Skip to main content

Short-Lived Certificates for Secure Telephone Identity

The information below is for an old version of the document.
Document Type
This is an older version of an Internet-Draft whose latest revision state is "Expired".
Author Jon Peterson
Last updated 2023-07-27 (Latest revision 2022-04-21)
RFC stream (None)
Stream Stream state (No stream defined)
Consensus boilerplate Unknown
RFC Editor Note (None)
IESG IESG state I-D Exists
Telechat date (None)
Responsible AD (None)
Send notices to (None)
Network Working Group                                        J. Peterson
Internet-Draft                                                   Neustar
Intended status: Standards Track                            27 July 2023
Expires: 28 January 2024

         Short-Lived Certificates for Secure Telephone Identity


   When certificates are used as credentials to attest the assignment of
   ownership of telephone numbers, some mechanism is required to provide
   certificate freshness.  This document specifies short-lived
   certificates as a means of guaranteeing certificate freshness for
   secure telephone identity (STIR), potentially relying on the
   Automated Certificate Management Environment (ACME) or similar
   mechanisms to allow signers to acquire certificates as needed.

Status of This Memo

   This Internet-Draft is submitted in full conformance with the
   provisions of BCP 78 and BCP 79.

   Internet-Drafts are working documents of the Internet Engineering
   Task Force (IETF).  Note that other groups may also distribute
   working documents as Internet-Drafts.  The list of current Internet-
   Drafts is at

   Internet-Drafts are draft documents valid for a maximum of six months
   and may be updated, replaced, or obsoleted by other documents at any
   time.  It is inappropriate to use Internet-Drafts as reference
   material or to cite them other than as "work in progress."

   This Internet-Draft will expire on 28 January 2024.

Copyright Notice

   Copyright (c) 2023 IETF Trust and the persons identified as the
   document authors.  All rights reserved.

Peterson                 Expires 28 January 2024                [Page 1]
Internet-Draft              STIR Certs Short                   July 2023

   This document is subject to BCP 78 and the IETF Trust's Legal
   Provisions Relating to IETF Documents (
   license-info) in effect on the date of publication of this document.
   Please review these documents carefully, as they describe your rights
   and restrictions with respect to this document.  Code Components
   extracted from this document must include Revised BSD License text as
   described in Section 4.e of the Trust Legal Provisions and are
   provided without warranty as described in the Revised BSD License.

Table of Contents

   1.  Introduction  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   2
   2.  Terminology . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   3
   3.  Short-lived certificates for STIR . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   3
   4.  Certificate Acquisition with ACME . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   5
   5.  IANA Considerations . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   6
   6.  Privacy Considerations  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   6
   7.  Security Considerations . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   6
   8.  Acknowledgments . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   6
   9.  References  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   6
     9.1.  Normative References  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   6
     9.2.  Informative References  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   8
   Author's Address  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   9

1.  Introduction

   The STIR problem statement [RFC7340] discusses many attacks on the
   telephone network that are enabled by impersonation, including
   various forms of robocalling, voicemail hacking, and swatting.  One
   of the most important components of a system to prevent impersonation
   is the implementation of credentials which identify the parties who
   control telephone numbers.  The STIR certificates [RFC8226]
   specification describes a credential system based on [X.509] version
   3 certificates in accordance with [RFC5280] for that purpose.  Those
   credentials can then be used by STIR authentication services
   [RFC8224] to sign PASSporT objects [RFC8225] carried in a SIP
   [RFC3261] request.

Peterson                 Expires 28 January 2024                [Page 2]
Internet-Draft              STIR Certs Short                   July 2023

   The STIR certificates document specifies an extension to X.509 that
   defines a Telephony Number (TN) Authorization List that may be
   included by certificate authorities in certificates.  This extension
   provides additional information that relying parties can use when
   validating transactions with the certificate: either in the form of
   Service Provider Codes (SPCs) or telephone numbers.  Telephone
   numbers or number ranges are used in delegate STIR certificates
   [RFC9060].  When a SIP request arrives at a terminating
   administrative domain, for example, the calling number attested by
   the SIP request can be compared to the TN Authorization List of the
   delegate certificate that signed the request to determine if the
   caller is authorized to use that calling number in SIP.

   No specific recommendation is made in the STIR certificates document
   for a means of determining the freshness of certificates with a TN
   Authorization List.  This document explores how short-lived
   certificates could be used as a means of preserving that freshness.
   Short-lived certificates also have a number of other desirable
   properties that fulfill important operational requirements for
   network operators.  A mechanism such as the Automated Certificate
   Management Environment (ACME) [RFC8555] could be leveraged to manage
   these short-lived certificates, as well as various web-based
   interfaces or other out-of-band mechanisms.  The interaction of STIR
   with ACME has already been explored in
   [I-D.ietf-acme-authority-token-tnauthlist], so it provides a
   potentially attractive way of delivering short-lived certificates.

2.  Terminology

   The key words "MUST", "MUST NOT", "REQUIRED", "SHALL", "SHALL NOT",
   "OPTIONAL" in this document are to be interpreted as described in BCP
   14 [RFC2119] [RFC8174] when, and only when, they appear in all
   capitals, as shown here.

3.  Short-lived certificates for STIR

   While there is no easy definition of what constitutes a "short-lived"
   certificate, the term typically refers to certificates that are valid
   only for days or even hours, as opposed to the months or years common
   in traditional public key infrastructures.  When the private keying
   material associated with a certificate with an expiry of months or
   years is compromised by an adversary, the issuing authority must
   revoke the certificate, which requires relying parties to review
   certificate revocation lists or to access real-time status
   information with protocols such as OCSP.  Short-lived certificates
   offer an alternative where, if compromised, certificates will shortly
   expire anyway, and rather than revoking and reissuing the certificate

Peterson                 Expires 28 January 2024                [Page 3]
Internet-Draft              STIR Certs Short                   July 2023

   in response to a crisis, certificates routinely roll-over and cannot
   be cached for a long term by relying parties, minimizing their value
   to attackers.

   One of the additional benefits of using short-lived certificates is
   that they do not require relying parties to perform any certificate
   freshness check.  The trade-off is that the signer must acquire new
   certificates frequently, so the cost of round-trip times to the
   certificate authority is paid on the signer's side rather than the
   verifier's side; however, in environments where many parties may rely
   on a single certificate, or at least where a single certificate will
   be used to sign many transactions during its short lifetime, the
   overall architecture will incur fewer round-trip times to the
   certificate authority and thus less processing delay.

   In the STIR context, the TN Authorization List defined in [RFC8226]
   adds a new wrinkle to the behavior of short-lived certificates,
   especially when the List is populated with telephone numbers or
   number ranges instead of Service Provider Codes (SPCs).  A subject
   may have authority over multiple telephone numbers, but a particular
   short-lived certificate issued to that subject could attest the
   authority over all, some, or just one of those telephone numbers.
   Short-lived certificates permit a more on-demand certification
   process, where subjects acquire certificates as needed, potentially
   in reaction to calls being placed.  A STIR authentication service
   could even acquire a new certificate on a per-call basis that can
   only sign for the calling party number of the call in question, as it
   would expire immediately thereafter.  At the other end of the
   spectrum, a large enterprise service provider could acquire a
   certificate valid for millions of numbers, but expire the certificate
   after a very short duration - on the order of hours - to reduce the
   risk that the certificate would be compromised.

   This inherent flexibility in the short-lived certificate architecture
   would also permit authentication services to implement very narrow
   policies for certificate usage.  A large service provider who wanted
   to avoid revealing which phone numbers they controlled, for example,
   could provide no information in the certificate that signs a call
   other than just the single telephone number that corresponds to the
   calling party's number.  How frequently the service provider feels
   that they need to expire that certificate and acquire a new one is
   entirely a matter of policy to them.  This makes it much harder for
   entities monitoring signatures over calls to guess who owns which
   numbers, and provides a much more complicated threat surface for
   attackers trying to compromise the service.

Peterson                 Expires 28 January 2024                [Page 4]
Internet-Draft              STIR Certs Short                   July 2023

   In order to reduce the burden on verification services, an
   authentication service could also piggyback a short-lived certificate
   onto the signed SIP request, so that no network lookup and consequent
   round-trip delay would be required on the terminating side to acquire
   the new certificate.  [RFC8224] already provides a way of pointing to
   a certificate in a MIME body associated with the SIP request.
   Another potential delivery mechanism would be the "x5c" parameter of
   the PASSporT itself, which would convey the entire X.509 certificate
   chain as a base64 encoded PKIX value.  This would make PASSporTs
   larger, but it also obviates the need for downloading the certificate
   from a URI through "x5u."

4.  Certificate Acquisition with ACME

   One of the primary challenges facing short-lived certificates is
   building an operational system that allows signers to acquire new
   certificates and put them to immediate use.  ACME [RFC8555] is
   designed for exactly this purpose.  After a client registers with an
   ACME server, and the authority of the client for the names in
   question is established (through means such as
   [I-D.ietf-acme-authority-token-tnauthlist]), the client can at any
   time apply for a certificate to be issued by sending an appropriate
   JSON request to the server.  That request will contain a CSR
   [RFC2986] indicating the intended scope of authority as well the
   validity interval of the certificate in question.  Ultimately, this
   will enable the client to download the certificate from a certificate
   URL designated by the server.

   ACME is based on the concept that clients establish accounts at an
   ACME server, and that through challenges, the server learns which
   identifiers it will issue for certificates requested for an account.
   Any given certificate issued for an account can be for just one of
   those identifiers, or potentially for more: this is determined by the
   CSR that an ACME client creates for a particular order.  Thus, a
   service provider with authority for millions of identifiers - that
   is, millions of telephone numbers - could create a CSR for an ACME
   order that requests a certificate only associated with one of those
   telephone numbers if it so desired.  The same would be true of
   certificates based on Service Provider Codes (SPCs) as described in
   [RFC8226]: a service provider might have just one SPC or perhaps
   many.  ACME thus puts needed flexibility into the hands of the
   clients requesting certificates to determine how much of their
   authority they want to invest in any given certificate.

   [I-D.ietf-acme-authority-token-tnauthlist] uses the ATC framework of
   [I-D.ietf-acme-authority-token] to generate tokens that are provided
   to the CA in response to ACME challenges.  For a usage with short-
   term certificates, it may make sense for the ATC tokens to have a

Peterson                 Expires 28 January 2024                [Page 5]
Internet-Draft              STIR Certs Short                   July 2023

   relatively long expiry, so that the ACME client does not have to
   constantly return to the Token Authority for new tokens.  This could
   potentially be used with the ACME STAR [RFC8739] mechanism as well.

5.  IANA Considerations

   This document contains no actions for the IANA.

6.  Privacy Considerations

   Short-lived certificates provide attractive privacy properties when
   compared to real-time status query protocols like OCSP, which require
   relying parties to perform a network dip that can reveal a great deal
   about the source and destination of communications.  For STIR, these
   problems are compounded by the presence of the TN Authorization List
   extension to certificates.  Short-lived certificates can minimize the
   data that needs to appear in the TN Authorization List, and
   consequently reduce the amount of information about the caller leaked
   by certificate usage to an amount equal to what is leaked by the call
   signaling itself.

7.  Security Considerations

   This document is entirely about security.  For further information on
   certificate security and practices, see [RFC5280], in particular its
   Security Considerations.  The Security Considerations of [RFC8555]
   are relevant to the use of ACME to acquire short-lived certificates.

8.  Acknowledgments

   Stephen Farrell provided key input to the discussions leading to this

9.  References

9.1.  Normative References

              ATIS Recommendation 0300251, "Codes for Identification of
              Service Providers for Information Exchange", 2007.

   [DSS]      National Institute of Standards and Technology, U.S.
              Department of Commerce | NIST FIPS PUB 186-4, "Digital
              Signature Standard, version 4", 2013.

              Peterson, J., Barnes, M., Hancock, D., and C. Wendt, "ACME
              Challenges Using an Authority Token", Work in Progress,

Peterson                 Expires 28 January 2024                [Page 6]
Internet-Draft              STIR Certs Short                   July 2023

              Internet-Draft, draft-ietf-acme-authority-token-09, 24
              October 2022, <

              Wendt, C., Hancock, D., Barnes, M., and J. Peterson,
              "TNAuthList profile of ACME Authority Token", Work in
              Progress, Internet-Draft, draft-ietf-acme-authority-token-
              tnauthlist-13, 7 February 2023,

   [RFC2119]  Bradner, S., "Key words for use in RFCs to Indicate
              Requirement Levels", BCP 14, RFC 2119,
              DOI 10.17487/RFC2119, March 1997,

   [RFC2986]  Nystrom, M. and B. Kaliski, "PKCS #10: Certification
              Request Syntax Specification Version 1.7", RFC 2986,
              DOI 10.17487/RFC2986, November 2000,

   [RFC3261]  Rosenberg, J., Schulzrinne, H., Camarillo, G., Johnston,
              A., Peterson, J., Sparks, R., Handley, M., and E.
              Schooler, "SIP: Session Initiation Protocol", RFC 3261,
              DOI 10.17487/RFC3261, June 2002,

   [RFC5280]  Cooper, D., Santesson, S., Farrell, S., Boeyen, S.,
              Housley, R., and W. Polk, "Internet X.509 Public Key
              Infrastructure Certificate and Certificate Revocation List
              (CRL) Profile", RFC 5280, DOI 10.17487/RFC5280, May 2008,

   [RFC8174]  Leiba, B., "Ambiguity of Uppercase vs Lowercase in RFC
              2119 Key Words", BCP 14, RFC 8174, DOI 10.17487/RFC8174,
              May 2017, <>.

   [RFC8224]  Peterson, J., Jennings, C., Rescorla, E., and C. Wendt,
              "Authenticated Identity Management in the Session
              Initiation Protocol (SIP)", RFC 8224,
              DOI 10.17487/RFC8224, February 2018,

   [RFC8225]  Wendt, C. and J. Peterson, "PASSporT: Personal Assertion
              Token", RFC 8225, DOI 10.17487/RFC8225, February 2018,

Peterson                 Expires 28 January 2024                [Page 7]
Internet-Draft              STIR Certs Short                   July 2023

   [RFC8226]  Peterson, J. and S. Turner, "Secure Telephone Identity
              Credentials: Certificates", RFC 8226,
              DOI 10.17487/RFC8226, February 2018,

   [RFC8555]  Barnes, R., Hoffman-Andrews, J., McCarney, D., and J.
              Kasten, "Automatic Certificate Management Environment
              (ACME)", RFC 8555, DOI 10.17487/RFC8555, March 2019,

   [RFC8739]  Sheffer, Y., Lopez, D., Gonzalez de Dios, O., Pastor
              Perales, A., and T. Fossati, "Support for Short-Term,
              Automatically Renewed (STAR) Certificates in the Automated
              Certificate Management Environment (ACME)", RFC 8739,
              DOI 10.17487/RFC8739, March 2020,

   [RFC9060]  Peterson, J., "Secure Telephone Identity Revisited (STIR)
              Certificate Delegation", RFC 9060, DOI 10.17487/RFC9060,
              September 2021, <>.

   [X.509]    ITU-T Recommendation X.509 (10/2012) | ISO/IEC 9594-8,
              "Information technology - Open Systems Interconnection -
              The Directory: Public-key and attribute certificate
              frameworks", 2012.

   [X.680]    ITU-T Recommendation X.680 (08/2015) | ISO/IEC 8824-1,
              "Information Technology - Abstract Syntax Notation One:
              Specification of basic notation".

   [X.681]    ITU-T Recommendation X.681 (08/2015) | ISO/IEC 8824-2,
              "Information Technology - Abstract Syntax Notation One:
              Information Object Specification".

   [X.682]    ITU-T Recommendation X.682 (08/2015) | ISO/IEC 8824-2,
              "Information Technology - Abstract Syntax Notation One:
              Constraint Specification".

   [X.683]    ITU-T Recommendation X.683 (08/2015) | ISO/IEC 8824-3,
              "Information Technology - Abstract Syntax Notation One:
              Parameterization of ASN.1 Specifications".

9.2.  Informative References

   [RFC7340]  Peterson, J., Schulzrinne, H., and H. Tschofenig, "Secure
              Telephone Identity Problem Statement and Requirements",
              RFC 7340, DOI 10.17487/RFC7340, September 2014,

Peterson                 Expires 28 January 2024                [Page 8]
Internet-Draft              STIR Certs Short                   July 2023

   [RFC7375]  Peterson, J., "Secure Telephone Identity Threat Model",
              RFC 7375, DOI 10.17487/RFC7375, October 2014,

   [X.520]    ITU-T Recommendation X.520 (10/2012) | ISO/IEC 9594-6,
              "Information technology - Open Systems Interconnection -
              The Directory: Selected Attribute Types", 2012.

Author's Address

   Jon Peterson
   Neustar, Inc.

Peterson                 Expires 28 January 2024                [Page 9]