Friday, December 18, 2015

PKI reforms starts. Kind of.

Microsoft has lost faith in more than 20 CAs.

Still this is a partial measure. The chain is as strong as its weakest link is. If we have a web server certificate, signed by CA X , whose CA certificate is issued / signed by (trusted) root CA R, the X can be the weakest link, and no Microsoft measures will help prevent this link to be broken. This is exactly what happened in previous cases, when sub-CAs (like those X) issued certificates in violation to PKI rules and practices.

The solution? Web of trust. This would require certain modifications of the PKI, but the requirement for the end-entity certificate to be signed by at least two CAs would eliminate most issues related to wrongdoing by sub-CAs. Look - if you are an attacker and you hijack CA X , there's little use in this - you would need to hijack CA Y and/or CA Z . This is possible, but much more complicated and imposes higher risks to your attack to you.

In general there's much there that can be borrowed from OpenPGP. CA (Issuer) can still be present in the certificate, but there can be other extensions like subsignatures or counter-certificates included, and that would significantly increase the protection level.

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