Google Proposes: Managed CAs to Issue Symantec Certificates

June 16, 2017 | By Vivek Ram

On May 19, 2017, in the Blink Process forum, Ryan Sleevi of the Google Chrome team wrote:”Chrome will require that by 2017-08-08 all new Symantec-chaining certificates be issued by independently operated third-parties (aka “Managed CAs”).
Chrome will implement a check, on-or-after 2017-08-08, to enforce this by ensuring that the certificate chain contain a whitelist of intermediates (independently operated sub-CAs or the Managed CAs).”

Now, Google and Mozilla have proposed consensus plans designed to provide a framework that would allow Symantec certificates to remain in browser stores. However, though significant discussions have taken place between the browser authorities and Symantec, a consensus has still not been reached.

Then, inorder to restore confidence and security of Chrome users, Google proposed:

  • “A reduction in the accepted validity period of newly issued Symantec-issued certificates to nine months or less, in order to minimize any impact to Google Chrome users from any further misissuances that may arise.
  • An incremental distrust, spanning a series of Google Chrome releases, of all currently-trusted Symantec-issued certificates, requiring they be revalidated and replaced.
  • Removal of recognition of the Extended Validation status of Symantec issued certificates, until such a time as the community can be assured in the policies and practices of Symantec, but no sooner than one year.”

Following this statement, Mozilla observed the mississuances too and taking cognizance of this fact proposed plans for Symantec to restore trust in its public key infrastructure. Mozilla and Google have offered a consensus plan and a considerable amount of discussion has been going on about – “Managed CAs” or “independently operated sub-CAs”.

The Situation Now on Sub-CAs

On sub-CAs, Google proposes:

“These sub-CAs must be operated by a non-affiliated organization that operates roots currently trusted in the Android and Chrome OS trust stores that have been trusted for a period of at least two years.

The non-affiliated organization must accept full responsibility for the operation of these sub-CAs and agree that any misissuance from these sub-CAs will be treated as if it was misissuance from any of the other CAs the organization operates. Similarly, any misissuance from the other CAs the organization operates will be treated as if it was misissuance from these sub-CAs. Because the basis for trust in these intermediates will be based on chaining to the existing Symantec root certificates, rather than to a different organization’s CA certificates, Symantec must also accept responsibility for the operation of these sub-CAs and agree that any misissuance from these sub-CAs will be treated as if it was misissuance from any of the other CAs that Symantec operates.”

Further, “on 2017-08-08, any ‘expired’ validations (e.g. whose data or documents were obtained outside the permitted Baseline Requirements reuse periods), and any ‘new’ validations (e.g. those who do not have preexisting certificates issued in compliance with the Baseline Requirements, issued prior to 2017-08-08) would be validated by the Managed CA.”

The intent of the proposal is “to allow a meaningful and timely turndown of existing validations, and ensure a smooth transition to fully revalidated information, in a way that retroactive audits cannot provide sufficient assurance of.”

What It Means For You Now

There have been significant complications in defining the role of “Managed CA” or “sub-CA”, and browsers and Symantec have to come to a workable agreement to ensure that websites are not affected. However, in the eventuality that the process gets delayed, and a consensus is not reached then you risk the functioning and reputation of your website and suffer an interruption to your business.

Your Options

You must consider other options – such as reputed CAs like Comodo, who issue certificates strictly only in compliance with the Baseline Requirements as specified by the CA/Browser Forum. And if you have to handle many certificates then Comodo’s Certificate Manager (CCM) – an advanced certificate issuance and lifecycle management tool – makes management easy. With Google proposing shorter validation periods for certificates it makes better sense to utilize an effective certificate manager tool. Regarding your At-Risk certificates – you must take a call now.

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