Category Archives: News

News Relating to CAcert

CAcert 2017

Beginning of February the exhibition season started for CAcert with attending the FOSDEM – one of the biggest Europe-wide developer conferences in Brussels, Belgium. Of course we have performed our well-known assurances, which is very appreciated in such events with which CAcert safeguards its certificates by checking ID documents. Doing so we can offer a safe and trustworthy CA to our users. Exciting was that interested people ask more detailed about security like what it actually means, and why are we not yet in the trust stores of many of the web browsers. It’s true: Let’s encrypt is trusted by the popular browsers, but if you take a close look at the certificate of a site protected with a Let’s encrypt certificate, you will find out that it does not contain any information about the owner. This means one cannot verify the identity of the site thus it is basically uncertain to which site the browser is actually connected to. CAcert stands out to offer the site owner to publish his indentification information in the certificate – for private users as well as for companies. This way, CAcert offers a clear mutual trust, which makes it worth importing the CAcert-Root-certificate from www.cacert.org.

But there’s more: CAcert offers client certificates as well and signs GPG/PGP keys. Anyone who always wanted to sign his emails and encrypt them if needed, can do this easily with CAcert. Most email clients supports S/MIME certificates or PGP. By this means the authenticity of the sender is verified, and the receipient can verify the name of the certificate owner. Also attachments like PDF can be signed this way and protect the document against later changes.

CAcert is supported by an australian non-profit association, the operation of the server is safeguarded by the german incorporated society secure-u. This structure has advantages, but an australian society is possible only as long as you have at least three members in the board. In 2017 we want to care for relief and to bring the association behind the web of trust to Europe. This limits the resources of many of the active members, because the handover must be done under appropriate rules. Who wants to support CAcert finds more details on recent blog post “Prosit 2017” or just please just drop a line to support@cacert.org.

For a secure 2017!
Yours, CAcert

Two members of CAcert Inc. honored for loyal services

In a few hours, the year 2016 will be over. So, the secretary of the new elected committee of CAcert Inc., the infrastructure partner of the CAcert comunity, had just enough time, to show his gratitude to two members of the association who were active in the association for exactly five years. That is the reasons, why he handed over them a (virtual) golden watch as sign of thank you.

Kevin Dawson from New South Wales, the home of CAcert, became Public Officer in 2011 and remained in this function until 2016. As public officer, he dealed with the New South Welsh government and was contact person for the Office of Fair Trade and CAcert’s bank. Furthermore, Kevin Dawson, had a seat in the committee from 2011 to 2013 and in the transition committee in summer 2016. We sincerely thank Kevin for his excellent work, which he has done silently at the other end of the world, but always exactly and well, and regret that he is now concentrating on new things.

The second gold watch for five year loyal services to CAcert Inc. was handed over to Dirk Astrath from Germany, the country with the most community-members. He startet – at the same time as Kevin as Public Officer – as assessor in the committee. Later he hold the functions of secretary, vice president and president with exception of winter 2015/2016. If everything goes well with the “move” of CAcert Inc. Dirk will have been the last president of the Australian association.

Statement of direction given by SGM

Dear members,

there were some mails which were referencing the direction of the new board. This is interesting as the new board so far did not give any statement. Also no new board member either at the SGM nor later did such a statement. Even while it is assumed by many, that I am close to the new board or some of its members, I do not have a clear view what the new board will do.

Abstimmung

CC BY NC SA HDZimmermann

However, there WAS a direction given last Saturday. It was given by the statement of direction given by SGMof CAcert Inc with the voice of the SGM. The new board is bound to respect this statement.

The statement of the SGM is:
“The membership is disheartened by the recently elected committee and its persistent disrespect for properly established arbitration, policies and  procedures. It is resolved, that the committee as constituted no longer enjoys the confidence of the members, and each committee member is removed from their position. We stopped short to resolve, that CAcert Inc has been placed into an unacceptable breach of our CAcert Community Agreement, is no longer acting in the interests of the community, and is therefore no longer a suitable vehicle for the community’s property and role as executive.

And instead resolve,
* that CAcert Inc’s actions were the sole responsibility of the committee members.
* that CAcert Inc with a duly formed committee that respects and abides by the rulings of arbitration enjoys our confidence in the future,
* and that the liabilities of CAcert Inc during the period of troubles should remain strictly limited under our DRP as if arbitration was not suspended.

The new committee is to create a detailed and fully transparent, uncensored report of the old committee’s activities since the AGM to which all members of the community may contribute. This report is to be presented to a general meeting for ratification.”

As the one who was selected to do the minutes, I so far can verify the counting of the votes for any part of this statement. I give a CARS that the votes counted by the vote-bot match those of 3 logs of the irc-channel and the proxy-votes were done according to a list created by the former secretary. With the exception of the “we stopped short”-motion, all these parts were given with a clear or even overwhelming majority:

“disheartend sentence”: 28 : 8 : 3
“board removed”: 22 : 14 : 4
“unacceptable breach”: 15 : 16 : 9
“responsibility of old board”: 29 : 11 : 0
“report”: 38 : 0 : 3
[aye : naye : abstain]

41 members-votes were present during those decisions.

Kind regards,
Eva Stöwe, CARS

New board elected

Abstimmung

CC BY NC SA HDZimmermann

On April, 9th, 2016, the members of CAcert Inc held an SGM, in which a new board has been elected. The membership felt disheartened by the formerly elected committee and its persistent disrespect for properly established arbitration policies and procedures. This was carried by a motion which shows the importance of being a member of the association.

The full agenda points of the SGM can be found on https://wiki.cacert.org/SGM/20160409?action=recall&rev=13. You may note some placeholders in other topics as later revisions which corrected these items included further agenda items which could not be moved on for the reason of notification of the members in time.

After counting proxies for the votes, the european board members of the prior board resigned. 5 new members were then accepted, including one who got expelled by the old board end of February 2016 because he stood up for an independent arbitration which he wrote in the members mailing list. The old committee was removed and a new committee was elected. The new board members are: Ben Ball (AU), Piers Lauders (AU), Kevin Dawson (AU), Ian Grigg, Gero Treuner, Dirk Astrath, and Mathias Subik. The new committee was also instructed to create a report of the activities of the former board since the AGM. All members of the community may contribute.

On 2016-04-16 at 12:00 UTC (noon) the first meeting of the new commitee will take place in the IRC channel #board-meeting on the CAcert IRC network. Everybody is welcome to participate, please find the agenda on https://wiki.cacert.org/Brain/CAcertInc/Committee/MeetingAgendasAndMinutes/2016-04-16.

Successful Root-Re-Sign

On March 12th 2016 CAcert performed the Root Re-Signing at our data center in Ede, NL. After the initial attempt[1] had to be postponed on short notice.

The process followed the procedures that are available in the Wiki[2]/SVN[3] along with the tooling[4] used.

The re-signing was conducted by two CAcert critical administrators, a secure-u access engineer, and supervised by CAcert’s internal auditor.
Its execution has been announced on the cacert-systemlog mailing list[5]. The execution report by the critical team has been published there too[6]. The report of the auditor is published in our Wiki[7].

We want to send special thanks to all who helped in preparing and testing the procedures and tools for the process and thus made this smooth execution possible.

CAcert Inc. board tried to have the part for creation of the needed software to be held in public but was overruled by some of the involved teams.

As the re-signed root certificates are available to CAcert the next steps are to publish them to the public. This will need some time as the software team needs to prepare the code changes[8][9][10] and have them reviewed. Once this is done the publishing of the re-signed root certificates will be announced on the blog and all community members will get informed via e-mail.

[1] https://blog.cacert.org/2015/12/re-signing-root-certificate/
[2] https://wiki.cacert.org/Roots/Class1ResignProcedure
[3] https://svn.cacert.org/CAcert/SystemAdministration/signer/re-sign-2016/implementation.txt
[4] https://github.com/CAcertOrg/cacert-procedures/tree/root-resign-sha256/rootResignSHA256
[5] https://lists.cacert.org/wws/arc/cacert-systemlog/2016-03/msg00001.html
[6] https://lists.cacert.org/wws/arc/cacert-systemlog/2016-03/msg00002.html
[7] https://wiki.cacert.org/Audit/Results/session2016.1
[8] https://bugs.cacert.org/view.php?id=1305
[9] https://bugs.cacert.org/view.php?id=1254
[10] https://bugs.cacert.org/view.php?id=1194

Safer Internet Day 2016

On 2016-02-09 is this year’s Safer Internet Day[1] asking its participants to “Play your part for a better internet!”

The Safer Internet Day was first celebrated in 1999 to strengthen the awareness for security within and on the internet.

CAcert’s share in this effort is providing everybody the means to protect their communication by sending encrypted emails or using free client certificates for authentication.

So take a moment and think about taking part in one of the several events and help to promote email encryption with CAcert S/MIME certificates.

And stay safe on the internet!

[1] https://www.saferinternetday.org/

Re-Signing Root Certificate

On Friday, 29th January 2016, the long-planned re-signing of CAcert’s root certificate will finally take place.

This action has been overdue for quite some time now as several browser and OS vendors have dropped support for MD5-signed certificates or otherwise made such certificates unusable.

The re-signing process [1] has been tested successfully at last FrOSCon in August 2015 [2].

Attendance of the re-signing ceremony will be open to the public and will take place near CAcert’s data center in Ede, NL. As soon as more details become available we’ll provide a wiki page with the exact schedule and location.

UPDATE: Unfortunately the Re-Signing event had to be postponed due to shortage of manpower in the different teams involved in the process. The currently a new date is being searched. As soon as the new date is available it will be announced here.

[1] https://wiki.cacert.org/Roots/Class1ResignProcedure
[2] https://wiki.cacert.org/Audit/Results/session2015.4

Get Audit ready

The new elected CAcert Inc board want to share their mission statement for the current fiscal year.

We want to help CAcert to become the world’s most trusted service provider able to help people around the world

  • to secure their privacy
  • to secure their identity

in the area of digital electronic communications. We all want to lead an operating Certificate Authority providing highly secure certificates for free to the public in which everybody can trust. The next central milestone for the development of our CA is to pass an audit with flying colors.

We will subordinate all of our activities to reach this goal within the next years.

The first serious challenge to take will be the resign of our root certificate within the next 3 months (hopefully on the eve of FOSDEM 2016).

We want to continue with the tasks to prepare the New Root Escrow within the next year.
To secure the existence of CAcert for a long time we want to prepare the move to a hosting country in Europe within the next year.

Today we ask you to have confidence in our plans and personal integrity and hope that all of you will support us in fulfilling these tasks.

Please allow to remember to McDonald’s main maxim:

„All of us is more than one of us“

The new board is composed of
Reinhard Mutz, President CAcert Inc.
Jürgen Bruckner, Vice President CAcert Inc.
Marcus Mängel, Secretary
Stefan Thode, Treasurer
Felix Dörre, Board member
Peter Yuill, Board member

Successful process tests of New Root and Escrow and Class 1 Root resigning

On Sunday at FrOSCon 10 CAcert successfully tested the New Root and Escrow (NRE) process and performed a test run of the long expected Class 1 Resigning.

Members of the software team, the critical admins, the NRE team, and the internal auditor met in a session, which was open to the public, to test these long prepared tasks.

The process started with checking that the needed hardware was running and was setup up according to the process definition. In a first step the defined tasks were then executed manually to proof that the procedures produces the desired results. In a second step the manual tasks were automated where possible and the script was tested and checked according to the process definition.

The results show the expected outcome.

The internal auditor was pleased with the good and professional preparation of the test and the successful outcome. The new root keys created during the NRE test will be used for a test server based on Gigi and Cassiopeia.

Related Information:

CAcert fingerprints via DNSSEC

Recently we got several questions about automated installers for our certificates. While the new ca-cacert package in Debian Testing is a nice way for a verified installation it isn’t perfect. One issue is the initial download of the certificates when the source package is built by the maintainer; the second issue is that not everybody is using Debian.

As for a long time there was no way to automate the check of the trust anchor with tools you already have we used cryptography to make it work: DNSSEC. While you can’t directly download the certificates directly from DNS – the information would be to huge and hardly manageable – you still get enough information to bootstrap the verification from DNS. All you need is a way to query and validate TXT RRs from DNS, a way to download files via HTTP and a way to calculate some hashes.

The information about the fingerprints is stored in the DNS zone _fp.cacert.org – the underscore indicates non-host information. For each generation of root certificates a new sub-directory will be created. The current one is “g1”. To list all available certificates of a specific generation you can query the label _certs for that sub-directory given a DNS query for _certs.g1._fp.cacert.org yielding the two names “root class3” as the certificates. Each of those references in turn provides both an URL (“_url”) and a set of fingerprints (_md5, _sha1, _sha256) needed for the verified download of that certificate. To download the current (g1) root certificate you’d thus look for the download URL at _url.root.g1._fp.cacert.org and verify the SHA2-256 fingerprint given at _sha256.root.g1._fp.cacert.org. Fingerprints are always uppercase and without any delimiters.

For further technical details have a look into the Wiki [1]

[1] https://wiki.cacert.org/HowToDocuments/FingerprintsViaDNSSEC