[cryptography] How are expired code-signing certs revoked?

mheyman at gmail.com mheyman at gmail.com
Thu Dec 8 15:18:02 EST 2011

On Wed, Dec 7, 2011 at 4:32 PM, Peter Gutmann <pgut001 at cs.auckland.ac.nz> wrote:
>  In the presence of such a [self-revoking] revocation [of a root certificate]
> applications can react in one of three ways: they can accept the CRL
> that revokes the certificate as valid and revoke it, they can reject the
> CRL as invalid because it was signed by a revoked certificate, or
>  they can crash...
Um, the real problem is not revoking the root certificate but what
other certificates to temporarily trust in the face of the revoked
root certificate (In the past, I have chosen the simplest to code
option of "none" but with the knowledge that things might break).

In a CRL that contains an element that revokes the CRL signing
certificate, only that element can be assumed to be correct. All other
list elements are suspect.

If a self-signed CA certificate lands in that CA's CRL, then, of
course the self-signed certificate can now be considered compromised.
Either the original private key signed the CRL or the compromising
copy signed it - both cases mean the root private key must be
considered compromised. Of course, the second case means some
malicious entity wanted to crash some piece of code that crashes in
this case. I can't think of another reason the malicious entity would
"out" themselves other than crashing buggy code.

All other elements in that CRL, and, indeed, all CRLs dating back to
the time of the compromise, might be invalid CRL elements. Code I have
written in the past assumed those certificates were invalid even
though they might not be. This was with full knowledge of the possible
but unlikely denial-of-service attack (there are so many better things
one can do with a compromised CA key then issue bad CRLs). Any
CRL-based DoS attack doesn't need to last too long because the CA can
issue new certificates signed with a new key in short order - getting
the new certificates including the new root certificate distributed,
of course, can take more time.
-Michael Heyman

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