Microsoft has announced that CAs in its root program may not issue certs signed using the SHA-1 algorithm, starting just over two years from now, and that Windows will start refusing to recognise such certs starting just over 3 years from now.
Make no mistake, this is a huge move and an aggressive timetable. 98% of certificates in use on the Internet today use SHA-1. Any certificate being used on the public web today which has an expiry date more than 3 years in the future will not be able to live out its full life. And it’s also an important and necessary move. SHA-1 is weak, and as computing power increases, is only getting weaker. If someone came up with a successful preimage attack on SHA-1, they could preimage a commonly-used intermediate cert from a popular CA and impersonate any website in a way only detectable by someone who examines certificates very, very carefully.
I strongly welcome this, and want to use it as an opportunity to make further improvements in the CA ecosystem. Currently, the maximum lifetime of a certificate under the Baseline Requirements is 5 years. It is due to reduce to 39 months in April 2015. Given that 98% of the certificates on the Internet are going to need to be thrown away 3 years from now anyway, I want to take the opportunity to reduce that figure early.
Long-lived certificates are problematic because CAs understandably strongly resist having to call their customers up and tell them to replace their working certificates before they would naturally expire. So, if there are certificates out there with a lifetime of N years, you can only rely on 100% coverage or usage of an improved security practice after N years. With N = 5, that reduces the speed at which the industry can move. N = 3 isn’t awesome, but it’s a whole lot better than N = 5.
So I will be bringing forward a motion at the CAB Forum to update the Baseline Requirements to reduce the maximum certificate lifetime to 3 years, effective from January 1st 2014.