Online Certificate Status Protocol

From Glitchdata
Jump to navigation Jump to search

The Online Certificate Status Protocol (OCSP) is an Internet protocol used for obtaining the revocation status of an X.509 digital certificate.[1] It is described in RFC 6960 and is on the Internet standards track. It was created as an alternative to certificate revocation lists (CRL), specifically addressing certain problems associated with using CRLs in a public key infrastructure (PKI).[2] Messages communicated via OCSP are encoded in ASN.1 and are usually communicated over HTTP. The "request/response" nature of these messages leads to OCSP servers being termed OCSP responders.

Comparison to CRLs

  • Since an OCSP response contains less information than a typical certificate revocation list (CRL), it puts less burden on network and client resources.[3]
  • Since an OCSP response has less data to parse, the client-side libraries that handle it can be less complex than those that handle CRLs.[4]
  • OCSP discloses to the responder that a particular network host used a particular certificate at a particular time. OCSP does not mandate encryption, so other parties may intercept this information.[1]

Basic PKI implementation

  1. Alice and Bob have public key certificates issued by Carol, the certificate authority (CA).
  2. Alice wishes to perform a transaction with Bob and sends him her public key certificate.
  3. Bob, concerned that Alice's private key may have been compromised, creates an 'OCSP request' that contains Alice's certificate serial number and sends it to Carol.
  4. Carol's OCSP responder reads the certificate serial number from Bob's request. The OCSP responder uses the certificate serial number to look up the revocation status of Alice's certificate. The OCSP responder looks in a CA database that Carol maintains. In this scenario, Carol's CA database is the only trusted location where a compromise to Alice's certificate would be recorded.
  5. Carol's OCSP responder confirms that Alice's certificate is still OK, and returns a signed, successful 'OCSP response' to Bob.
  6. Bob cryptographically verifies Carol's signed response. Bob has stored Carol's public key sometime before this transaction. Bob uses Carol's public key to verify Carol's response.
  7. Bob completes the transaction with Alice.

Protocol details

An OCSP responder (a server typically run by the certificate issuer) may return a signed response signifying that the certificate specified in the request is 'good', 'revoked', or 'unknown'. If it cannot process the request, it may return an error code.

The OCSP request format supports additional extensions. This enables extensive customization to a particular PKI scheme.

OCSP can be vulnerable to replay attacks,[5] where a signed, 'good' response is captured by a malicious intermediary and replayed to the client at a later date after the subject certificate may have been revoked. OCSP allows a nonce to be included in the request that must be included in the corresponding response, and the replay would only be possible during the OCSP response's validity period, not for the entire validity period of the original certificate. Nevertheless, since most OCSP responders and clients do not support or use the nonce extension and certificate authorities (CAs) issue responses with a validity period of multiple days, the replay attack is a major threat to validation systems.

OCSP can support more than one level of CA. OCSP requests may be chained between peer responders to query the issuing CA appropriate for the subject certificate, with responders validating each other's responses against the root CA using their own OCSP requests.

An OCSP responder may be queried for revocation information by delegated path validation (DPV) servers. OCSP does not, by itself, perform any DPV of supplied certificates.

The key that signs a response need not be the same key that signed the certificate. The certificate's issuer may delegate another authority to be the OCSP responder. In this case, the responder's certificate (the one that is used to sign the response) must be issued by the issuer of the certificate in question, and must include a certain extension that marks it as an OCSP signing authority (more precisely, an extended key usage extension with the OID {iso(1) identified-organization(3) dod(6) internet(1) security(5) mechanisms(5) pkix(7) keyPurpose(3) ocspSigning(9)})

Privacy concerns

OCSP checking creates a privacy concern for some users, since it requires the client to contact a third party (albeit a party trusted by the client software vendor) to confirm certificate validity. OCSP stapling is a way to verify validity without disclosing browsing behavior to the CA.[1]


OCSP-based revocation is not an effective technique to mitigate against the compromise of an HTTPS server's private key. An attacker who has compromised a server's private key typically needs to be in a Man-in-the-middle position on the network to abuse that private key and impersonate a server. An attacker in such a position is also typically in a position to interfere with the client's OCSP queries. Because most clients will silently ignore OCSP if the query times out, OCSP is not a reliable means of mitigating HTTPS server key compromise.[6]

The MustStaple TLS extension in a certificate can require that the certificate be verified by a stapled OCSP response, mitigating this problem.[3] OCSP also remains a valid defense against situations where the attacker is not a "man-in-the-middle" (code-signing or certificates issued in error).

Browser support

There is wide support for OCSP amongst most major browsers:

However, Google Chrome is an outlier. Google disabled OCSP checks by default in 2012, citing latency and privacy issues[13] and instead uses their own update mechanism to send revoked certificates to the browser.[14]

Open-source implementations

Some open-source implementations are:

  • XiPKI,[15] CA and OCSP responder. With SHA3 support, OSGi-based (Java).

See also



External links

Template:SSL/TLS Template:Web browsers

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 A., Jesin (June 12, 2014). "How To Configure OCSP Stapling on Apache and Nginx". Community Tutorials. Digital Ocean, Inc.. Retrieved March 2, 2015.
  2. "OCSP Stapling". GlobalSign Support. GMO GlobalSign Inc.. August 1, 2014. Retrieved March 2, 2015.
  3. 3.0 3.1 Gibson, Steve. "Security Certificate Revocation Awareness: The case for "OCSP Must-Staple"". Gibson Research Corporation. Retrieved March 2, 2015.
  4. Keeler, David (July 29, 2013). "OCSP Stapling in Firefox". Mozilla Security Blog. Mozilla Foundation. Retrieved March 2, 2015.
  5. RFC 6960, section 5, Security Considerations
  6. "No, Don't Enable Revocation Checking". 19 April 2014. Retrieved 24 April 2014.
  7. "Windows XP Certificate Status and Revocation Checking". Microsoft. Retrieved 9 May 2016.
  8. "What’s New in Certificate Revocation in Windows Vista and Windows Server 2008". Microsoft. Retrieved 9 May 2016.
  9. "Mozilla Bug 110161 – Enable OCSP by Default". Mozilla. 1 October 2007. Retrieved 18 July 2010.
  10. Wisniewski, Chester (26 March 2011). "Apple users left to defend themselves against certificate attacks". Sophos. Retrieved 26 March 2011.
  11. Pettersen, Yngve Nysæter (November 9, 2006). "Introducing Extended Validation Certificates". Opera Software. Retrieved 8 January 2010.
  12. Pettersen, Yngve Nysæter (3 July 2008). "Rootstore newsletter". Opera Software. Retrieved 8 January 2010.
  13. Langley, Adam (5 Feb 2012). "Revocation checking and Chrome's CRL". Archived from the original on 2012-02-12. Retrieved 2015-01-30.
  14. "Chrome does certificate revocation better", April 21, 2014, Larry Seltzer, ZDNet
  15. "xipki/xipki · GitHub". Retrieved 2016-10-17.