[LE4D] – HTTP challenge validation fails #ibmchampion

February 1, 2018 – 9:07 am

We recently got feedback from customers where the HTTP challenge validation fails with no obvious reason. First of all, this issue is not limited to LE4D only.

Assume, you want Lets Encrypt to issue a certificate for foo.example.com.

You configure LE4D, run the agent and get the message

“HTTP JVM: org.shredzone.acme4j.exception.AcmeException: Failed to pass the challenge for domain foo.example.com, … Giving up.”

This indicates that the Lets Encrypt server cannot read the challenge token in the .well-known/acme-challenge directory.

There are a couple of reasons, why the token cannot be accessed

  • authentication required
  • server not listening on port 80 / 443
  • server is not the server for foo.example.com

In our case, no authentication is required, the server can be reached at port 80; we even could access the challenge token via a browser. So there is no obvious reason, why the validation should fail. But it does.

I contacted Lets Encrypt and the finally found an answer. The problem is with DNS and CAA.

CAA is a type of DNS record that allows site owners to specify which Certificate Authorities (CAs) are allowed to issue certificates containing their domain names. It was standardized in 2013 by RFC 6844 to allow a CA “reduce the risk of unintended certificate mis-issue.”. By default, every public CA is allowed to issue certificates for any domain name in the public DNS, provided they validate control of that domain name. That means that if there’s a bug in any one of the many public CAs’ validation processes, every domain name is potentially affected. CAA provides a way for domain holders to reduce that risk.

Lets Encrypt checks the CAA record prior to validating the challenge, If the check fails, also the validation fails.

How can you test, if you are running into a CAA error?

If you are on Linux, you can use dig to check your domain for CAA records ( use nslookup on Windows )

We checked the CAA record for example.com first

dig caa example.com

<<>> DiG 9.9.4-RedHat-9.9.4-51.el7_4.1 <<>> caa example.com
;; global options: +cmd
;; Got answer:
;; ->>HEADER<<- opcode: QUERY, status: NOERROR, id: 5006
;; flags: qr rd ra; QUERY: 1, ANSWER: 0, AUTHORITY: 1, ADDITIONAL: 1

;; OPT PSEUDOSECTION:
; EDNS: version: 0, flags:; udp: 512
;; QUESTION SECTION:
;example.com. IN CAA

;; AUTHORITY SECTION:
example.com. 180 IN SOA ns0.dnsmadeeasy.com. dns.dnsmadeeasy.com. 2008010137 43200 3600 1209600 180

;; Query time: 28 msec
;; SERVER: fd00::ca0e:14ff:fe6a:3932#53(fd00::ca0e:14ff:fe6a:3932)
;; WHEN: Sa Jan 20 18:39:04 EET 2018
;; MSG SIZE rcvd: 95

You can see that the query returns NOERROR. Even if the CAA record for example.com is empty, that is ok.
Lets Encrypt will receive the NOERROR status and next, it will try to get the challenge token.

Now, lets check foo.example.com

dig caa foo.example.com

<<>> DiG 9.9.4-RedHat-9.9.4-51.el7_4.1 <<>> caa foo.example.com
;; global options: +cmd
;; Got answer:
;; ->>HEADER<<- opcode: QUERY, status: SERVFAIL, id: 9535
;; flags: qr rd ra; QUERY: 1, ANSWER: 0, AUTHORITY: 0, ADDITIONAL: 1

;; OPT PSEUDOSECTION:
; EDNS: version: 0, flags:; udp: 512
;; QUESTION SECTION:
;foo.example.com. IN CAA

;; Query time: 2 msec
;; SERVER: fd00::ca0e:14ff:fe6a:3932#53(fd00::ca0e:14ff:fe6a:3932)
;; WHEN: Sa Jan 20 18:44:27 EET 2018
;; MSG SIZE rcvd: 45

Now we get a status of SERVFAIL.

Most often this indicates a failure of DNSSEC validation. If you get a SERVFAIL error, your first step should be to use a DNSSEC debugger like dnsviz.net.
If that doesn’t work, it’s possible that your nameservers generate incorrect signatures only when the response is empty.
And CAA responses are most commonly empty. For instance, PowerDNS had this bug in version 4.0.3 and below.

If you don’t have DNSSEC enabled and get a SERVFAIL, the second most likely reason is that your authoritative nameserver returned NOTIMP, which as described above is an RFC 1035 violation; it should instead return NOERROR with an empty response.
If this is the case, file a bug or a support ticket with your DNS provider.

  1. One Response to “[LE4D] – HTTP challenge validation fails #ibmchampion”

  2. Great tip. I haven’t hit this “option 3”, so far, but, it’s good to know that it exists before hitting 🙂

    By Tihomir Pantovic on Feb 2, 2018

Post a Comment