On the Complexity of Public-Key Certificate Validation

  • Diana Berbecaru
  • Antonio Lioy
  • Marius Marian
Conference paper
Part of the Lecture Notes in Computer Science book series (LNCS, volume 2200)


Public-key infrastructures are increasingly being used as foundation for several security solutions, such as electronic documents, secure e-mail (S/MIME), secure web transactions (SSL), and many others.

However, there are still many aspects that need careful consideration before these systems can really be used on a very large scale. In this respect, one of the biggest issues to solve is certificate validation in a generic multi-issuer certification environment.

This paper begins by introducing the problem, also with the help of a famous security incident related to certificate validation, and then proceeds to review the user and system requirements. We take into account several constraints, such as computational power of the end-user client (workstation, PDA, cellular phone), network connectivity (permanent or intermittent, high or low speed) and security policy to be respected (personal or company-wide trust). We then proceed to define a general certificate validation architecture and show how several proposed certificate management formats and protocols can be used within this general architecture and which are the relative merits and drawbacks. Finally, the support offered by commercial products to certificate validation is analyzed, and the path towards better solutions for an effective deployment of certificates is sketched.


PKI certificate validation certificate revocation CRL OCSP DPD DPV 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. [1]
    M. K. Reiter, S. G. Stubblebine, Towards Acceptable Metrics of Authentication, Proceedings of IEEE Symposium on Security and Privacy, Oakland, CA, May 1997, pp. 10–20.Google Scholar
  2. [2]
    R. Housley, W. Ford, W. Polk, D. Solo, Internet X.509 Public Key Infrastructure Certificate and CRL Profile, RFC 2459, IETF, 1999Google Scholar
  3. [3]
    Erroneous VeriSign-Issued Digital Certificates Pose Spoofing Hazard, Microsoft Security Bulletin MS01-017, available at
  4. [4]
    T. Bray, J. Paoli, C.M. Sperberg-McQueen, Extensible Markup Language (XML) 1.0, W3C Recommendation, 10-February-1998, available at
  5. [5]
  6. [6]
    B. Ramsdell, S/MIME Version 3 Message Specification, RFC 2633, IETF, 1999Google Scholar
  7. [7]
    T. Dierks, C. Allen, The TLS Protocol Version 1.0, RFC 2246, IETF, 1999Google Scholar
  8. [8]
    T. Beth, M. Borcherding, B. Klein, Valuation of trust in open networks, European Symposium on Research in Computer Security, ESORICS 1994, vol. 875 of Lecture Notes in Computer Science, Springer-Verlag, 1994, pp. 3–18Google Scholar
  9. [9]
    U. Maurer, Modelling a public-key infrastructure, European Symposium on Research in Computer Security, ESORICS 1996, vol. 1146 of Lecture Notes in Computer Science, Springer-Verlag, 1996, pp. 325–350Google Scholar
  10. [10]
    M. K. Reiter, S. G. Stubblebine, Path independence for authentication in largescale systems, Proceedings of ACM Conference on Computer and Communications Security, Zurich, Switzerland, April, 1997, pp. 57–66Google Scholar
  11. [11]
    W. Ford, M. S. Baum, Secure Electronic Commerce, Prentice Hall, 1997Google Scholar
  12. [12]
    P. McDaniel, S. Jamin, Windowed Key Revocation in Public Key Infrastructures, Tech. Rep. CSE-TR-376-98, EECS(Univ. of Michigan), 1998Google Scholar
  13. [13]
    ITU-T Recommendation X.509-ISO/IEC 9594-8, 1995Google Scholar
  14. [14]
    M. Myers, R. Ankney, A. Malpani, S. Galperin, C. Adams, X.509 Internet Public Key Infrastructure Online Certificate Status Protocol-OCSP, RFC 2560, IETF, 1999Google Scholar
  15. [15]
    M. Naor, K. Nissim, Certificate Revocation and Certificate Update, IEEE Journal on selected areas in communications, Vol. 18, No. 4, 2000, pp. 561–570CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. [16]
    H. Kikuchi, K. Abe, S. Nakanishi, Performance evaluation of public-key certificate revocation system with balanced hash tree, Proceedings of International Workshops on Parallel Processing, Wakamatsu, Japan, 1999, pp. 204–209Google Scholar
  17. [17]
    M. Myers, S. Farrell, C. Adams, Delegated Path Discovery with OCSP, draft-ietfpkix-ocsp-path-00.txt, IETF Internet Draft, September 2000Google Scholar
  18. [18]
    M. Myers, C. Adams, S. Farrell, Delegated Path Validation, draft-ietf-pkix-ocspvalid-00.txt, IETF Internet Draft, August 2000Google Scholar
  19. [19]
    M. Myers, R. Ankney, C. Adams, S. Farrell, C. Covey, Online Certificate Status Protocol, version 2, draft-ietf-pkix-ocspv2–02.txt, IETF Internet Draft, March 2001Google Scholar
  20. [20]
    A. Malpani, P. Hoffman, R. Housley, Simple Certificate Validation Protocol (SCVP), draft-ietf-pkix-scvp-05.txt, IETF Internet Draft, June 2001Google Scholar
  21. [21]
    D. Pinkas, Delegated Path Validation and Delegated Path Discovery Protocols, draft-ietf-pkix-dpv-dpd-00.txt, IETF Internet Draft, July 2001Google Scholar
  22. [22]
  23. [23]
  24. [24]

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2001

Authors and Affiliations

  • Diana Berbecaru
    • 1
  • Antonio Lioy
    • 1
  • Marius Marian
    • 1
  1. 1.Dipartimento di Automatica e InformaticaPolitecnico di TorinoTorino(Italy)

Personalised recommendations