CA/Application Process

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The internet secure communications system requires Certification Authorities (CAs) - parties trusted to attest to the identity of websites. Mozilla products ship a default list of CA certificates, which may change with each security patch or new version of the product. The following pages explain how the default list of CA certificates is managed.

Who May Apply

An official representative of the CA must make the formal request for inclusion or update of their CA's root certificates. If you would like to see a particular root certificate included in Mozilla products, then please contact the CA who operates that root certificate.

CAs must carefully consider whether their root certificate needs to be directly included in Mozilla's root store or if it would be better to be a subordinate CA of an already-included CA.

If a CA controls all the domains that use their root certificate, then they probably do not meet the criteria for inclusion in Mozilla's root store. Mozilla's CA Certificate Policy states: "We will determine which CA certificates are included in software products distributed by Mozilla, based on the benefits and risks of such inclusion to typical users of those products." With ALL affected domains under your control, your root certificate would not seem to create a benefit for typical Mozilla users, only for users of your services. Perhaps a better alternative is to be a subordinate CA of a CA who is already included in Mozilla's root store. It is the CA's responsibility to justify why their root certificate needs to be included in Mozilla's root store and explain how the inclusion will benefit typical Mozilla users.

Having a root certificate you control included in Mozilla's root store is a significant ongoing responsibility; it is not a one-time trivial effort. It means that, in the normal case, the world will trust you to correctly issue digital certificates identifying any website. There will be associated costs in maintaining the required security infrastructure and having it audited on a yearly basis. After a CA has a certificate included in Mozilla's root store, it is expected that the CA will continue to be aware of ongoing discussions and updates to Mozilla's Root Store Policy. The CA is required to send regular updates to Mozilla via the Common CA Database (CCADB), including annual updates to their policy and audit documentation.

Process Overview

It typically takes up to two years for a new CA to make it from one end of the process to the other. If the CA does not provide requested information in a timely manner, then the application will take even longer, or be cancelled.

The same process is used to request:

  • Root certificate inclusion for all CAs, even if the CA already has root certificates included in Mozilla's root store
  • Turning on additional trust bits for an already-included root certificate
  • Enabling EV treatment for an already-included root certificate
  • Including a renewed version of an already-included root certificate

The overall steps of the CA certificate inclusion and update process are as follows. There are Bugzilla Bug Whiteboard tags corresponding to many of these steps.

  1. A representative of the CA
  2. A representative of Mozilla verifies the information provided by the CA.
  3. A representative of Mozilla or of the CA Community (as agreed by a Mozilla representative) performs a detailed review of the CA’s CP/CPS and audit documents. During this phase, the CA may be required to update their CP/CPS and audit documents to become fully aligned with Mozilla's Root Store Policy.
  4. A representative of Mozilla starts the public discussion for the CA in the forum, stating Mozilla’s intent to approve the request and initiating a 3 week comment period. If no concerns are raised during that time period, then the representative of Mozilla will close the discussion and the request may proceed to the approval phase.
  5. A representative of the CA responds to questions and concerns posted during the public discussion of the CA's request.
  6. A representative of Mozilla summarizes the discussion and resulting decisions or action items.
    • A discussion may be extended beyond the initial comment period if concerns or questions are raised that require further attention.
    • A discussion may be put on hold, pending a CA action item, such that the discussion may continue as soon as the CA has provided the requested information.
  7. A representative of the CA completes action items resulting from the public discussion, which may include updating processes, documentation, and audits.
  8. A representative of Mozilla confirms the completion of the action items and starts a second round of public discussion if needed.
  9. A representative of Mozilla concludes the public discussion of the CA's request.
    • If there are outstanding issues that need to be addressed (e.g., a need for further information, or concerns about CA practices) then the request may be closed, moved back to the Information Verification phase, or put on hold pending future discussion after the CA has addressed the concerns.
  10. A representative of Mozilla summarizes the request and states the intent to approve the request for inclusion.
    • This is the last call for objection. After one week, if no further questions or concerns are raised, then the representative of Mozilla may approve the request, by stating so in the bug.
  11. A representative of Mozilla creates a bug requesting the actual changes in NSS (and PSM for EV treatment).
  12. A representative of the CA confirms that all the data in the NSS bug is correct.
  13. A representative of Mozilla creates a patch with the new CA certificates and trust bit settings, and provides a special test version of Firefox.
    • Changes to NSS regarding CA certificate applications are usually grouped and done as a batch when there is either a large set of changes or about every 3 months.
  14. A representative of the CA tests the code changes using the test version of Firefox and confirms (by adding a comment in the NSS bug) that the correct certificate(s) is included and that the trust bits are correctly set.
  15. A representative of Mozilla requests that another Mozilla representative review the patch.
  16. A representative of Mozilla adds (commits) the patch to NSS, then closes the NSS bug as RESOLVED FIXED.
  17. Mozilla products move to using a version of NSS which contains the certificate changes. This process is mostly under the control of the release drivers for those products. See Mozilla's Release Calendar.
  18. After inclusion of the CA's root certificate, a representative of Mozilla issues a Common CA Database (CCADB) license to the Primary Point of Contact for the CA.
  19. The CA enters data into the CCADB for:
    • All of the certificates that are capable of being used to issue new certificates, and which directly or transitively chain to their root certificate(s) included in Mozilla’s Root Store that are not technically constrained as described in section 5.3 of Mozilla's Root Store Policy.
    • Revoked intermediate certificates that chain to their certificate(s) included in Mozilla's Root Store.

Ways You Can Help

Our most pressing need is help with reviewing and contributing to the public discussions of CA applications. Public discussions about root inclusion and change requests take place in the discussion forum.