlobalSign had corrected their issuance practice in February 2016; however, they did not discover the issue until February 2017. This issue went undetected because the customer ordered the certificates in August 2015, with a two year validity. As a result, this issue would not have been detected until August 2017 by GlobalSign, except for that fact that Relying Parties discovered GlobalSign was violating its CP/CPS and the Baseline Requirements.


Here, shorter lifetimes would have ensured that, as the customer replaced their certificate in a hypothetical August 2016, the issue would have been discovered, approximately six months before the community discovered it.


As part of that response, GlobalSign also announced it was moving the technically constrained sub-CAs it oversaw to managed solutions. Not withstanding any concerns for certificate pinning, one would assume that from the moment that decision is made, it would take GlobalSign approximately two years to complete that migration from making the service available. Anything sooner than that would be disruptive to Subscribers, as it would involve revoking the Sub-CA and requiring a forced replacement of their certificates. Had the validity period been capped at one year, then the time period that GlobalSign adopted - roughly a year and a half - would have been able to be completed sooner (within a year) and without any disruption or negative impact, simply through the natural cadence of certificates.




GlobalSign had been failing to follow the EV Guidelines for a number of years, not enforcing certain provisions. This was reported by Relying Parties in August 2017. As part of its incident response, GlobalSign shared that it had corrected the underlying problem in late November 2016. However, these certificates had all been issued prior to then, and thus evaded detection. Had lifetime been capped at a year, both the underlying issue and the improved remediation would have allowed GlobalSign to detect this particular issue and remedy the underlying issue sooner.


GlobalSign then decided that, despite GlobalSign's violation of its CP/CPS and the EV Guidelines, it would further violate the EV Guidelines by not revoking these certificates, and they would be permitted to be used until their natural expiration and replacement. Here, the mitigation for this was the fact that many of the certificates would be promptly expiring, due to the limits on the overall certificate lifetime.


Over the course of investigation, it was determined that GlobalSign had misissued over 2200 certificates in this form. However, this was mitigated by the fact that, despite the rampant misissuance by GlobalSign, many of these certificates were expired.



This is just a small sample of highlighting incidents where a key factor for timely resolution and correction was the certificate validity period. It allowed GlobalSign to promptly scope the issue, focus on timely replacement, or otherwise minimize any disruption to their customers, all caused by failures of GlobalSign to follow the unambiguous requirements.


Now, it may be that GlobalSign does not view its non-compliance with its CP, CPS, the Baseline Requirements and EV Guidelines, and Root Store Program Requirements as serious, because no harm was demonstrated. This certainly rings echoes of DigiNotar, which, until catastrophic harm was caused to hundreds of thousands of Iranian users, its non-compliance was otherwise unobservable and insignificant. Browsers have firmly rejected this selective approach to compliance, because, much like the story of Van Halen and brown M&Ms, the failure to spot the little things represents the chance of systemic and catastrophic failures that can cause real, lasting, permanent harm.


I only chose GlobalSign incidents, out of continued respect of wanting to avoid CAs positioning Incident Reports as a mean to shame, versus what they are: an opportunity to improve the ecosystem. That's what Ballot SC22 attempts to do: to learn from those incidents, apply a systemic understanding about the many varied and complex causes, and to accept that if we must accept human error as a potentiality in the CA ecosystem, we should balance that risk with harm reduction, such as reducing the harm that can be caused when those ever-so-fallible humans make mistakes.


Yes, there are a couple of incidents where stale data was re-used, but typically incidents are for issues other than this.


What’s missing is a public blog or position by the ballot authors on the reasons this is needed and why April 2020 is the drop dead date.  The current ballot into is insufficient. 


You continue to dismiss the reasoning being given, as you do in this message, so I'm not sure there's any reasonable path forward. This response functionally feels like "nuh uh, you're wrong", and that's why it makes it difficult to explain or even reasonably engage in discussion with.


This latest reply similarly doesn't help move the discussion further, as appealing as it might sound. For example, you present April 2020 as a drop-dead date, but haven't engaged on any substantive discussion about what actual harms are caused, what's unreasonable (which is implicitly stated in a discussion about a date), or what reasons may exist for delaying, and when. I've provided a long list of harms which date reduction would address, once the existing two year certificates were phased out.


I appreciate the attempt to move the Overton window, in order to suggest that April 2020 is an extreme position, but that somehow, there exists some more reasonable compromise position. However, GlobalSign hasn't demonstrated any evidence that would, compared to the harms caused today and benefits from reduction, justify further delay.


We need a list of issues and attacks that have resulted in, or have a high potential to harm the eco system and exactly how these proposed changes help more than they hurt.


Do you think CAs bear the same burden of discussion for establishing "hurt"? There only evidence of any harm has been one CA highlighting the challenges this make. The information provided by Entrust, DigiCert, and GoDaddy does not actually do anything to establish that there is any hurt whatsoever.


  Describe them without calling our specific CAs or organizations, intimidating the community, or demeaning those that have expressed their opinion in the past.


This is why it's functionally impossible to engage in a reasonable discussion about this. You cannot have a discussion about the harm mitigation without discussing the past harm and issues, and I've been very careful to engage in specific examples precisely because, regardless of the facts, CAs will spin it as calling them out. For example, we cannot discuss the SHA-1 issues without calling out the organizations that got a SHA-1 exception, and yet that conveniently would allow CAs to dismiss those concerns. Similarly, any statement about the desire to protect the security of users is going to be seen as "intimidating the community", and any disagreement can be painted as "demeaning", regardless of the merits.


Hopefully the facts provided above, which provide concrete examples of the harm reduction of reduced lifetimes, and how one year could have corrected or remediated issues even more than the then-current two years or three years, and could have further reduced impact and challenges for GlobalSign customers, moves that discussion forward.


In the two weeks of discussion, I tried publicly and privately to engage with GlobalSign to enumerate which parts of the Ballot Text it felt were not accurate or which it disagreed with. I appreciate that you repeated your call here for the reasons, but you've continually skirted engaging on the Substance, and instead presented it as an argument about presentation instead, and so naturally, we haven't been able to engage.

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