How to seed the CryptoAPI URL cache with an OCSP response

It is possible to “staple” an OCSP response into higher level protocols such as TLS. This concept has been supported in Windows since Windows VISTA, shortly after it was added to OpenSSL/Apache and soon it will also be in Nginx.

When “stapling” is used the subscriber (the web server in the TLS case) requests the status of his own certificate from the OCSP responder his CA operates to get a time valid OCSP response for his own certificate.

Since the OCSP response is signed by the CA it can be relayed by the web server for the duration in which that OCSP response is time valid to save the client of the web server (the relying party, aka the browser) the need to make an additional socket connection back to the CA.

This has both performance and privacy benefits.

You can apply the same concept to other PKI related protocols/applications as well, for example in a document signing application like Adobe Acrobat. In such an application the subscriber might sign the document, timestamp it using a timestamp protocol like RFC 3161 and then attach a time valid OCSP response to it so that the document is verifiable at a later date.

This scenario is important not only for its performance and privacy benefits but because it is a practical necessity because CAs do not typically maintain revocation information (OCSP responses and CRLs) for expired certificates.

By stapling the OCSP response to the signed and time-stamped document the relying party can verify the signature, the certificates and the revocation status of the certificates in the context of the timestamp that was attached to the document.

But how do you do that with CryptoAPI?

It’s actually pretty straight forward, as the relying party when you call CertGetCertificateChain to validate the associated certificate you need to:

  1. Once you have verified your timestamp is cryptographically valid and trusted, take the time it and pass it in as pTime.
  2. On the CERT_CONTEXT there is a CERT_INFO structure that contains an array of CERT_EXTENSION, here you create an extension of type CERT_OCSP_RESPONSE_PROP_ID and in there you put a basic signed OCSP response .

When CryptoAPI does the chain validation it will try to use the OCSP response you passed in, if it finds a problem with the provided response it may go online to get a new one that is “OK”.

This online behavior can be controlled by indicating to CertGetCertificateChain you do not want online revocation checking (see CERT_CHAIN_REVOCATION_CHECK_CACHE_ONLY).


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