from the who-CAN-you-trust? dept.
Over the last several months Mozilla has been investigating a large number of breaches of what Mozilla deems to be acceptable CA protocols by the Chinese root CA WoSign and their perhaps better known subsidiary StartCom, whose acquistion by WoSign is one of the issues in question. Mozilla has now published their proposed solution (GoogleDocs link), and it's not looking good for WoSign and Startcom. Mozilla's position is that they have lost trust in WoSign and, by association StartCom, with a proposed action to give WoSign and StartCom a "timeout" by distrusting any certificates issued after a date to be determined in the near future for a period of one year, essentially preventing them issuing any certificates that will be trusted by Mozilla. Attempts to circumvent this by back-dating the valid-from date will result in an immediate and permanent revocation of trust, and there are some major actions required to re-establish that trust at the end of the time out as well.
This seems like a rather elegant, if somewhat draconian, solution to the issue of what to do when a CA steps out of line. Revoking trust for certificates issued after a given date does not invalidate existing certificates and thereby inconvenience their owners, but it does put a severe - and potentially business ending - penalty on the CA in question. Basically, WoSign and StartCom will have a year where they cannot issue any new certificates that Mozilla will trust, and will also have to inform any existing customers that have certificate renewals due within that period they cannot do so and they will need to go else where - hardly good PR!
What do the Soylentils think? Is Mozilla going too far here, or is their proposal justified and reasonable given WoSign's actions, making a good template for potential future breaches of trust by root CAs, particularly in the wake of other CA trust breaches by the likes of CNNIC, DigiNotar, and Symantec?
It appears this situation developed from this discussion at Google Groups.
[Editor's Note: SoylentNews used StartCom certificates in the past but we now use only certificates from Gandi and "Let's Encrypt."]
El Reg has published a story which discusses the steps Google and Mozilla are taking, in response to the apparent misuse of a China Internet Network Information Center (CNNIC) intermediate Cetificate Authority (CA) administered by MCS Holdings, who claim it was all just a big mistake.
Firefox-maker Mozilla has joined Google in refusing to recognize SSL certificates issued by the China Internet Network Information Centre (CNNIC).
This should not be a surprise since:
This comes after a security biz in Egypt used a CNNIC-issued intermediate certificate to create unauthorized SSL certs that could be used to trick people into connecting to bogus, password-stealing Gmail.com or Google.com websites.
As a result:
[A]ll Mozilla products – including the Firefox web browser and the Thunderbird email client, among others – will be updated so that all CNNIC-based certificates issued on or after April 1, 2015 are considered untrusted.
Mozilla said it also plans to ask CNNIC for a comprehensive list of all of its current valid certificates. Any certificates issued before April 1 that are not included on this whitelist will also be subject to potential "further action."
Microsoft has also revoked the suspect CNNIC intermediate CA:
Microsoft is updating the Certificate Trust list (CTL) to remove the trust of the subordinate CA certificate. The trusted root Certificate Authority, the China Internet Network Information Center (CNNIC), has also revoked the certificate of the subordinate CA.
Last August, after being alerted by GitHub's security team that the certificate authority WoSign had errantly issued a certificate for a GitHub domain to someone other than GitHub, Google began an investigation in collaboration with the Mozilla Foundation and a group of security professionals into the company's certificate issuance practices. The investigation uncovered a pattern of bad practices at WoSign and its subsidiary StartCom dating back to the spring of 2015. As a result, Google moved last October to begin distrusting new certificates issued by the two companies, stating "Google has determined that two CAs, WoSign and StartCom, have not maintained the high standards expected of CAs and will no longer be trusted by Google Chrome."
WoSign (based in Shenzen, China) and StartCom (based in Eliat, Israel) are among the few low-cost certificate providers who've offered wildcard certificates. StartCom's StartSSL offers free Class 1 certificates, and $60-per-year wildcard certificates—allowing the use of a single certificate on multiple subdomains with a single confirmation. This made the service wildly popular. But bugs in WoSign's software allowed a number of misregistrations of certificates. One bug allowed someone with control of a subdomain to claim control of the whole root domain for certificates. The investigation also found that WoSign was backdating the SSL certificates it issued to get around the deadline set for certificate authorities to stop issuing SHA-1 SSL certificates by January 1, 2016. WoSign continued to issue the less secure SHA-1 SSL certificates well into 2016.