Internet-Draft RFC5019bis March 2023
Bonnell, et al. Expires 30 September 2023 [Page]
Network Working Group
5019 (if approved)
Intended Status:
Standards Track
C. Bonnell
DigiCert, Inc.
C. Wilson
Apple, Inc.
T. Ito
S. Turner

Updates to Lightweight OCSP Profile for High Volume Environments


This document updates RFC 5019 to allow OCSP clients to use SHA-256. An RFC 5019 compliant OCSP client is still able to use SHA-1, but the use of SHA-1 may become obsolete in the future.

Status of This Memo

This Internet-Draft is submitted in full conformance with the provisions of BCP 78 and BCP 79.

Internet-Drafts are working documents of the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF). Note that other groups may also distribute working documents as Internet-Drafts. The list of current Internet-Drafts is at

Internet-Drafts are draft documents valid for a maximum of six months and may be updated, replaced, or obsoleted by other documents at any time. It is inappropriate to use Internet-Drafts as reference material or to cite them other than as "work in progress."

This Internet-Draft will expire on 30 September 2023.

Table of Contents

1. Introduction

The Online Certificate Status Protocol [RFC6960] specifies a mechanism used to determine the status of digital certificates, in lieu of using Certificate Revocation Lists (CRLs). Since its definition in 1999, it has been deployed in a variety of environments and has proven to be a useful certificate status checking mechanism. (For brevity we refer to OCSP as being used to verify certificate status, but only the revocation status of a certificate is checked via this protocol.)

To date, many OCSP deployments have been used to ensure timely and secure certificate status information for high-value electronic transactions or highly sensitive information, such as in the banking and financial environments. As such, the requirement for an OCSP responder to respond in "real time" (i.e., generating a new OCSP response for each OCSP request) has been important. In addition, these deployments have operated in environments where bandwidth usage is not an issue, and have run on client and server systems where processing power is not constrained.

As the use of PKI continues to grow and move into diverse environments, so does the need for a scalable and cost-effective certificate status mechanism. Although OCSP as currently defined and deployed meets the need of small to medium-sized PKIs that operate on powerful systems on wired networks, there is a limit as to how these OCSP deployments scale from both an efficiency and cost perspective. Mobile environments, where network bandwidth may be at a premium and client-side devices are constrained from a processing point of view, require the careful use of OCSP to minimize bandwidth usage and client-side processing complexity. [OCSPMP]

PKI continues to be deployed into environments where millions if not hundreds of millions of certificates have been issued. In many of these environments, an even larger number of users (also known as relying parties) have the need to ensure that the certificate they are relying upon has not been revoked. As such, it is important that OCSP is used in such a way that ensures the load on OCSP responders and the network infrastructure required to host those responders are kept to a minimum.

This document addresses the scalability issues inherent when using OCSP in PKI environments described above by defining a message profile and clarifying OCSP client and responder behavior that will permit:

  1. OCSP response pre-production and distribution.
  2. Reduced OCSP message size to lower bandwidth usage.
  3. Response message caching both in the network and on the client.

It is intended that the normative requirements defined in this profile will be adopted by OCSP clients and OCSP responders operating in very large-scale (high-volume) PKI environments or PKI environments that require a lightweight solution to minimize bandwidth and client-side processing power (or both), as described above. As OCSP does not have the means to signal responder capabilities within the protocol, clients needing to differentiate between OCSP responses produced by responders that conform with this profile and those that are not need to rely on out-of-band mechanisms to determine when a responder operates according to this profile and, as such, when the requirements of this profile apply. In the case where out-of-band mechanisms may not be available, this profile ensures that interoperability will still occur between an OCSP client that fully conforms with [RFC6960] and a responder that is operating in a mode as described in this specification.

Substantive changes to RFC 5019:

2. Conventions and Definitions

The key words "MUST", "MUST NOT", "REQUIRED", "SHALL", "SHALL NOT", "SHOULD", "SHOULD NOT", "RECOMMENDED", "NOT RECOMMENDED", "MAY", and "OPTIONAL" in this document are to be interpreted as described in BCP 14 [RFC2119] [RFC8174] when, and only when, they appear in all capitals, as shown here.

3. OCSP Message Profile

This section defines a subset of OCSPRequest and OCSPResponse functionality as defined in [RFC6960].

3.1. OCSP Request Profile

3.1.1. OCSPRequest Structure

OCSPRequests that conform to this profile MUST include only one Request in the OCSPRequest.RequestList structure.

Older OCSP clients which provide backward compatibility with [RFC5019] use SHA-1 as the hashing algorithm for the CertID.issuerNameHash and the CertID.issuerKeyHash values. However, these OCSP clients should transition from SHA-1 to SHA-256 as soon as practical.

Newer OCSP clients that conform with this profile MUST use SHA-256 as the hashing algorithm for the CertID.issuerNameHash and the CertID.issuerKeyHash values.

Clients MUST NOT include the singleRequestExtensions structure.

Clients SHOULD NOT include the requestExtensions structure. If a requestExtensions structure is included, this profile RECOMMENDS that it contain only the nonce extension (id-pkix-ocsp-nonce). See Section 5 for issues concerning the use of a nonce in high-volume OCSP environments.

3.1.2. Signed OCSPRequests

Clients SHOULD NOT send signed OCSPRequests. Responders MAY ignore the signature on OCSPRequests.

If the OCSPRequest is signed, the client SHALL specify its name in the OCSPRequest.requestorName field; otherwise, clients SHOULD NOT include the requestorName field in the OCSPRequest. OCSP servers MUST be prepared to receive unsigned OCSP requests that contain the requestorName field, but MUST handle such requests as if the requestorName field were absent.

3.2. OCSP Response Profile

3.2.1. OCSPResponse Structure

Responders MUST generate a BasicOCSPResponse as identified by the id-pkix-ocsp-basic OID. Clients MUST be able to parse and accept a BasicOCSPResponse. OCSPResponses that conform to this profile SHOULD include only one SingleResponse in the ResponseData.responses structure, but MAY include additional SingleResponse elements if necessary to improve response pre-generation performance or cache efficiency.

The responder SHOULD NOT include responseExtensions. As specified in [RFC6960], clients MUST ignore unrecognized non-critical responseExtensions in the response.

In the case where a responder does not have the ability to respond to an OCSP request containing an option not supported by the server, it SHOULD return the most complete response it can. For example, in the case where a responder only supports pre-produced responses and does not have the ability to respond to an OCSP request containing a nonce, it SHOULD return a response that does not include a nonce.

Clients SHOULD attempt to process a response even if the response does not include a nonce. See Section 5 for details on validating responses that do not contain a nonce. See also Section 8 for relevant security considerations.

Responders that do not have the ability to respond to OCSP requests that contain an unsupported option such as a nonce MAY forward the request to an OCSP responder capable of doing so.

The responder MAY include the singleResponse.singleResponse extensions structure.

3.2.2. Signed OCSPResponses

Clients MUST validate the signature on the returned OCSPResponse.

If the response is signed by a delegate of the issuing certification authority (CA), a valid responder certificate MUST be referenced in the BasicOCSPResponse.certs structure.

It is RECOMMENDED that the OCSP responder's certificate contain the id-pkix-ocsp-nocheck extension, as defined in [RFC6960], to indicate to the client that it need not check the certificate's status. In addition, it is RECOMMENDED that neither an OCSP authorityInfoAccess (AIA) extension nor cRLDistributionPoints (CRLDP) extension be included in the OCSP responder's certificate. Accordingly, the responder's signing certificate SHOULD be relatively short-lived and renewed regularly.

Clients MUST be able to identify OCSP responder certificates using the byKey field and SHOULD be able to identify OCSP responder certificates using the byName field of the ResponseData.ResponderID choices.

Older responders which provide backward compatibility with [RFC5019] MAY use the byName field to represent the ResponderID, but should transition to using the byKey field as soon as practical.

Newer responders that conform to this profile MUST use the byKey field to represent the ResponderID to reduce the size of the response.

3.2.3. OCSPResponseStatus Values

As long as the OCSP infrastructure has authoritative records for a particular certificate, an OCSPResponseStatus of "successful" will be returned. When access to authoritative records for a particular certificate is not available, the responder MUST return an OCSPResponseStatus of "unauthorized". As such, this profile extends the [RFC6960] definition of "unauthorized" as follows:

The response "unauthorized" is returned in cases where the client is not authorized to make this query to this server or the server is not capable of responding authoritatively.

For example, OCSP responders that do not have access to authoritative records for a requested certificate, such as those that generate and distribute OCSP responses in advance and thus do not have the ability to properly respond with a signed "successful" yet "unknown" response, will respond with an OCSPResponseStatus of "unauthorized". Also, in order to ensure the database of revocation information does not grow unbounded over time, the responder MAY remove the status records of expired certificates. Requests from clients for certificates whose record has been removed will result in an OCSPResponseStatus of "unauthorized".

Security considerations regarding the use of unsigned responses are discussed in [RFC6960].

3.2.4. thisUpdate, nextUpdate, and producedAt

When pre-producing OCSPResponse messages, the responder MUST set the thisUpdate, nextUpdate, and producedAt times as follows:


The time at which the status being indicated is known to be correct.


The time at or before which newer information will be available about the status of the certificate. Responders MUST always include this value to aid in response caching. See Section 7 for additional information on caching.


The time at which the OCSP response was signed.

For the purposes of this profile, ASN.1-encoded GeneralizedTime values such as thisUpdate, nextUpdate, and producedAt MUST be expressed Greenwich Mean Time (Zulu) and MUST include seconds (i.e., times are YYYYMMDDHHMMSSZ), even where the number of seconds is zero. GeneralizedTime values MUST NOT include fractional seconds.

4. Client Behavior

4.1. OCSP Responder Discovery

Clients MUST support the authorityInfoAccess extension as defined in [RFC5280] and MUST recognize the id-ad-ocsp access method. This enables CAs to inform clients how they can contact the OCSP service.

In the case where a client is checking the status of a certificate that contains both an authorityInformationAccess (AIA) extension pointing to an OCSP responder and a cRLDistributionPoints extension pointing to a CRL, the client SHOULD attempt to contact the OCSP responder first. Clients MAY attempt to retrieve the CRL if no OCSPResponse is received from the responder after a locally configured timeout and number of retries.

4.2. Sending an OCSP Request

To avoid needless network traffic, applications MUST verify the signature of signed data before asking an OCSP client to check the status of certificates used to verify the data. If the signature is invalid or the application is not able to verify it, an OCSP check MUST NOT be requested.

Similarly, an application MUST validate the signature on certificates in a chain, before asking an OCSP client to check the status of the certificate. If the certificate signature is invalid or the application is not able to verify it, an OCSP check MUST NOT be requested. Clients SHOULD NOT make a request to check the status of expired certificates.

5. Ensuring an OCSPResponse Is Fresh

In order to ensure that a client does not accept an out-of-date response that indicates a 'good' status when in fact there is a more up-to-date response that specifies the status of 'revoked', a client must ensure the responses they receive are fresh.

In general, two mechanisms are available to clients to ensure a response is fresh. The first uses nonces, and the second is based on time. In order for time-based mechanisms to work, both clients and responders MUST have access to an accurate source of time.

Because this profile specifies that clients SHOULD NOT include a requestExtensions structure in OCSPRequests (see Section 3.1), clients MUST be able to determine OCSPResponse freshness based on an accurate source of time. Clients that opt to include a nonce in the request SHOULD NOT reject a corresponding OCSPResponse solely on the basis of the nonexistent expected nonce, but MUST fall back to validating the OCSPResponse based on time.

Clients that do not include a nonce in the request MUST ignore any nonce that may be present in the response.

Clients MUST check for the existence of the nextUpdate field and MUST ensure the current time, expressed in GMT time as described in Section 3.2.4, falls between the thisUpdate and nextUpdate times. If the nextUpdate field is absent, the client MUST reject the response.

If the nextUpdate field is present, the client MUST ensure that it is not earlier than the current time. If the current time on the client is later than the time specified in the nextUpdate field, the client MUST reject the response as stale. Clients MAY allow configuration of a small tolerance period for acceptance of responses after nextUpdate to handle minor clock differences relative to responders and caches. This tolerance period should be chosen based on the accuracy and precision of time synchronization technology available to the calling application environment. For example, Internet peers with low latency connections typically expect NTP time synchronization to keep them accurate within parts of a second; higher latency environments or where an NTP analogue is not available may have to be more liberal in their tolerance.

See the security considerations in Section 8 for additional details on replay and man-in-the-middle attacks.

6. Transport Profile

The OCSP responder MUST support requests and responses over HTTP. When sending requests that are less than or equal to 255 bytes in total (after encoding) including the scheme and delimiters (http://), server name and base64-encoded OCSPRequest structure, clients MUST use the GET method (to enable OCSP response caching). OCSP requests larger than 255 bytes SHOULD be submitted using the POST method. In all cases, clients MUST follow the descriptions in A.1 of [RFC6960] when constructing these messages.

When constructing a GET message, OCSP clients MUST base64-encode the OCSPRequest structure according to [RFC4648], section 3. Clients MUST NOT include whitespace or any other characters that are not part of the base64 character repertoire in the base64-encoded string. Clients MUST properly URL-encode the base64-encoded OCSPRequest according to [RFC3986]. OCSP clients MUST append the base64-encoded OCSPRequest to the URI specified in the AIA extension [RFC5280]. For example:

In response to properly formatted OCSPRequests that are cachable (i.e., responses that contain a nextUpdate value), the responder will include the binary value of the DER encoding of the OCSPResponse preceded by the following HTTP [RFC9110] and [RFC9111] headers.

    Content-type: application/ocsp-response
    Content-length: < OCSP response length >
    Last-modified: < producedAt HTTP-date >
    ETag: "< strong validator >"
    Expires: < nextUpdate HTTP-date >
    Cache-control: max-age=< n >, public, no-transform, must-revalidate
    Date: < current HTTP-date >

See Section 7.2 for details on the use of these headers.

7. Caching Recommendations

The ability to cache OCSP responses throughout the network is an important factor in high volume OCSP deployments. This section discusses the recommended caching behavior of OCSP clients and HTTP proxies and the steps that should be taken to minimize the number of times that OCSP clients "hit the wire". In addition, the concept of including OCSP responses in protocol exchanges (aka stapling or piggybacking), such as has been defined in TLS, is also discussed.

7.1. Caching at the Client

To minimize bandwidth usage, clients MUST locally cache authoritative OCSP responses (i.e., a response with a signature that has been successfully validated and that indicate an OCSPResponseStatus of 'successful').

Most OCSP clients will send OCSPRequests at or near the nextUpdate time (when a cached response expires). To avoid large spikes in responder load that might occur when many clients refresh cached responses for a popular certificate, responders MAY indicate when the client should fetch an updated OCSP response by using the cache- control:max-age directive. Clients SHOULD fetch the updated OCSP Response on or after the max-age time. To ensure that clients receive an updated OCSP response, OCSP responders MUST refresh the OCSP response before the max-age time.

7.2. HTTP Proxies

The responder SHOULD set the HTTP headers of the OCSP response in such a way as to allow for the intelligent use of intermediate HTTP proxy servers. See [RFC9110] and [RFC9111] for the full definition of these headers and the proper format of any date and time values.

Table 1: HTTP Headers
HTTP Header Description
Date The date and time at which the OCSP server generated the HTTP response.
Last-Modified This value specifies the date and time at which the OCSP responder last modified the response. This date and time will be the same as the thisUpdate timestamp in the request itself.
Expires Specifies how long the response is considered fresh. This date and time will be the same as the nextUpdate timestamp in the OCSP response itself.
ETag A string that identifies a particular version of the associated data. This profile RECOMMENDS that the ETag value be the ASCII HEX representation of the SHA-256 hash of the OCSPResponse structure.
Cache-Control Contains a number of caching directives.
* max-age = < n > -where n is a time value later than thisUpdate but earlier than nextUpdate.
* public -makes normally uncachable response cachable by both shared and nonshared caches.
* no-transform -specifies that a proxy cache cannot change the type, length, or encoding of the object content.
* must-revalidate -prevents caches from intentionally returning stale responses.

OCSP responders MUST NOT include a "Pragma: no-cache", "Cache- Control: no-cache", or "Cache-Control: no-store" header in authoritative OCSP responses.

OCSP responders SHOULD include one or more of these headers in non- authoritative OCSP responses.

For example, assume that an OCSP response has the following timestamp values:

    thisUpdate = March 19, 2023 01:00:00 GMT
    nextUpdate = March 21, 2023 01:00:00 GMT
    productedAt = March 19, 2023 01:00:00 GMT

and that an OCSP client requests the response on March 20, 2023 01:00:00 GMT. In this scenario, the HTTP response may look like this:

    Content-Type: application/ocsp-response
    Content-Length: 1000
    Date: Mon, 20 Mar 2023 01:00:00 GMT
    Last-Modified: Sun, 19 Mar 2023 01:00:00 GMT
    ETag: "97df3588b5a3f24babc3851b372f0ba71a9dcdded43b14b9d06961bfc1707d9d"
    Expires: Tue, 21 Mar 2023 01:00:00 GMT
    Cache-Control: max-age=86000,public,no-transform,must-revalidate

OCSP clients MUST NOT include a no-cache header in OCSP request messages, unless the client encounters an expired response which may be a result of an intermediate proxy caching stale data. In this situation, clients SHOULD resend the request specifying that proxies should be bypassed by including an appropriate HTTP header in the request (i.e., Pragma: no-cache or Cache-Control: no-cache).

7.3. Caching at Servers

In some scenarios, it is advantageous to include OCSP response information within the protocol being utilized between the client and server. Including OCSP responses in this manner has a few attractive effects.

First, it allows for the caching of OCSP responses on the server, thus lowering the number of hits to the OCSP responder.

Second, it enables certificate validation in the event the client is not connected to a network and thus eliminates the need for clients to establish a new HTTP session with the responder.

Third, it reduces the number of round trips the client needs to make in order to complete a handshake.

Fourth, it simplifies the client-side OCSP implementation by enabling a situation where the client need only the ability to parse and recognize OCSP responses.

This functionality has been specified as an extension to the TLS [I-D.ietf-tls-rfc8446bis] protocol in Section 4.4.2 of [I-D.ietf-tls-rfc8446bis], but can be applied to any client-server protocol.

This profile RECOMMENDS that both TLS clients and servers implement the certificate status request extension mechanism for TLS.

Further information regarding caching issues can be obtained from [RFC3143].

8. Security Considerations

The following considerations apply in addition to the security considerations addressed in Section 5 of [RFC6960].

8.1. Replay Attacks

Because the use of nonces in this profile is optional, there is a possibility that an out of date OCSP response could be replayed, thus causing a client to accept a good response when in fact there is a more up-to-date response that specifies the status of revoked. In order to mitigate this attack, clients MUST have access to an accurate source of time and ensure that the OCSP responses they receive are sufficiently fresh.

Clients that do not have an accurate source of date and time are vulnerable to service disruption. For example, a client with a sufficiently fast clock may reject a fresh OCSP response. Similarly a client with a sufficiently slow clock may incorrectly accept expired valid responses for certificates that may in fact be revoked.

Future versions of the OCSP protocol may provide a way for the client to know whether the server supports nonces or does not support nonces. If a client can determine that the server supports nonces, it MUST reject a reply that does not contain an expected nonce. Otherwise, clients that opt to include a nonce in the request SHOULD NOT reject a corresponding OCSPResponse solely on the basis of the nonexistent expected nonce, but MUST fall back to validating the OCSPResponse based on time.

8.2. Man-in-the-Middle Attacks

To mitigate risk associated with this class of attack, the client must properly validate the signature on the response.

The use of signed responses in OCSP serves to authenticate the identity of the OCSP responder and to verify that it is authorized to sign responses on the CA's behalf.

Clients MUST ensure that they are communicating with an authorized responder by the rules described in Section of [RFC6960].

8.3. Impersonation Attacks

The use of signed responses in OCSP serves to authenticate the identity of OCSP responder.

As detailed in [RFC6960], clients must properly validate the signature of the OCSP response and the signature on the OCSP response signer certificate to ensure an authorized responder created it.

8.4. Denial-of-Service Attacks

OCSP responders should take measures to prevent or mitigate denial- of-service attacks. As this profile specifies the use of unsigned OCSPRequests, access to the responder may be implicitly given to everyone who can send a request to a responder, and thus the ability to mount a denial-of-service attack via a flood of requests may be greater. For example, a responder could limit the rate of incoming requests from a particular IP address if questionable behavior is detected.

8.5. Modification of HTTP Headers

Values included in HTTP headers, as described in Section 6 and Section 7, are not cryptographically protected; they may be manipulated by an attacker. Clients SHOULD use these values for caching guidance only and ultimately SHOULD rely only on the values present in the signed OCSPResponse. Clients SHOULD NOT rely on cached responses beyond the nextUpdate time.

8.6. Request Authentication and Authorization

The suggested use of unsigned requests in this environment removes an option that allows the responder to determine the authenticity of incoming request. Thus, access to the responder may be implicitly given to everyone who can send a request to a responder. Environments where explicit authorization to access the OCSP responder is necessary can utilize other mechanisms to authenticate requestors or restrict or meter service.

9. IANA Considerations

This document has no IANA actions.

10. References

10.1. Normative References

Rescorla, E., "The Transport Layer Security (TLS) Protocol Version 1.3", Work in Progress, Internet-Draft, draft-ietf-tls-rfc8446bis-07, , <>.
Bradner, S., "Key words for use in RFCs to Indicate Requirement Levels", BCP 14, RFC 2119, DOI 10.17487/RFC2119, , <>.
Berners-Lee, T., Fielding, R., and L. Masinter, "Uniform Resource Identifier (URI): Generic Syntax", STD 66, RFC 3986, DOI 10.17487/RFC3986, , <>.
Josefsson, S., "The Base16, Base32, and Base64 Data Encodings", RFC 4648, DOI 10.17487/RFC4648, , <>.
Deacon, A. and R. Hurst, "The Lightweight Online Certificate Status Protocol (OCSP) Profile for High-Volume Environments", RFC 5019, DOI 10.17487/RFC5019, , <>.
Cooper, D., Santesson, S., Farrell, S., Boeyen, S., Housley, R., and W. Polk, "Internet X.509 Public Key Infrastructure Certificate and Certificate Revocation List (CRL) Profile", RFC 5280, DOI 10.17487/RFC5280, , <>.
Santesson, S., Myers, M., Ankney, R., Malpani, A., Galperin, S., and C. Adams, "X.509 Internet Public Key Infrastructure Online Certificate Status Protocol - OCSP", RFC 6960, DOI 10.17487/RFC6960, , <>.
Leiba, B., "Ambiguity of Uppercase vs Lowercase in RFC 2119 Key Words", BCP 14, RFC 8174, DOI 10.17487/RFC8174, , <>.
Fielding, R., Ed., Nottingham, M., Ed., and J. Reschke, Ed., "HTTP Semantics", STD 97, RFC 9110, DOI 10.17487/RFC9110, , <>.
Fielding, R., Ed., Nottingham, M., Ed., and J. Reschke, Ed., "HTTP Caching", STD 98, RFC 9111, DOI 10.17487/RFC9111, , <>.

10.2. Informative References

Open Mobile Alliance, "OCSP Mobile Profile V1.0", .
Cooper, I. and J. Dilley, "Known HTTP Proxy/Caching Problems", RFC 3143, DOI 10.17487/RFC3143, , <>.


The authors of this version of the document wish to thank Alex Deacon and Ryan Hurst for all of their work to produce the original version of the OCSP protocol.

The authors of this version of the document wish to thank Russ Housley for the feedback and suggestions.

The authors wish to thank Magnus Nystrom of RSA Security, Inc., Jagjeet Sondh of Vodafone Group R&D, and David Engberg of CoreStreet, Ltd. for their contributions to the original [RFC5019] specification.

Authors' Addresses

Corey Bonnell
DigiCert, Inc.
Clint Wilson
Apple, Inc.
Tadahiko Ito
Sean Turner