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Proposal: DN="CN=WebID,O=∅" was: certificate-authorities in CertificateRequest

From: Henry Story <henry.story@bblfish.net>
Date: Sat, 20 Oct 2012 23:47:45 +0200
Cc: Ben Laurie <benl@google.com>, public-webid <public-webid@w3.org>
Message-Id: <B9003529-7E10-4A34-BF5D-A35116CAA5B5@bblfish.net>
To: David Chadwick <d.w.chadwick@kent.ac.uk>
Here is my rough proposal now for ISSUE-59: "Filtering & Versioning WebID 
Certificates" [1] 

  A WebID Client Certificate chain's root MUST be signed by the agent with 
DN "CN=WebID,O=∅" - the O= values is the utf-8 character U+2205 know as 
"Empty Set". 

( We could put O=W3C but people would tend to think the W3C was going
to be responsible for the signature, whereas here it is clear that 
there is NO organisation at all. )
( I chose a very short DN, so as to minimise the traffic on the TLS layer )

Anyone can have the root of his certificate signed by that agent by making up 
a public/private key pair and signing a certificate  with the generated private 
key. In particular for services generating the equivalent of self signed 
certificates they can give the user a certificate signed directly by that agent.

This will then allow servers to ask browsers for certificates from DN's 
they know and trust as well as WebID based Certificates the user may have.
This should help reduce the size of certificates appearing in the selection 
box  shown to the user.

A server that wants to ask the user for all client certificates can still
make the null request. This is useful for testing servers for example.

I don't expect us all to make requests for those DN immediately, but I think
we should work on agreeing on the WebID DN and make sure all certificates
created are generated with it, so that in the future we can allow servers to
select WebID certificates easily.

I'll be demonstrating this at TPAC. If we find that this works ok, I propose
we add language to the spec describing this requirement.


I have tested this with my read-write-web server 

which I'll be putting online in the next few weeks hopefully.

For example the following class builds client certificates:


at line 134 on every VM startup the server creates a new public/private key with
which to sign the certificates it creates which will be signed by CN=WebID,O=∅"

When I then start my server with 

> run  -Dhttps.port=8443 -Dhttps.trustStore=webid.WebIDTrustManager

and I go to a service such as 


then I am only asked for my WebID Certificates (now considered to be those
signed by "CN=WebID,O=∅"

This solves one of Ben Laurie's problems of being asked for too
many certificates, especially certificates that don't have WebIDs signed
by institutions the user knows nothing of.

I have not yet tried this on longer certificate chains.
Also I am looking to see if I can ask for the null resource depending on
the certificate 

[1] http://www.w3.org/2005/Incubator/webid/track/issues/59

On 12 Oct 2012, at 19:22, David Chadwick <d.w.chadwick@kent.ac.uk> wrote:

> Hi Henry
> the first point to note is that signing CA public keys by the WebID root
> CA is not signifying any trust in the CA per se. It is merely signalling
> that this is the public key of this CA. Right? And because the root CA
> has already done this for you, then we can be sure it is correct, or else the root CA is a fraudster. But given that the root CAs' certs are already built into our browsers by MS, Apple, Mozilla et al then they have already done the validation for you. Right?
> The second point to note is that it is not the root CAs' keys which the
> WebID CA is signing, but rather the subordinate CAs of these CAs. This
> is because signature chain verification may not wont work if it comes
> across a self signed root CA key which is not the WebID CA (the root of
> trust). So by signing the keys of subordinate CAs of the root CAs built
> into browsers, we create an alternative path to the trusted root CA. Of course this makes the work load even greater than you imagined, since each root CA may have 3 or 4 subordinate CAs. But your proposal below will probably handle this.
> More comments below

Thanks for the feedback, but I think you did not quite see the radicality of
what I was proposing. I am not proposing that an institution have any keys it
can sign root CAs with, I am proposing anyone can create those keys and sign them :-)

Received on Saturday, 20 October 2012 21:48:24 UTC

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