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

Ryan Sleevi sleevi at google.com
Mon Aug 26 10:10:39 MST 2019

Ballot SC22: Reduce Certificate Lifetimes (v2)

Since the adoption of the Baseline Requirements, the CA/Browser Forum has
discussed and debated the merits and value in reducing certificate
lifetimes, in order to adequately respond to changes in the TLS ecosystem.

Benefits of reduced lifetime:
  * Issues that result from the misinterpretation or misapplication of the
Baseline Requirements are able to be more promptly resolved. Despite the
best efforts of Browsers to ensure unambiguous requirements, there continue
to be issues with CAs and their understanding and successful implementation
of existing requirements. At present, due to the fact that validations may
be reused for up to 825 days, and when they are reused, may be used to
issue certificates valid for another 825 days, it may take up to four and a
half years before issues are resolved. This proposal would halve that time,
to a little more than two years, and represents a significant improvement.
  * Even when the Baseline Requirements are clear and unambiguous,
implementation issues by CAs routinely introduces risks of improperly
formed or validated certificates, allowing CAs to issue certificates which
have never been permitted and should never have been issued. Reducing
certificate lifetimes reduces the overall risk that the ecosystem is
exposed to these improperly formed certificates, both in terms of usage and
in the need for Relying Parties to support such certificates.
  * CRLs and OCSP have long been shown to be non-viable at Internet-scale,
in terms of how they externalize costs like privacy, performance, and
stability to Subscribers and Relying Parties. While alternative,
browser-specific methods also exist, they also allow CAs to externalize the
cost of their practices onto users and browsers, growing as the number of
unexpired certificates grow.  Reducing certificate lifetimes meaningfully
protects users, regardless of the revocation method used, and helps reduce
the overall costs paid by users.
  * Operationally, the current extensive certificate lifetime has
repeatedly led to issues, in that Subscribers frequently forget how or when
to replace certificates. Aligning on an annual basis helps ensure and
streamline continuity of operations, reducing the number of errors users
see and disruptions that sites face.
  * Operationally, the prolonged reuse of validation information creates
challenges in replacing certificates due to security risks identified with
the existing validation methods permitted by the Baseline Requirements.
Reducing this validity period similarly helps streamline the validation
process, allowing site operators to ensure for relying parties that the
certificates they use were meaningfully validated.
  * As shown by issues such as BygoneSSL, the misalignment between
certificate lifetime and the domain name system poses availability and
security risks to site operators. Despite such research being presented
directly to the CA/Browser Forum, there have been no efforts by CAs, as an
industry, to mitigate the risks posed to users. Certificate lifetimes
currently represent the greatest mitigation to these risks.
  * Existing certificate validity periods create risk for Relying Parties
wishing to enforce the Baseline Requirements or Root Program requirements,
by allowing CAs to “backdate” certificates in order to attempt to bypass
date-based program requirements. Reducing certificate lifetimes reduces the
window of exposure to such bypasses. As this has happened multiple times,
by past and present members of the CA/Browser Forum, reducing certificate
lifetimes represents the safest way to detect and counter this risk.

While this ballot sets forward a proposal for an effective annual renewal
and annual revalidation, both periods should be seen as a starting point
for further improvements. In particular, multiple Browsers have noted that
the current reuse of domain validation information represents a substantial
security risk, and thus will seek to further reduce this in subsequent
ballots. In general, CAs and Subscribers are recommended to pursue
interoperable solutions for automation, such as RFC 8555, which allow for
easier and seamless validation and replacement of certificates, and thus
helping ensure users and Relying Parties are adequately secured.

While Browsers will be able to technically enforce these reduced validities
as early as April 2020, they will not fully benefit from the reduction
until 825 days after the last day such certificates can be issued, or June
2022. As a consequence, any further delays to the implementation period of
April 2020 would represent an even greater security risk to users and
Relying Parties.

This ballot further attempts to resolve ambiguities between the
expectations of Root Programs and the interpretations of CAs. Namely, it
attempts to clarify time periods in days and seconds, to avoid confusion
with respect to months, fractional seconds, leap seconds, and other forms
of date calculation, while also allowing an additional 86,400 seconds
between the recommended period and the required period. To address issues
with Validity Period, it defines the Validity Period in a way that can be
objectively technically enforced and verified, by measuring the period
between the notBefore and notAfter of certificates, as specified by RFC
5280. While historically the Forum has not specified timezones for
effective dates, and thus this ballot continues the trend, consistent with
the requirements of X.690, X.680, and X.509, the time and timezone for
effective dates shall be interpreted as midnight, Coordinated Universal

Changes since SC22 (V1)
(Informative) Redline:

This updates the date from March 2020 to April 2020. While the adoption of
this Ballot does not require functional or operational changes of
Subscribers for 18 months, and thus ample time to evaluate and prepare for
changes, concerns were shared that customers with freeze periods that last
through February may feel unprepared, particularly once the changes begin
to impact them in 2021. To account for this, an additional month of
breathing room is provided, allowing for approximately 19 months until any
organizational impact.

Prior to this change, there was a functional difference between the
Baseline Requirements' maximum information reuse period (835 days) and the
EV Guidelines' maximum information reuse period (13 months), although both
shared the same maximum Validity Period. The EV Guidelines included
provisions to allow for the issuance of additional EV certificates, subject
to the reuse period specified by the Baseline Requirements (Section
11.14.1), including issuing additional certificates with different keys
("rekey" or "re-issuance", Section 11.14.2). The alignment of the Validity
Period between DV, OV, and EV certificates, and the alignment of the reuse
of information between DV, OV, and EV certificates, renders this special
case unnecessary. To avoid confusion that may lead CAs to believe that the
EV Guidelines contradict or supercede the Baseline Requirements, which
could result from the special accomodations specific to the EV Guidelines,
Section 11.14.3 has been modified to reduce and resolve any ambiguity. This
attempts to be the smallest possible change, clarifying existing
expectations. All certificates, whether DV, OV, or EV, are subject to the
same information reuse period set forth in the Baseline Requirements,
including permitting a CA to issue additional certificates for additional
domain names, and without requiring additional validation for
organizational information.

An interpretation of the Bylaws has been put forward that voting cannot
start until an additional message is sent following the conclusion of
discussion; that is, that the may that is specified within the Bylaws is,
in fact, a MUST and a normative requirement. To avoid confusion or conflict
with such an interpretation, and until such a matter can be resolved by
Ballot, this v2 ballot does not specify a voting period start or end, and
will not do so until after the conclusion of (or modification of) the
discussion period.

The following motion has been proposed by Ryan Sleevi of Google and
endorsed by Curt Spann of Apple and Jacob Hoffman-Andrews of ISRG / Let’s

----- MOTION BEGINS -----

This ballot modifies the Baseline Requirements, version 1.6.5, to
incorporate the following changes:


This ballot modifies the EV SSL Certificate Guidelines, version 1.7.0, to
incorporate the following changes:

Should this ballot be adopted, the Chair or Vice Chair shall be directed to
modify “SCXX” to “SC22” and “XX-Xxx-2019” within both documents’
informative tables to the date of the completed ballot, prior to or
following the IP Review Period, and “Xxxx XX” to the effective date/date of
publication of the Final Maintenance Guidelines.

In addition, the Chair or Vice Chair shall be directed to modify X.X.X
within both documents to an appropriate version, at the Chair or Vice
Chair's discretion. The Chair is recommended to not use directly sequential
or continuous numbering from prior versions, in order to ensure there is
additional review by CAs as to the substance of these changes.

----- MOTION ENDS -----
This motion proposed a Final Maintenance Guideline.

The procedure for approval of this ballot is as follows:

Discussion (7 days)
Start Time: 2019-08-26 18:00 GMT
End Time: 2019-09-02 18:00 GMT
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