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Re: [blink-dev] Intent to Deprecate and Remove: Trust in existing Symantec-issued Certificates

Darin Fisher Jul 27, 2017 5:16 PM
Posted in group: blink-dev

Representing Google Chrome and the Chromium open source project, what follows is our final proposal on this matter.

We’d like to first thank the blink-dev community for your input on this discussion. After taking this input into consideration along with the latest responses from Symantec and Mozilla, we have produced the following proposal that is intended to be our final plan of action on this matter.

Chrome 66 will distrust Symantec-issued TLS certificates issued before June 1, 2016:

Chrome 66 will distrust Symantec-issued TLS certificates issued before June 1, 2016, which is tentatively scheduled to hit Canary on January 19, 2018; Beta on March 15, 2018; and Stable (the vast majority of Chrome users) on April 17, 2018. Affected site operators are strongly encouraged to replace their TLS certificates before March 15, 2018 to prevent breakage. Although this is significantly later than our initial proposal of August 2017 and Mozilla’s proposal for late 2017, we think it hits an appropriate balance between the security risk to Chrome users and minimizing disruption to the ecosystem. This time will allow clear messaging and scheduling for site operators to update certificates.

We considered a number of alternative dates for distrusting this subset of existing certificates before landing on Chrome 66. Given the scale of Symantec’s existing PKI and the impact to the ecosystem that these mitigations pose, one of our goals was to consider dates that gave site operators enough lead time, as well as to try to clear end-of-year time periods where production freezes are typically in place. Chrome 62 which comes out in October 2017 was seriously considered, but was rejected due to concerns around not giving enough lead time for site operators. Chrome 63 which comes out in December was rejected due to overlapping with end-of-year freezes. Chrome 64 which comes out in late January 2018 was strongly considered, but its early release channels also overlap with holiday and end of year freezes.  Chrome 65’s branch point is close to the new year, and could present a challenge for some site operators. Hence, Chrome 66 was chosen as the final approach.

Site operators currently using Symantec-issued TLS server certificates that were issued before June 1, 2016 need to replace these certificates as soon as possible to avoid disruption to their users. The distrust of these certificates is necessary and is specifically targeted at removing the risk of trusting old certificates that were issued under an inadequately controlled infrastructure. Site operators can choose to obtain their certificates from any trusted Certificate Authority. Although the old infrastructure will be distrusted in the future (see below), site operators with critical dependencies on Symantec’s current infrastructure may also obtain replacement certificates from Symantec, provided these certificates comply with the existing Chrome requirements for new certificates issued from Symantec.

While we intend to stick with this schedule, if there is new information highlighting additional security risks with this set of certificates, the dates could change to more rapidly distrust the existing certificates.

Chrome 70 will distrust TLS certificates issued from Symantec’s old infrastructure:

In order to complete this migration, we will be removing trust in all certificates issued by Symantec’s old infrastructure in Chrome 70. This includes any replacement certificates issued by Symantec prior to the transition to the non-Symantec-operated “Managed Partner Infrastructure”. Chrome 70 is tentatively scheduled to first reach Beta on September 13, 2018 and Stable on October 23, 2018, which is approximately 5 months after Chrome 66’s corresponding dates.

By these dates, affected site operators will need to have fully replaced any TLS server certificates issued from Symantec’s old infrastructure, using any trusted CA including the new Managed Partner Infrastructure. Failure to migrate a site to one of these two options will result in breakage when Chrome 70 is released.

Reference Timeline:

In order to distill Chrome’s final plan into an actionable set of information for site operators, we’ve drawn up a timeline of relevant dates associated with this plan. As always, Chrome release dates can vary by a number of days, but upcoming release dates can be tracked here.



July 27, 2017


~March 15, 2018

Site Operators using Symantec-issued TLS server certificates issued before June 1, 2016 should replace these certificates. These certificates can be replaced by any currently trusted CA, including Symantec.

~October 24, 2017

Chrome 62 released to Stable, which will add alerting in DevTools when evaluating certificates that will be affected by the Chrome 66 distrust.

December 1, 2017

According to Symantec, the new Managed Partner Infrastructure will at this point be capable of full issuance. Any certificates issued by Symantec’s old infrastructure after this point will cease working in a future Chrome update.

From this date forward, Site Operators can obtain TLS server certificates from the new Managed Partner Infrastructure that will continue to be trusted after Chrome 70 (~October 23, 2018).

December 1, 2017 does not mandate any certificate changes, but represents an opportunity for site operators to obtain TLS server certificates that will not be affected by Chrome 70’s distrust of the old infrastructure.

~March 15, 2018

Chrome 66 released to beta, which will remove trust in Symantec-issued certificates with a not-before date before June 1, 2016. As of this date, in order to ensure continuity of operations, Site Operators must be using either a Symantec-issued TLS server certificate issued on or after June 1, 2016 or a currently valid certificate issued from any other trusted CA as of Chrome 66.

Site Operators that obtained a certificate from Symantec’s old infrastructure after June 1, 2016 are unaffected by Chrome 66 but will need to obtain a new certificate by the Chrome 70 dates described below.

~April 17, 2018

Chrome 66 released to Stable.

~September 13, 2018

Chrome 70 released to Beta, which will remove trust in the old Symantec-rooted Infrastructure. This will not affect any certificate chaining to the new Managed Partner Infrastructure, which Symantec has said will be operational by December 1, 2017.

Only TLS server certificates issued by Symantec’s old infrastructure will be affected by this distrust regardless of issuance date.

~October 23, 2018

Chrome 70 released to Stable.

A note on the Blink process and this Intent:

As mentioned at the start of this discussion, the Google Chrome team decided to use the Blink Process in discussing this change, as a way to gather feedback from site operators, the Chromium community, other browsers, and the broader ecosystem about how to balance the interoperability risk and compatibility risk. A goal of this process is to balance risk by aligning on interoperable solutions, minimize ambiguity, and provide transparency into the decision making process. This process was designed around balancing changes to the Web Platform APIs, and we recognize there are further opportunities to improve this for Certificate Authority decisions. As those improvements are not yet in place, we will be forgoing the Blink API owner LGTM process for approval, and treating this more as a product-level decision instead.

Thanks to everyone who put in so much time and energy to arrive at this point.

On Sun, May 7, 2017 at 4:57 PM, Darin Fisher <> wrote:
I wanted to give folks an update about the current state of this Intent. Given all of the feedback we've received from the community, right now we are continuing to evaluate different options and are improving our understanding of the impact these proposals would have on the ecosystem. We understand the desire to reach closure here, but also want to make sure that we take the appropriate amount of time to ensure that we come up with the best possible proposal. If you have additional feedback that could help inform our decision, we welcome hearing it.


On Thu, Mar 23, 2017 at 9:02 AM, Ryan Sleevi <> wrote:

Note: Historically, the Google Chrome team has not used the Blink Process for Certificate Authority-related security issues, of which there have been a number over the years. However, we are interested in exploring using this process for such changes, as it provides a greater degree of transparency and public participation. Based on the level of participation and feedback we receive, we may consider using this for the future. However, as CA-related security incidents may require immediate response to protect users, this should not be seen as a guarantee that this process can be used in future incident responses.

Primary eng (and PM) emails:


Since January 19, the Google Chrome team has been investigating a series of failures by Symantec Corporation to properly validate certificates. Over the course of this investigation, the explanations provided by Symantec have revealed a continually increasing scope of misissuance with each set of questions from members of the Google Chrome team; an initial set of reportedly 127 certificates has expanded to include at least 30,000 certificates, issued over a period spanning several years. This is also coupled with a series of failures following the previous set of misissued certificates from Symantec, causing us to no longer have confidence in the certificate issuance policies and practices of Symantec over the past several years. To restore confidence and security of our users, we propose the following steps:

  • A reduction in the accepted validity period of newly issued Symantec-issued certificates to nine months or less, in order to minimize any impact to Google Chrome users from any further misissuances that may arise.

  • An incremental distrust, spanning a series of Google Chrome releases, of all currently-trusted Symantec-issued certificates, requiring they be revalidated and replaced.

  • Removal of recognition of the Extended Validation status of Symantec issued certificates, until such a time as the community can be assured in the policies and practices of Symantec, but no sooner than one year.


As captured in Chrome’s Root Certificate Policy, root certificate authorities are expected to perform a number of critical functions commensurate with the trust granted to them. This includes properly ensuring that domain control validation is performed for server certificates, to audit logs frequently for evidence of unauthorized issuance, and to protect their infrastructure in order to minimize the ability for the issuance of fraudulent certs.

On the basis of the details publicly provided by Symantec, we do not believe that they have properly upheld these principles, and as such, have created significant risk for Google Chrome users. Symantec allowed at least four parties access to their infrastructure in a way to cause certificate issuance, did not sufficiently oversee these capabilities as required and expected, and when presented with evidence of these organizations’ failure to abide to the appropriate standard of care, failed to disclose such information in a timely manner or to identify the significance of the issues reported to them.

These issues, and the corresponding failure of appropriate oversight, spanned a period of several years, and were trivially identifiable from the information publicly available or that Symantec shared.

The full disclosure of these issues has taken more than a month. Symantec has failed to provide timely updates to the community regarding these issues. Despite having knowledge of these issues, Symantec has repeatedly failed to proactively disclose them.  Further, even after issues have become public, Symantec failed to provide the information that the community required to  assess the significance of these issues until they had been specifically questioned. The proposed remediation steps offered by Symantec have involved relying on known-problematic information or using practices insufficient to provide the level of assurance required under the Baseline Requirements and expected by the Chrome Root CA Policy.

In January 2015, Symantec-issued certificates represented more than 30% of the valid certificates by volume. While changes in the CA ecosystem have seen that share decrease over the past two years, there is still a significant compatibility risk for an immediate and complete distrust. Further, due to overall TLS ecosystem concerns, we understand that it may take non-trivial effort for some site operators to find suitable solutions, as the need to support older devices may necessitate the use of particular CAs, meaning that distrust of new certificates also has significant compatibility risk.

To balance the compatibility risks versus the security risks, we propose a gradual distrust of all existing Symantec-issued certificates, requiring that they be replaced over time with new, fully revalidated certificates, compliant with the current Baseline Requirements. This will be accomplished by gradually decreasing the ‘maximum age’ of Symantec-issued certificates over a series of releases, distrusting certificates whose validity period (the difference of notBefore to notAfter) exceeds the specified maximum.

The proposed schedule is as follows:

Chrome 59 (Dev, Beta, Stable): 33 months validity (1023 days)

Chrome 60 (Dev, Beta, Stable): 27 months validity (837 days)

Chrome 61 (Dev, Beta, Stable): 21 months validity (651 days)

Chrome 62 (Dev, Beta, Stable): 15 months validity (465 days)

Chrome 63 (Dev, Beta): 9 months validity (279 days)

Chrome 63 (Stable): 15 months validity (465 days)

Chrome 64 (Dev, Beta, Stable): 9 months validity (279 days)

The proposed schedule attempts to avoid making changes in Chrome 63 Stable, as that would be released during the winter holiday production freeze many organizations undergo. This is solely to reduce disruption for site operators and users, and attempts to resume with Chrome 64 following the holiday season. Further, the practical impact of the changes in Chrome 59 and 60 are relatively minimal, due to many of the certificates issued during that period of time being issued using SHA-1, which is no longer supported for certificates in Chrome.

In addition, we propose to require that all newly-issued certificates must have validity periods of no greater than 9 months (279 days) in order to be trusted in Google Chrome, effective Chrome 61. This ensures that the risk of any further misissuance is, at most, limited to nine months, and more importantly, that if any further action is warranted or necessary, that the entire ecosystem can migrate within that time period, thus minimizing the risk of further compatibility issues.

By combining these two steps, we can ensure that the level of assurance in Symantec-issued certificates is able to match what is expected by Google Chrome and the ecosystem, and that the risks posed both from past and possible future misissuance is minimized as much as possible.

Given the nature of these issues, and the multiple failures of Symantec to ensure that the level of assurance provided by their certificates meets the requirements of the Baseline Requirements or Extended Validation Guidelines, we no longer have the confidence necessary in order to grant Symantec-issued certificates the “Extended Validation” status. As documented with both the current and past misissuance, Symantec failed to ensure that the organizational attributes, displayed within the address bar for such certificates, meet the level of quality and validation required for such display. Therefore, we propose to remove such indicators, effective immediately, until Symantec is able to demonstrate the level of sustained compliance necessary to grant such trust, which will be a period no less than a year. After such time has passed, we will consider requests from Symantec to re-evaluate this position, in collaboration with the broader Chromium community.

Compatibility and Interoperability Risk

As with any reduction in trust in a Certificate Authority, this poses a non-trivial degree of compatibility risk. This is because site operators desire to have their certificates recognized in all client browsers, and if one or more browsers fail to trust a given CA, this is prevented from happening.

On the other hand, all site operators expect that certificates will only be issued for their domains upon their request, and the failure to have that assurance significantly undermines the security of HTTPS for both site operators and users.

This compatibility risk is especially high for Symantec-issued certificates, due to their acquisition of some of the first CAs, such as Thawte, Verisign, and Equifax, which are some of the most widely supported CAs. Distrusting such CAs creates further difficulty for providing secure connections to both old and new devices alike, due to the need to ensure the CA a site operator uses is recognized across these devices.

Further, the immediate distrust of a CA, as has been necessary in the past, can significantly impact both site operators and users. Site operators are forced to acquire certificates from other CAs, without having the opportunity and time to research which CAs best meet their needs, and users encounter a substantial number of errors until those site operators act, conditioning them to ignore security warnings. In the event that only a single browser distrusts such a CA, the error is often seen as the browser’s fault, despite it being a failure of the CA to provide the necessary level of assurance, and the site operator to respond in a timely fashion.

Assessing the compatibility risk with both Edge and Safari is difficult, because neither Microsoft nor Apple communicate publicly about their changes in trust prior to enacting them.

While Mozilla conducts their discussions regarding Certificate Authorities in public, and were the first to be alerted of these latest issues, they have not yet begun discussion of the next steps to how best to protect their users. Our hope is that this proposal may be seen as one that appropriately balances the security and compatibility risks with the needs of site operators, browsers, and users, and we welcome all feedback.

Alternative implementation suggestion for web developers

This proposal allows for web developers to continue to use Symantec issued certificates, but will see their validity period reduced. This ensure that web developers are aware of the risk and potential of future distrust of Symantec-issued certificates, should additional misissuance events occur, while also allowing them the flexibility to continue using such certificates should it be necessary.

Usage information from UseCounter:

For a variety of non-technical reasons, we do not currently instrument the usage of CAs. Further, few public metrics exist for intersecting usage information with the validity period, since only certificates valid greater than nine months will be affected outside of their normal replacement cycle. From Mozilla Firefox’s Telemetry, we know that Symantec issued certificates are responsible for 42% of certificate validations. However, this number is not strictly an indicator for impact, as this number is biased towards counting certificates for heavily-trafficked sites, and whose issuance is fully automated and/or whose validity periods will be unaffected, thus significantly overstating impact. By phasing such changes in over a series of releases, we aim to minimize the impact any given release poses, while still continually making progress towards restoring the necessary level of security to ensure Symantec issued certificates are as trustworthy as certificates from other CAs.