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3.3.11 What are Certificate Revocation Lists (CRLs)?

  A Certificate Revocation List (CRL) is a list of public keys that have been revoked before their scheduled expiration date. There are several reasons why a key might need to be revoked and placed on a CRL. A key might have been compromised. A key might be used professionally by an individual for a company; for example, the official name associated with a key might be ``Alice Avery, Vice President, Argo Corp.'' If Alice were fired, her company would not want her to be able to sign messages with that key and therefore the company would place the key on the CRL.

When verifying a signature, one can check the relevant CRL to make sure the signer's key has not been revoked. Whether it is worth the time to perform this check depends on the importance of the signed document.

CRLs are maintained by certifying authorities (CAs) and provide information about revoked keys originally certified by the CA. CRLs only list current keys, since expired keys should not be accepted in any case; when a revoked key is past its original expiration date it is removed from the CRL. Although CRLs are maintained in a distributed manner, there may be central repositories for CRLs, that is, sites on networks containing the latest CRLs from many organizations. An institution like a bank might want an in-house CRL repository to make CRL searches feasible on every transaction.


next up previous
Next: 3.3.12 What happens when Up: 3.3 Key Management Previous: 3.3.10 What if the
Denis Arnaud
12/19/1997