PKIX Working Group                                         Michael Myers
draft-ietf-pkix-ocsp-00.txt                               VeriSign, Inc.
Expires in 6 months                                       November 1997

                   Internet Public Key Infrastructure
                Online Certificate Status Protocol - OCSP

1.  Status of this Memo

This document is an Internet-Draft. Internet-Drafts  are  working  docu-
ments  of the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF), its areas, and its
working groups. Note that other groups may also distribute working docu-
ments as Internet-Drafts.

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."

To learn the current status of  any  Internet-Draft,  please  check  the
"1id-abstracts.txt"  listing  contained  in  the  Internet-Drafts Shadow
Directories   on   (Africa),    (Europe),   (Pacific  Rim),  (US  East  Coast),  or (US West Coast).

1. Abstract

The protocol conventions described in this document satisfy some of the
operational requirements of the Internet Public Key Infrastructure
(PKI).  This document specifies an HTTP-based application protocol use-
ful in determining the current status of a digital certificate without
the use of CRLs.  Additional mechanisms addressing PKIX operational re-
quirements are specified in separate documents.

Please send comments on this document to the mail

2. Protocol Overview

In lieu of or as a supplement to checking against a periodic CRL, it may
be necessary to obtain timely status regarding a  certificate’s revoca-
tion state (cf. PKIX Part 1, Section 3.3). Examples include high-value
funds transfer or the compromise of a highly sensitive key.

The Online Certificate Status Protocol (OCSP) enables applications to
efficiently and rapidly determine the validity and revocation state of
an identified certificate.  An OCSP client issues a status request to an
OCSP responder and suspends acceptance of the subject certificate until
the responder provides a response.

Myers                                                           [Page 1]

INTERNET DRAFT                                          October 21, 1997

2.1 Request

An OCSP request contains the following data:

- protocol version
- service request
- target certificate identifier or a single end-entity certificate

Upon receipt of a request, an OCSP Responder first determines if: 1) the
message is well formed, 2) the responder is configured to provide the
requested service, and 3) the responder can perform the requested serv-
ice for the subject certificate.  If any one of the prior conditions are
not met, an error message is produced; otherwise, a definitive response
is returned.

2.2 Response

All definitive response messages shall be digitally signed.  The key
used to sign definitive responses need not be the same signing key used
to sign the certificate. Note that caching signed responses for fre-
quently requested certificates may optionally provide some support for
reducing the cryptographic and bandwidth loads on the responder.

A definitive response message is composed of:

- response validity interval
- target certificate identifier
- certificate status value
- identification of public key needed to validate the signature
- signature algorithm OID
- signature computed across hash of previous five values

This specification defines the following definitive response indicators
for use in the certificate status value:

- INVALID       {includes reason text}
- REVOKED       {includes X.509 reason code}
- EXPIRED       {includes date of expiration}

The path validation logic implied by the VALID and INVALID indicators is
that defined by PKIX Part 1.

The INVALID state is distinguished from the REVOKED and EXPIRED states
in that a valid certificate may be revoked or expired but such informa-
tion on an invalid certificate is misleading.

Myers                                                           [Page 2]

INTERNET DRAFT                                          October 21, 1997

The ON HOLD state corresponds to valid certificates that are operation-
ally suspended in accordance with PKIX Part 1.

Signed error messages extend the set of definitive response indicators
to include the following error conditions:


2.3 Response Pre-production

The response validity interval noted in the prior section is composed of
a {produced_at, expires_on} pair of elements in the response syntax.
Section 4.2 provides details of the response syntax.

OCSP responders MAY pre-produce signed responses reflecting the current
status of certificates at the time the response was produced.  The time
at which the response was produced SHALL be reflected in the produced_at
field of the response.

The producer of the response SHALL include a value for expires_on.  The
exact interval between produced_at and expires_on for given response is
a matter of local security and operational policy.

If responses are pre-produced, then for a given certificate, the perio-
dicity of this pre-production SHOULD match the response validity inter-
val of the most recently produced response.

3. Functional Requirements

3.1 Certificate Content

In order to convey to OCSP clients a well-known point of information ac-
cess, CAs shall provide the capability to include the AuthorityInfoAc-
cess extension (defined in PKIX Part 1, section in certificates
intended to be applied to the service.

CAs that support an OCSP service, either hosted locally or provided by a
Trusted Third Party, shall provide a value for a uniformResourceIndica-
tor (URI) accessLocation and the OID value id-pkix-ocsp for the access-
Method in the AccessDescription SEQUENCE.

The value of the accessLocation field in the subject certificate corre-
sponds to the URL placed into an OCSP request (see section 5.1).

3.2 Request Generation and Submission

OCSP clients shall be capable of transmitting OCSP as an HTTP 1.1 GET
and of receiving the response as the Entity-Body of an HTTP 1.1 Full-
Response.  Section 4.5 discusses use of HTTP transport.

Myers                                                           [Page 3]

INTERNET DRAFT                                          October 21, 1997

3.3 Error Responses

Upon receipt of a request which fails to parse, the receiving OCSP re-
sponder shall respond with an error message.  If the responder is con-
figured to provide signed error responses, a failure to parse an incom-
ing request shall be indicated by an ILLFORMED MESSAGE response.  The
value of the identifier of such a response shall be NULL_ID.

For service requests not supported by the responder, the responder shall
respond with an error message. If the responder is configured to provide
signed error responses, non-availability of the requested service shall
be indicated by a NO SERVICE response.

This protocol makes use of HTTP as a transport.  OCSP clients should
consequently enable automatic recovery from a lost connection.  An HTTP
timeout mechanism is one conventional means of doing so.

3.4 Status Responses

Upon receipt of an OCSP request containing an end-entity certificate, if
the certificate fails to validate against Section 6 of PKIX Part 1 for
reasons other than revocation, OCSP responders shall respond with INVA-
LID.  Responses may be supplemented with explanatory text that provides
additional context.  Section 5.2 of this document specifies a minimal
set of explanatory text for this purpose.

3.5 Signed Response Acceptance Requirements

Prior to accepting a signed response as valid, OCSP clients shall con-
firm that:

1.  The certificate identified in a received response corresponds to that
which was identified in a former request;

2.  The signature on the response is valid;

3.  The identity of the signer matches the intended recipient of the re-

4. Detailed Protocol

4.1 Request Syntax

An OCSP request is an HTTP 1.1 GET method composed of a URL followed by
a sequence of keyword-value pairs. The following grammar specifies the
request portion of the protocol.  Quoted syntactic elements are terminal
elements of the grammar.

Myers                                                           [Page 4]

INTERNET DRAFT                                          October 21, 1997

OCSP_request     :      url request version target
url              :      protocol “://” domain_name “/”
protocol         :      “http”
request          :      service_class “/” action
version          :      “2”
service_class    :      “status”
action           :      “check”
time             :      YYYYMMDDHHMMSSZ
target           :      cert or cert_id
cert             :      “cert” “/” certificate
certificate      :      {base-64 encoding of single certificate}
cert_id          :      “ID” “/” hash
hash             :      md5_hash(Issuer DN | cert serial number)

The value of “2” for the version field accommodates preliminary imple-
mentations of a different request and response syntax.

To produce a value for the cert_id field, the client first calculates an
MD5 hash across the concatenation of Issuer DN with the serial number in
the target certificate, base-64 encodes the hash and appends the result
to the prior fields.

4.2 Response Syntax

An HTTP-based OCSP response is composed of a sequence of data fields
separated by a “#” character.  Response codes are returned as the ASCII
encoding of a decimal number.  Values with a minus sign (ASCII encoding
of “-”) indicate definitive error values.

OCSP_response      :    definitive_rsp | error_rsp
definitive_rsp     :    base status_value signature_block
error_rsp          :    minimal_error | definitive_error

minimal_error      :    0x20                             // “ “ //
definitive_error   :    base error_value signature_block

base               :    produced_at “#” expires_on # prior_id “#”
produced_at        :    YYYYMMDDHHMMSSZ
expires_on         :    YYYYMMDDHHMMSSZ
prior_id           :    // cert_id of prior request //

error_value        :    illformed_msg | no_service
illformed_msg      :    0x2d 0x31                       // “-1” //
no_service         :    0x2d 0x32                       // “-2” //
status_value       :    status_code {reason_text or date_context} “#”
status_code        :    valid|invalid|revoked|not_revoked|expired
valid              :    0x31                            // “1”  //
invalid            :    0x32                            // “2”  //
revoked            :    0x33                            // “3”  //

Myers                                                           [Page 5]

INTERNET DRAFT                                          October 21, 1997

expired            :    0x34                            // “4”  //
on_hold            :    0x35                            // “5”  //
reason_text        :    {for additional context}
date_context       :    YYYYMMDDHHMMSSZ
signature_block    :    key_id “#” sig_alg_oid “#” signature
key_id             :    // SHA-1 hash of public key needed to
                           validate signature //
sig_alg_oid        :    // algorithm combination used to produce sig //
signature          :    // base-64 encoded value corresponding to
                           the result of using sig-alg-oid //

Standard values for reason_text shall include:
“1   The root for this certificate is not trusted on this responder.”
“2   Could not find CA’s public key.”
“3   CA’s public key invalid.”
“4   CA’s public key revoked.”
“5   CA’s public key expired.”
“6   CA not authorized for Subject’s name.”
“7   CA not authorized for Subject’s privileges.”
“8   CA’s public key did not validate signature.”
“9   Could not find CA’s revocation information.”
“10  CA’s CRL out of date.”

When producing REVOKED responses, OCSP responders shall include the date
of the revocation in the status_value field as a value for date_context.

The produced_at and expires_on fields define a validity interval.  This
interval corresponds to the {thisUpdate, nextUpdate} CRL validity inter-
val.  Responses whose expires_on value is earlier than the local system
time value should be considered unreliable.

To produce a value for the cert_id field, the client first calculates an
MD5 hash across the concatenation of Issuer DN with the serial number in
the target certificate, base-64 encodes the hash and appends the result
to the prior fields.

To produce a signed response, the responder first calculates a hash
across the sequence

  { produced_at#expires_on#prior_id#status_value#key_id#sig_alg_oid# },

signs the hash, base-64 encodes the result and then appends it to the
prior fields.  The associated hash and signing algorithms are identified
by the value of sig_alg_oid.

If a request contains a direct certificate instead of a cert_id--and the
request results in a definitive response--OCSP responders shall calcu-
late a cert_id as defined in section 5.1 of this specification and in-
clude the resultant value in the cert_id field of the response.

Myers                                                           [Page 6]

INTERNET DRAFT                                          October 21, 1997

4.3 Mandatory and Optional Cryptographic Algorithms

Clients that request OCSP services shall be capable of processing re-
sponses signed used DSA keys identified by the DSA sig_alg_oid specified
in section 7.2.2 of PKIX Part 1.  Clients should also be capable of
processing RSA signatures as specified in section 7.2.1 of PKIX Part 1.

4.4 Responder Key Identification

It is possible that an OCSP responder may have more than one valid pub-
lic signature key of the same cryptographic algorithm.  To assist cli-
ents in identifying which public key to use, OCSP responders shall in-
clude in all signed responses a SHA-1 hash of the required public key.

It is also possible that an OCSP client may be in possession of more
than one valid certificate containing the OCSP responder’s public key.

This specification asserts no constraints on the means by which clients
determine which certificate to use.

4.5 HTTP Transport Mechanism
The request syntax is intended to mimic a file system GET via HTTP 1.1
in order for it to be cached by local proxy responders.

OCSP requests are composed as an HTTP GET as follows:
GET <request> HTTP/1.1
The response to such a query is the Entity-Body of an HTTP 1.1 Full-
Response as defined in RFC 2068 with Content-Type: XX/XX.

A representation of the HTTP context of an OCSP request and response
follows.  The content differs slightly from current request and response

GET /status/check/ver/1/ID/qyXLklpfK2wYd8iPsGdOwQ== HTTP/1.1
Date: Thu, 23 Oct 1997 22:33:30 GMT
User-Agent: Transport xy/z

HTTP/1.0 200 OK
Server: Netscape-Enterprise/2.0a
Date: Thu, 23 Oct 1997 22:33:34 GMT
Last-modified: Thursday, 23 Oct 1997 12:38:25 GMT
Expires: Thursday, 23 Oct 1997 23:38:25 GMT
Content-type: application/octet-stream


Myers                                                           [Page 7]

INTERNET DRAFT                                          October 21, 1997

If an HTTP/1.0 server receives the message or a proxy downgrades the re-
quest to a 1.0 message the request will work as expected except that the
connection will be closed at the end of the request, a keep-alive re-
quest will not be supported. The advantages of using HTTP 1.1 over HTTP
1.0 are:

1) HTTP 1.0 is a Best Commercial Practices document while HTTP 1.1 is
full standards track.

2) It would be possible to send a sequence of requests at the same time
using the 'keep-alive' facility. This would allow the raw data for vali-
dating a certificate to be collected in a single server transaction or
allow a whole 'address book' of certificates to be checked in one go.

3) The 1.1 cache control features would be available. These allow cli-
ents to specify precisely the degree of staleness they will permit. They
can also make statementslike 'get me the latest if you can get it other-
wise send me something no more than 240 seconds old.'

3a) A particularly useful feature is that the server can require caches
to poll to check freshness each time they serve a piece of data. In the
HTTP/1.0 model there is only the pragma: no-cache which prohibits all
caching entirely.

5. Security Considerations

For this service to be effective, certificate using systems must connect
to the certificate status service provider. In the event such a connec-
tion cannot be obtained, certificate-using systems should implement CRL
processing logic as a fall-back position.

A denial of service vulnerability is evident with respect to a flood of
queries constructed to produce error responses.  The production of a
cryptographic signature significantly affects response generation cycle
time, thereby exacerbating the situation. Performance studies on a pre-
liminary implementation of OCSP capable of handling two million hits per
day without degradation suggest this effect is of an orders of magnitude
per response. Unsigned error responses provide a reasonable tradeoff
against protection against this particular attack.

The use of unsigned error messages introduces a vulnerability to inter-
mediation attacks. It is reasonable to ask for error messages to be
signed to address this vulnerability.  A request to do so however must
also consider the converse risk identified above—namely that increasing
the response cycle time of error messages through use of cryptographic
signing increases the impact of flooding attacks.  Parties implementing
OCSP responders that wish to offer the benefit of signed error responses
should strongly consider the use of hardware-assisted cryptography.  Do-
ing so will reduce the threat of flood attacks.

Myers                                                           [Page 7]

INTERNET DRAFT                                          October 21, 1997

6. References

[HTTP] Hypertext Transfer Protocol -- HTTP/1.0. T. Berners-Lee,
       R. Fielding & H. Frystyk, RFC 1945, May 1996.

7. Author’s Address

Michael Myers
VeriSign, Inc.
1390 Shorebird Way
Mountain View, CA 94019

INTERNET DRAFT                                          October 14, 1997

Myers                     [Page 1]