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Mozilla Updates CA Certificate Policy

Mozilla announced an update to their CA Certificate policy on Friday, including changes on compliance and auditing. The update, the organization explained in a blog post, continues their efforts towards stronger controls and visibility.

“Mozilla is working towards stronger controls and visibility of publicly-trusted issuing certificates in order to make better trust decisions, detect security incidents faster, and limit the impact of each security incident,” a blog post from the Mozilla Security Team explained.

Version 2.1 of the CA Certificate policy encourages CAs to constrain subordinate CA certificates using X.509 extensions (RFC 5280) to restrict usage. However, the post adds that Mozilla knows such constraints may not be practical in some cases. Therefore, subordinate CA certificates may instead be publicly disclosed, and audited in accordance with Mozilla’s CA Certificate Policy.

All subordinate CA certificates that are issued after May 15, 2013 must comply with the new CA Certificate policy within one-year, accounting for the impact these changes may have to large organizations that will need to plan for new infrastructure and auditing.

Moreover, another change in the policy centers on baseline requirements, or BRs, which provide clear standards on important subjects including verification of identity, certificate content and profiles, CA security, revocation mechanisms, and use of algorithms and key sizes.

Mozilla says that CAs will be required to update their operations and SSL certificate issuance to comply with version 1.1 of the CA/Browser Forum’s BRs immediately.

“As of February 2013, SSL certificate issuance must be audited according to the BR criteria, but initial BR audits for each CA and subCA that include a reasonable list of exceptions will be considered and potentially accepted,” Mozilla said.

Last year, after Trustwave caused a scuffle over subordinate certificates, Mozilla re-visited their CA policy, including what happens if partners and vendors fail to meet expectations.

“Participation in Mozilla’s root program is at our sole discretion, and we will take whatever steps are necessary to keep our users safe, up to and including the removal of root certificates that mis-issue, as well as any roots that cross-sign them...”

Version 2.1 of the CA Certificate Policy is available here

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Steve Ragan is a security reporter and contributor for SecurityWeek. Prior to joining the journalism world in 2005, he spent 15 years as a freelance IT contractor focused on endpoint security and security training.