Certificate Transparency (CT) is a protocol designed to fix several structural flaws in the SSL/TLS certificate ecosystem. Described in RFC 6962, it provides a public, append-only data structure that can log certificates that are issued by certificate authorities (CAs). By logging certificates, it becomes possible for the public to see what certificates have been issued by a given CA. This allows site operators to detect when a certificate has been issued for their domains, allowing them to check for unauthorized issuance. It also allows browsers and root stores, and the broader community, to examine the certificates a CA has issued and ensure that the CA is complying with their expected or disclosed practices.
For more information about how Certificate Transparency works, see:
We say that a certificate supports Certificate Transparency if it comes with CT information that demonstrates it has been logged in several CT logs. This CT information must comply with the Certificate Transparency in Chrome policy. We sometimes refer to a site that “supports” CT as using a certificate that is “CT qualified” or “disclosed via CT.”
In general, a site operator does not need to take special action to support Certificate Transparency. This is because RFC 6962 defines three ways of providing the necessary information for CT: within the certificate, within a stapled OCSP response, or directly by the TLS server. Nearly every CA supports CT through the first method, meaning that when you get a certificate, it will already support CT and require no further configuration. If you are using a cloud provider to terminate your TLS connections, the cloud provider may also support CT via TLS, requiring no further action on your part.
Supporting CT within the certificate itself is the preferred and recommended way to enable CT support. If you obtain a certificate from your CA and it does not support CT, then that generally indicates that your CA is not following industry best practice, and you should probably look for another CA to provide certificates for your sites.
Configuring support for CT via the TLS extension is not recommended for most site operators. This is because supporting CT via this method requires constant monitoring of the CT ecosystem, such as for changes in the list of trusted logs or testing compatibility with various CT-supporting clients. This method works well for organizations with the ability to dedicate resources to that, such as hosting and cloud providers. If you are hosting your own website, you should try to ensure that your certificates support CT, and avoid supporting CT via the TLS extension. Supporting CT via the TLS extension may require rapid changes to your configuration, and thus may be riskier for organizations without staff dedicated to this.
If you are getting longer-lived certificates (for example, 1 year), it's possible that changes in the CT ecosystem may mean that the CT information may expire before the certificate expires. If your CA also supports delivering CT via OCSP responses, then supporting OCSP stapling on your server may allow fresh CT information to be provided without having to replace the certificate. Alternatively, if your server does not support OCSP stapling, or your CA does not support CT in their OCSP responses, you may need to replace your certificate.
These policies only apply to publicly-trusted CAs - that is, CAs that your browser or device trust without any additional configuration. For organizations using their own CAs, or for locally installed CAs, see Certificate Transparency for Enterprises.
Chrome has gradually required Certificate Transparency for more and more publicly-trusted certificates over the past few years.
Since 1 January 2015, Chrome has required that all Extended Validation certificates be disclosed via Certificate Transparency. Certificates that were not properly disclosed would be stripped of their EV status, but no warnings would be shown to visitors to sites that did not comply.
Since 1 June 2016, Chrome has required that all new certificates issued by the set of root certificates owned by Symantec Corporation are disclosed via Certificate Transparency. Certificates that were not disclosed, or which were not disclosed in a way consistent with RFC 6962, would be rejected as untrusted.
For all new certificates issued after 30 April 2018, Chrome will require that the certificate be disclosed via Certificate Transparency. If a certificate is issued after this date and neither the certificate nor the site supports CT, then these certificates will be rejected as untrusted, and the connection will be blocked. In the case of a main page load, the user will see a full page certificate warning page, with the error code
net::ERR_CERTIFICATE_TRANSPARENCY_REQUIRED. If you receive this error, this indicates that your CA has not taken steps to make sure your certificate supports CT, and you should contact your CA's sales or support team to ensure you can get a replacement certificate that works.
Supporting CT by disclosing the certificate to a CT Log means that the full contents of the certificate will be publicly accessible and viewable. In particular, this means that the domains a certificate are for will be included in the Certificate Transparency log, as well as the organization they are affiliated with, if they are validated to a level higher than Domain Validation or issued from an organization-specific CA.
For most certificates, this is no different than what is already available. Publicly-trusted certificates have been subject to aggregation for public analysis for some time, such as through products and tools such as Censys or scans.io. While Certificate Transparency provides an interoperable protocol for exchanging these datasets, in many cases, the certificate details and domains were already publicly detectable.
Requiring that the full certificate be disclosed if it was issued by a publicly-trusted CA is an important part of the security goals of Certificate Transparency. Permitting some of the information to be hidden from certificates allows for both attackers and untrustworthy CAs to hide certificates that could be used to compromise users. Certificate Transparency has detected issues at a large number of CAs, many that the CAs themselves were not even aware of, and so public disclosure is critical to keeping all users safe.
While proposals for hiding domain names were presented during the development of Certificate Transparency, none of them were able to balance the needs of site operators that did not need to hide their domains, those that did, and the security risks that users would face.
Because of this, Chrome does not support any method for hiding domain names or other information within publicly-trusted certificates, nor are there any plans to support such mechanisms. Domain operators that wish to hide their certificates, enabling security risks and attacks, have two options:
* as the most specific DNS label (for example,
*.internal.example.com is valid for
wiki.internal.example.com, but not for
two.levels.internal.example.com). Wildcard certificates require greater care by the site operator to protect their private key, but also can have their issuance controlled via technologies such as CAA (RFC 6844). This still requires the certificate be disclosed, but can limit how much of the domain is disclosed.
As noted in Chrome Policies, all certificates issued after 30 April 2018 are expected to be disclosed via Certificate Transparency in a way that is compliant with the Certificate Transparency in Chrome policy. Virtually all publicly-trusted CAs have committed to supporting CT for their customers by default by this date, meaning that site operators should not have to do anything special and can continue getting certificates that just work on 1 May 2018.
However, there's still a chance that a CA may not have adopted Certificate Transparency, may have an infrastructure issue, or may not have communicated to their partners, such as resellers or subordinate CAs, to ensure that the transition would be as smooth as possible for their customers.
If you‘re receiving a
net::ERR_CERTIFICATE_TRANSPARENCY_REQUIRED error message, the best thing to do is to contact your CA’s support or sales team to diagnose the error with them. They will most likely need to replace your certificate with a new one that properly supports CT.
Certificate Transparency only applies to CAs that are publicly-trusted - that is, CAs that are supported by your browser or device out of the box, without any additional configuration steps.
For CAs that have been manually installed, provided those certificates are not or have not been publicly-trusted, it‘s not necessary to enable support for Certificate Transparency. Further, Certificate Transparency Logs will not accept certificates from those CAs, thus it’s not possible to support CT.
In some cases, an Enterprise may have a locally-trusted CA that has been manually installed, but it was previously publicly-trusted. For example, this CA may have been removed by a browser or an OS for not complying with the root store policies, but the Enterprise may still have a dependency on trusting this CA. In these cases, the Enterprise can use Enterprise Policies to configure how Certificate Transparency will be enforced for those CAs.
For Enterprises that have domain names that are internal to their organization, and do not need to be publicly-trusted by default, several options exist to enable these domains to be kept private, while allowing the certificates to still be used, without error, for users in their organization.
The recommended option is to no longer rely on publicly-trusted certificates to serve these domains, as they are organization specific. For example, such organizations can use a private CA, which several CAs offer. Using a hosted, managed PKI may help organizations more rapidly respond to change in the TLS ecosystem, such as changes to certificate algorithms or support for new protocols.
Another option is to request that the publicly-trusted CA not log the certificate. This will prevent this certificate from being trusted by default, but organizations that manage their devices or users can override this through Enterprise Policies to enable these certificates to be trusted for users in their Enterprise.
Finally, organizations may manage their own PKI in-house, using CA software such as CFSSL, Boulder, EJBCA or Active Directory Certificate Services. Managing certificates in-house may be more complex and security risky, but offers an alternative solution to partnering with a certificate provider.
Some Enterprises rely on Certificate Authorities that have not been audited to the same standard as other CAs or been operated to the same security requirements. These CAs would not be trusted in new products, nor other root programs, but may be trusted on one or more platforms that Chrome runs on. Because they are trusted by default, they are subject to the Chrome's policies on requiring CT, but due to their legacy status, may not be prepared. While the requirement to disclose new certificates via Certificate Transparency has been communicated, some may not do so, causing their new certificates to not be trusted. This is most common with CAs run by governments, as they rarely meet the required security standards of a widely-trusted CA.
Organizations that need to use certificates from these CAs should be aware that their certificates will not be trusted if they do not support CT, and so should look for CAs that do support CT. Alternatively, supporting CT via TLS may be the only way to ensure these certificates continue to work, but that requires the Enterprise constantly keep track of changes regarding Certificate Transparency.
Organizations that need to trust certificates from these CAs, such as when talking to other organizations that need to use these CAs, can configure Enterprise Policies for users in their organization, which will allow trust in these certificates. As these only apply to Enterprise users, these policies are not suitable for making these certificates trusted more widely.
Several Chrome-specific policies exist that allow Enterprises to configure their machines or users to disable Certificate Transparency for certain cases. These policies are documented in the master policy list, but detailed further below.
This policy has been available since Chrome 53, and allows for disabling Certificate Transparency enforcement for a certain set of domains or subdomains, without disabling Certificate Transparency altogether.
If you wish to disable CT for a given hostname, and all of its subdomains, then the domain is simply entered into the list. For example,
example.com will disable CT for
example.com and all subdomains.
If you wish to disable CT only for a given hostname, but wish to ensure that subdomains will still have CT enabled, then prefix the domain with a leading dot. For example,
.example.com will disable CT for
example.com exactly, while leaving it enabled for subdomains.
This policy, available since Chrome 57, allows for disabling Certificate Transparency enforcement if certain conditions are met in the trusted certificate chain. This allows disabling CT without having to list all of the domain names, but only for certificates issued to a specific organization.
Certificates are specified in this policy by applying Base64 to a hash of their subjectPublicKeyInformation, as well as specifying the hash algorithm used. This format is very similar to that used by HTTP Public Key Pinning (HPKP), so that sites can use the same examples or tools used to generate HPKP hashes to determine how to configure the policy. Note that while both use Base64, an HPKP hash will be in the form
pin-sha256="hash", while the policy will be in the form
To disable Certificate Transparency for these certificates, the certificate must match one of the following conditions:
This policy, available since Chrome 67, allows for disabling Certificate Transparency enforcement for certain legacy CAs that have not adopted modern security and audit requirements required of publicly-trusted CAs. This is particularly tailored towards CAs that are trusted on some platforms that Chrome runs on, but are not trusted on ChromeOS or Android, due to not meeting the necessary security requirements.
CAs are specified in this policy by applying Base64 to a hash of their subjectPublicKeyInformation, the same as in CertificateTransparencyEnforcementDisabledForCAs. However, these CAs must also be recognized as Legacy CAs in the
/net/data/ssl/root_stores/root_stores.json file, which means that they are not trusted on ChromeOS or Android, but are trusted on another platform that Chrome runs on.
This policy is the riskiest of the three Enterprise policies, in that such legacy CAs can represent the greatest security threat to an organization, as they lack either the audits or compliance with industry best practice and root store requirements. Enterprises should only enable this policy if no other option meets their needs.
Support for Certificate Transparency in //net is made up of two core interfaces:
CTVerifier: Responsible for extracting the CT information (SCTs) from the certificate, the OCSP response, and the TLS handshake, validating the signatures against a set of known/configured CT logs, and validating that the SCTs match the certificate provided.
CTPolicyEnforcer: Responsible for taking the extracted, verified SCTs and applying application/embedder-specific policies to determine whether the SCTs are “good enough” (meet application requirements).
In addition to these two core classes, configuration and support for CT-related behaviours is expressed via the
TransportSecurityState has methods for exposing support and policies for
Expect-CT and for embedder-specific overrides via the
While Chromium has implemented support for Certificate Transparency for a number of years, it would not block connections unless there was a known security issue. For example, certificates that were intended to be EV, but were not disclosed properly, simply would have their EV status removed, while the connection should still continue.
However, as Google Chrome looks to roll out a more rigorous enforcement of Certificate Transparency, by enforcing that newly-issued certificates are disclosed as a condition of being trusted, the risks to the CA and CT ecosystem significantly increase if embedders implement CT without the ability for reliable, rapid updates, keeping track with ongoing development in the main tree and reliably delivering security updates on the same cadence as Chromium branches and Google Chrome releases.
For this reason, the CT implementation is undergoing a refactoring to reduce those risks through code and implementation. As a result, Chromium embedders will NOT have CT enforcement enabled by default, and are NOT encouraged to manually enable it at this time.
Distributors of products that embed Chromium sources are encouraged to participate in the firstname.lastname@example.org discussion group, which involves a variety of stakeholders in the CT ecosystem for discussing matters of policy and implementation, in order to understand the risks and participate in solutions. Face-to-face summits are periodically held to gather key stakeholders together to work through these issues, helping root programs, CAs, log operators, and the overall PKI community develop consistent, interoperable, secure, and reliable policies and implementations.