[Acme] tls-sni-01 validation compromise

Jehiah Czebotar <jehiah@gmail.com> Fri, 22 January 2016 02:38 UTC

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Date: Thu, 21 Jan 2016 21:38:24 -0500
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From: Jehiah Czebotar <jehiah@gmail.com>
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Subject: [Acme] tls-sni-01 validation compromise
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In working to implemented LetsEncrypt at Bitly, I uncovered an issue
with the tls-sni-01 validation that limits its trustworthiness in


The tls-sni-01 validation is intended to prove control over a domain
name. The challenge relies on presenting a
"<Zi[0:32]>.<Zi[32:64]>.acme.invalid" as the ServerName in the
clientHello, and relying on a self-signed certificate to used to
complete the TLS handshake that has a single matching

Because the server initiating the validation request is presenting the
full ServerName expected back, it is thus untrusted and can not be
used to imply any relation to the party requesting validation. It is
possible to configure a server that generates certificates on-the-fly
to match the ServerName presented, and thus passing ALL tls-sni-01
validation attempts. An example of such a server is


1) Change the requirement that the self signed cert have one DNSName,
and require the response to have TWO DNS names. One that matches the
requested hostname, and a second that is secret which proves it can
only be created by the appropriate party initiating validation
2) Remove reliance on SNI matching, and make the challenge `tls-01`
and fulfill the same HTTP response requirements as `http-01` where the
Hostname, and request path are untrusted, but the response body with
full keyAuthorization proves the connection to the requestor. This
opens up the possibility of TLS validation against the $domain being
validated instead of relying on a .acme.invalid hostname.

Other Notes:

There appear to have been discussions about `n` versions of
certificates being generated and requiring validation to check a
subset of them. I think this vulnerability means `n` is moot as no
number of checks for certificates that match the server hello prove
control over a domain name.


p.s. Thank you to Richard Barnes from Mozilla for pointing me to this
mailing list.