Affordable Access

Relay Racing with X.509 Mayflies : An Analysis of Certificate Replacements and Validity Periods in HTTPS Certificate Logs / Stafettlöpning med X.509-dagsländor : En Analys av Certifikatutbyten och Giltighetsperioder i HTTPS-certifikatloggar

  • Bruhner, Carl Magnus
  • Linnarsson, Oscar
Publication Date
Jan 01, 2020
DiVA - Academic Archive On-line
External links


Certificates are the foundation of secure communication over the internet as of today. While certificates can be issued with long validity periods, there is always a risk of having them compromised during their lifetime. A good practice is therefore to use shorter validity periods. However, this limits the certificate lifetime and gives less flexibility in the timing of certificate replacements. In this thesis, we use publicly available network logs from Rapid7's Project Sonar to provide an overview of the current state of certificate usage behavior. Specifically, we look at the Let's Encrypt mass revocation event in March 2020, where millions of certificates were revoked with just five days notice. In general, we show how this kind of datasets can be used, and as a deeper exploration we analyze certificate validity, lifetime and use of certificates with overlapping validity periods, as well as discuss how our findings relate to industry standard and current security trends. Specifically, we isolate automated certificate services such as Let's Encrypt and cPanel to see how their certificates differ in characteristics from other certificates in general. Based on our findings, we propose a set of rules to help improve the trust in certificate usage and strengthen security online, introducing an Always secure policy aligning certificate validity with revocation time limits in order to replace revocation requirements and overcoming the fact that mobile devices today ignore this very important security feature. To round things off, we provide some ideas for further research based on our findings and what we see possible with datasets such as the one researched in this thesis.

Report this publication


Seen <100 times