Some users report that after updating their Operating System or Chrome browser to a more recent version, they have problems accessing some sites (often internal sites with self-signed certificates) and the browser shows an error of NET::ERR_CERT_INVALID.

NET::ERR_CERT_INVALID means that the certificate itself is so malformed that it’s not accepted at all– sometimes rejected by certificate logic in the underlying operating system or sometimes rejected by additional validity checks in Chrome. Common causes include malformed serial numbers (they should be 20 digits), Certificate versions (v1 certificates must not have extensions), policy constraints, SHA-1 (on OS X 10.3.3+), or validity date formatting (e.g. missing the seconds field in the ASN.1, or encoding using the wrong ASN.1 types).

Click the “NET::ERR_CERT_INVALID” text such that the certificate’s base64 PEM data appears. Copy/paste that text (up to the first –END CERTIFICATE–) into the box at and the tool will generate a list of errors that lead to this blocking in Chrome.


In most cases, the site will need to generate and install a properly-formatted certificate in order to resolve the error.


privacy, security

Understanding the Limitations of HTTPS

A colleague recently forwarded me an article about the hazards of browsing on public WiFi with the question: “Doesn’t HTTPS fix this?” And the answer is, “Yes, generally.” As with most interesting questions, however, the complete answer is a bit more complicated.

HTTPS is a powerful technology for helping secure the web; all websites should be using it for all traffic.

If you’re not comfortable with nitty-gritty detail, stop reading here. If your takeaway upon reading the rest of this post is “HTTPS doesn’t solve anything, so don’t bother using it!” you are mistaken, and you should read the post again until you understand why.

HTTPS is a necessary condition for secure browsing, but it is not a sufficient condition.

There are limits to the benefits HTTPS provides, even when deployed properly. This post explores those limits.

Deployment Limitations

HTTPS only works if you use it.

In practice, the most common “exploit against HTTPS” is failing to use it everywhere.

Specify HTTPS:// on every URL, including URLs in documentation, email, advertisements, and everything else. Use Strict-Transport-Security (preload!) and Content-Security-Policy’s Upgrade-Insecure-Requests directive (and optionally Block-All-Mixed-Content) to help mitigate failures to properly set URLs to HTTPS.

Mixed Content – By default, browsers will block non-secure scripts and CSS (called “Active Mixed Content”) from secure pages. However, images and other “Passive Mixed Content” are requested and displayed; the page’s lock icon is silently hidden.

Non-secure Links – While browsers have special code to deal with Active and Passive mixed content, most browsers do nothing at all for Latent Mixed Content, where a secure page contains a link to a non-secure resource. Email trackers are the worst.

Privacy Limitations

SNI / IP-Address – When you connect to a server over HTTPS, the URL you’re requesting is encrypted and invisible to network observers. However, observers can see both the IP address you’re connecting to, and the hostname you’re requesting on that server (via the Server Name Indication ClientHello extension).

TLS 1.3 proposes a means of SNI-encryption, but (unless you’re using something like Tor) an observer is likely to be able to guess which server you’re visiting using only the target IP address. In most cases, a network observer will also see the plaintext of the hostname when your client looks up its IP address via the DNS protocol (maybe fixed someday).


Data Length – When you connect to a server over HTTPS, the data you send and receive is encrypted. However, in the majority of cases, no attempt is made to mask the length of data sent or received, meaning that an attacker with knowledge of the site may be able to determine what content you’re browsing on that site. Protocols like HTTP/2 offer built-in options to generate padding frames to mask payload length, and sites can undertake efforts (Twitter manually pads avatar graphics to fixed byte lengths) to help protect privacy. More generally, traffic analysis attacks make use of numerous characteristics of your traffic to attempt to determine what you’re up to; these are used by real-world attackers like the Great Firewall of China. Attacks like BREACH make use of the fact that when compression is in use, leaking just the size of data can also reveal the content of the data.

Ticket Linking – TLS tickets can be used to identify the client. (Addressed in TLS1.3)

Referer Header – By default, browsers send a page’s URL via the Referer header (also exposed as the document.referrer DOM property) when navigating or making resource requests from one HTTPS site to another. HTTPS sites wishing to control leakage of their URLs should use Referrer Policy.

Server Identity Limitations

Certificate Verification – During the HTTPS handshake, the server proves its identity by presenting a certificate. Most certificates these days are issued after what’s called “Domain Validation”, a process by which the requestor proves that they are in control of the domain name listed in the certificate.

This means, however, that a bad guy can usually easily get a certificate for a domain name that “looks like” a legitimate site. While an attacker shouldn’t be able to get a certificate for, there’s little to stop them from getting a certificate for Bad guys abuse this.

Some sites try to help users notice illegitimate sites by deploying Extended Validation (EV) certificates and relying upon users to notice if the site they’re visiting has not undergone that higher-level of vetting. Sadly, a number of product decisions and abysmal real-world deployment choices mean that EV certificates are of questionable value in the real-world.

Even more often, attackers rely on the fact that users don’t understand URLs at all, and are willing to enter their data into any page containing the expected logos:


One Hop – TLS often protects traffic for only one “hop.” For instance, when you connect to my, you’ll see that it’s using HTTPS. Hooray!

What you didn’t know is that this domain is fronted by Cloudflare CDN’s free tier. While your communication with the Content Delivery Network is secure, the request from the CDN to my server ( is over plain HTTP because my server doesn’t have a valid certificate[1]. A well-positioned attacker could interfere with your connection to the backend site by abusing that non-secure hop. Overall, using Cloudflare for HTTPS fronting improves security in my site’s scenario (protecting against some attackers), but browser UI limits mean that the protection probably isn’t as good as you expected. Here’s a nice video on this.

Multi-hop scenarios exist beyond CDNs; for instance, a HTTPS server might pull in a HTTP web service or use a non-secure connection to a remote database on the backend.

DOM Mixing – When you establish a connection to, you can have a level of confidence that the top-level page was delivered unmolested from the server. However, returned HTML pages often pull in third-party resources from other servers, whose certificates are typically not user-visible. This is especially interesting in cases where the top-level page has an EV certificate (“lighting up the green bar”), but scripts or other resources are pulled from a third-party with a domain-validated certificate.

Sadly, in many cases, third-parties are not worthy of the high-level of trust they are granted by inclusion in a first-party page.

Server Compromise – HTTPS only aims to protect the bytes in transit. If a server has been compromised due to a bug or a configuration error, HTTPS does not help (and might even hinder detection of the compromised content, in environments where HTTP traffic is scanned for malware by gateway appliances, for instance). HTTPS does not stop malware.

Server Bugs – Even when not compromised, HTTPS doesn’t make server code magically secure. In visual form:


Client Identity Limitations

Client Authentication – HTTPS supports a mode whereby the client proves their identity to the server by presenting a certificate during the HTTPS handshake; this is called “Client Authentication.” In practice, this feature is little used.

Client Tampering – Some developers assume that using HTTPS means that the bytes sent by the client have not been manipulated in any way. In practice, it’s trivial for a user to manipulate the outbound traffic from a browser or application, despite the use of HTTPS.

Features like Certificate Pinning could have made it slightly harder for a user to execute a man-in-the-middle attack against their own traffic, but browser clients like Firefox and Chrome automatically disable Certificate Pinning checks when the received certificate chains to a user-installed root certificate. This is not a bug.

In some cases, the human user is not a party to the attack. HTTPS aims to protect bytes in transit, but does not protect those bytes after they’re loaded in the client application. A man-in-the-browser attack occurs when the client application has been compromised by malware, such that tampering or data leaks are performed before encryption or after decryption. The spyware could take the form of malware in the OS, a malicious or buggy browser extension, etc.

Real-world Implementation Limitations

Early Termination Detection – The TLS specification offers a means for detecting when a data stream was terminated early to prevent truncation attacks. In practice, clients do not typically implement this feature and will often accept truncated content silently, without any notice to the user.

Validation Error Overrides – HTTPS deployment errors are so common that most user-agents allow the user to override errors reported during the certificate validation process (expired certificates, name mismatches, even untrusted CAs etc). Clients range in quality as to how well they present the details of the error and how effectively they dissuade users from making mistakes.

Further Reading


[1] A few days after posting, someone pointed out that I can configure Cloudflare to use its (oddly named) “Full” HTTPS mode, which allows it to connect to my server over HTTPS using the (invalid) certificate installed on my server. I’ve now done so, providing protection from passive evesdroppers. But you, as an end-user, cannot tell the difference, which is the point of this post.

dev, security

Strict-Transport-Security for *.dev, *.app and more

Some web developers host their pre-production development sites by configuring their DNS such that hostnames ending in .dev point to local servers. Such configurations were not meaningfully impacted when .dev became an official Generic Top Level Domain a few years back, because even as smart people warned that developers should stop squatting on it, Google (the owner of the .dev TLD) was hosting few (if any) sites on the gTLD.

With Chrome 63, shipping to the stable channel in the coming days, things have changed. Chrome has added .dev to the HSTS Preload list (along with the .foo, .page, .app, and .chrome TLDs). This means that any attempt to visit will automatically be converted to


Other major browsers use the same underlying HSTS Preload list, and we expect that they will also pick up the .dev TLD entry in the coming weeks and months.

Of course, if you were using HTTPS with valid and trusted certificates on your pre-production sites already (good for you!) the Chrome 63 change may not impact you very much right away. But you’ll probably want to move your preproduction sites off of .dev and instead use e.g. .test, a TLD reserved for this purpose.

Secure all the things!


PS: Perhaps surprisingly, the dotless (“plain”) hostnames http://dev, http://page, http://app, http://chrome, http://foo are all impacted by new HSTS rules as well.

browsers, security, Uncategorized

Google Internet Authority G3

For some time now, operating behind the scenes and going mostly unnoticed, Google has been changing the infrastructure used to provide HTTPS certificates for its sites and services.

You’ll note that I said mostly. Over the last few months, I’ve periodically encountered complaints from users who try to load a Google site and get an unexpected error page:


Now, there are a variety of different problems that can cause errors like this one– in most cases, the problem is that the user has some software (security software or malware) installed locally that is generating fake certificates that are deemed invalid for various reasons.

However, when following troubleshooting steps, we’ve determined that a small number of users encountering this NET::ERR_CERT_AUTHORITY_INVALID error page are hitting it for the correct and valid Google certificates that chain through Google’s new intermediate Google Internet Authority G3. That’s weird.

What’s going on?

The first thing to understand is that Google operates a number of different certificate trust chains, and we have multiple trust chains deployed at the same time. So a given user will likely encounter some certificate chains that go through the older Google Internet Authority G2 chain and some that go through the newer Google Internet Authority G3 chain– this isn’t something the client controls.


You can visit this GIA G3-specific test page to see if the G3 root is properly trusted by your system.

More surprisingly, it’s also the case that you might be getting a G3 chain for a particular Google site (e.g. while some other user is getting a G2 chain for the same URL. You might even end up with a different chain simply based on what Google sites you’ve visited first, due to a feature called HTTP/2 connection coalescing.

In order to see the raw details of the certificate encountered on an error page, you can click the error code text on the blocking page. (If the site loaded without errors, you can view the certificate like so).

Google’s new certificate chain is certainly supposed to be trusted automatically– if your operating system (e.g. Windows 7) didn’t already have the proper certificates installed, it’s expected to automatically download the root certificate from the update servers (e.g. Microsoft WindowsUpdate) and install it so that the certificate chain is recognized as trusted. In rare instances, we’ve heard of this process not working– for instance, some network administrators have disabled root certificate updates for their enterprise’s PCs.

On modern versions of Windows, you can direct Windows to check its trusted certificate list against the WindowsUpdate servers by running the following from a command prompt:

certutil -f -verifyCTL AuthRootWU

Older versions of Windows might not support the -verifyCTL command. You might instead try downloading the R2 GlobalSign Root Certificate directly and then installing it in your Trusted Root Certification Authorities:


Overall, the number of users reporting problems here is very low, but I’m determined to help ensure that Chrome and Google sites work for everyone.


browsers, security

Chrome 59 on Mac and TeletexString Fields

Update: This change ended up getting backed out, after it was discovered that it impacted smartcard authentication. Thanks for self-hosting Chrome Dev builds, IT teams!

A change quietly went into Chrome 59 that may impact your certificates if they contain non-ASCII characters in a TeletexString field. Specifically, these certificates will fail to validate on Mac, resulting in either a ERR_SSL_SERVER_CERT_BAD_FORMAT error for server certificates or a ERR_BAD_SSL_CLIENT_AUTH_CERT error for client certificates. The change that rejects such certificates is presently only in the Mac version of Chrome, but it will eventually make its way to other platforms.

You can see whether your certificates are using teletexStrings using an ASN.1 decoder program, like this one. Simply upload the .CER file, and look for the TeletexString type in the output. If you find any such fields that contain non-ASCII characters, the certificate is impacted:

Non-ASCII character in string

Background: Certificates are encoded using a general-purpose data encoding scheme called ASN.1. ASN.1 specifies encoding rules, and strings may be encoded using any of a number of different data types (teletexString, printableString, universalString, utf8String, bmpString). Due to the complexity and underspecified nature of the TeletexString, as well as the old practice of shoving Latin1 strings in fields marked as TeletexString, the Chrome change takes a conservative approach to handling TeletexString, only allowing the ASCII subset. utf8String is a well-specified and well-supported standard and should be used in place of the obsolete teletexString type.

To correct the problem with the certificate, regenerate it using UTF8String fields to store non-ASCII data.

-Eric Lawrence


Inspecting Certificates in Chrome

With a check-in on Monday night, Chrome Canary build 60.0.3088 regained a quick path to view certificates from the top-level security UI. When the new feature is enabled, you can just click the lock icon to the left of the address box, then click the “Valid” link in the new Certificate section of the Page Information bubble to see the certificate:

Chrome 60 Page Info dropdown showing certificate section

In some cases, you might only be interested in learning which Certificate Authority issued the site’s certificate. If the connection security is Valid, simply hover over the link to see the issuer information in a tooltip:

Tooltip shows Issuer CA

The new link is also available on the blocking error page in the event of an HTTPS error, although no tooltip is shown:

The link also available at the blocking Certificate Error page

Note: For now, you must manually enable the new Certificate section. Type chrome://flags/#show-cert-link in Chrome’s address box and hit enter. Click the Enable link and relaunch Chrome.


This section is enabled by default in Chrome 63 along with some other work to simplify the Page Information bubble.

If you want more information about the HTTPS connection, or to see the certificates of the resources used in the page, hit F12 to open the Developer Tools and click to the Security tab:

Chrome DevTools Security tab shows more information

You can learn more about Chrome’s certificate UIs and philosophy in this post from Chrome Security’s Chris Palmer.

-Eric Lawrence

browsers, security

Get Help with HTTPS problems

Sometimes, when you try to load a HTTPS address in Chrome, instead of the expected page, you get a scary warning, like this one:


Chrome has found a problem with the security of the connection and has blocked loading the page to protect your information.

In a lot of cases, if you’re just surfing around, the easiest thing to do is just find a different page to visit. But what happens if this happens on an important site that you really need to see? You shouldn’t just “click through” the error, because this could put your device or information at risk.

In some cases, clicking the ADVANCED link might explain more about the problem. For instance, in this example, the error message says that the site is sending the wrong certificate; you might try finding a different link to the site using your favorite search engine.


Or, in this case, Chrome explains that the certificate has expired, and asks you to verify that your computer clock’s Date and Time are set correctly:


You can see the specific error code in the middle of the text:


Some types of errors are a bit more confusing. For instance, NET::ERR_CERT_AUTHORITY_INVALID means that the site’s certificate didn’t come from a company that your computer is configured to trust.


Google Internet Authority G3?

If the root certificate is from Google Internet Authority G3, see this article.

Errors Everywhere?

What happens if you start encountering errors like this on every HTTPS page that you visit, even major sites like

In such cases, this often means that you have some software on your device or network that is interfering with your secure connections. Sometimes this software is well-meaning (e.g. anti-virus software, ad-blockers, parental control filters), and sometimes it’s malicious (adware, malware, etc). But even buggy well-meaning software can break your secure connections.

If you know what software is intercepting your traffic (e.g. your antivirus) consider updating it or contacting the vendor.

Getting Help

If you don’t know what to do, you may be able to get help in the Chrome Help Forum. When you ask for help, please include the following information:

  • The error code (e.g. NET::ERR_CERT_AUTHORITY_INVALID).
    • To help the right people find your issue, consider adding this to the title of your posting.
  • What version of Chrome you’re using. Visit chrome://version in your browser to see the version number
  • The type of device and network (e.g. “I’m using a laptop on wifi on my school’s network.”)
  • The error diagnostic information.

You can get diagnostic information by clicking or tapping directly on the text of the error code: image. When you do so, a bunch of new text will appear in the page:


You should select all of the text:


…then hit CTRL+C (or Command ⌘+C on Mac) to copy the text to your clipboard. You can then paste the text into your post. The “PEM encoded chain” information will allow engineers to see exactly what certificate the server sent to your computer, which might shed light on what specifically is interfering with your secure connections.

With any luck, we’ll be able to help you figure out how to surf securely again in no time!