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2 Requirements and Assumptions

The goal of this specification is to develop a profile to facilitate the use of X.509 certificates within Internet applications for those communities wishing to make use of X.509 technology. Such applications may include WWW, electronic mail, user authentication, and IPsec. In order to relieve some of the obstacles to using X.509 certificates, this document defines a profile to promote the development of certificate management systems; development of application tools; and interoperability determined by policy.

Some communities will need to supplement, or possibly replace, this profile in order to meet the requirements of specialized application domains or environments with additional authorization, assurance, or operational requirements. However, for basic applications, common representations of frequently used attributes are defined so that application developers can obtain necessary information without regard to the issuer of a particular certificate or certificate revocation list (CRL).

A certificate user should review the certificate policy generated by the certification authority (CA) before relying on the authentication or non-repudiation services associated with the public key in a particular certificate. To this end, this standard does not prescribe legally binding rules or duties.

As supplemental authorization and attribute management tools emerge, such as attribute certificates, it may be appropriate to limit the authenticated attributes that are included in a certificate. These other management tools may provide more appropriate methods of conveying many authenticated attributes.

2.1 Communication and Topology

The users of certificates will operate in a wide range of environments with respect to their communication topology, especially users of secure electronic mail. This profile supports users without high bandwidth, real-time IP connectivity, or high connection availability. In addition, the profile allows for the presence of firewall or other filtered communication.

This profile does not assume the deployment of an X.500 Directory system or a LDAP directory system. The profile does not prohibit the use of an X.500 Directory or a LDAP directory; however, any means of distributing certificates and certificate revocation lists (CRLs) may be used.

2.2 Acceptability Criteria

The goal of the Internet Public Key Infrastructure (PKI) is to meet the needs of deterministic, automated identification, authentication, access control, and authorization functions. Support for these services determines the attributes contained in the certificate as well as the ancillary control information in the certificate such as policy data and certification path constraints.

2.3 User Expectations

Users of the Internet PKI are people and processes who use client software and are the subjects named in certificates. These uses include readers and writers of electronic mail, the clients for WWW browsers, WWW servers, and the key manager for IPsec within a router. This profile recognizes the limitations of the platforms these users employ and the limitations in sophistication and attentiveness of the users themselves. This manifests itself in minimal user configuration responsibility (e.g., trusted CA keys, rules), explicit platform usage constraints within the certificate, certification path constraints which shield the user from many malicious actions, and applications which sensibly automate validation functions.

2.4 Administrator Expectations

As with user expectations, the Internet PKI profile is structured to support the individuals who generally operate CAs. Providing administrators with unbounded choices increases the chances that a subtle CA administrator mistake will result in broad compromise. Also, unbounded choices greatly complicate the software that process and validate the certificates created by the CA.