4.3. Planning Security Domains

A security domain is a registry of PKI services. PKI services, such as CAs, register information about themselves in these domains so users of PKI services can find other services by inspecting the registry. The security domain service in Certificate System manages both the registration of PKI services for Certificate System subsystems and a set of shared trust policies.
The registry provides a complete view of all PKI services provided by the subsystems within that domain. Each Certificate System subsystem must be either a host or a member of a security domain.
A CA subsystem is the only subsystem which can host a security domain. The security domain shares the CA internal database for privileged user and group information to determine which users can update the security domain, register new PKI services, and issue certificates.
A security domain is created during CA configuration, which automatically creates an entry in the security domain CA's LDAP directory. Each entry contains all the important information about the domain. Every subsystem within the domain, including the CA registering the security domain, is recorded under the security domain container entry.
The URL to the CA uniquely identifies the security domain. The security domain is also given a friendly name, such as Example Corp Intranet PKI. All other subsystems — RA, DRM, TPS, TKS, OCSP, and other CAs — must become members of the security domain by supplying the security domain URL when configuring the subsystem.
Each subsystem within the security domain shares the same trust policies and trusted roots which can be retrieved from different servers and browsers. The information available in the security domain is used during configuration of a new subsystem, which makes the configuration process streamlined and automated. For example, when a TPS needs to connect to a CA, it can consult the security domain to get a list of available CAs.
Each CA has its own LDAP entry. The security domain is an organizational group underneath that CA entry:
ou=Security Domain,dc=server.example.com-pki-ca
Then there is a list of each subsystem type beneath the security domain organizational group, with a special object class (pkiSecurityGroup) to identify the group type:
cn=KRAList,ou=Security Domain,dc=server.example.com-pki-ca
objectClass: top
objectClass: pkiSecurityGroup
cn: KRAList
Each subsystem instance is then stored as a member of that group, with a special pkiSubsystem object class to identify the entry type:
dn: cn=drm.example.com:10444,cn=KRAList,ou=Security Domain,dc=server.example.com-pki-ca
objectClass: top
objectClass: pkiSubsystem
cn: drm.example.com:10444
host: server.example.com
SecurePort: 10444
DomainManager: false
Clone: false
SubsystemName: Data Recovery Manager
If a subsystem needs to contact another subsystem to perform an operation, it contacts the CA which hosts the security domain (by invoking a servlet which connects over the administrative port of the CA). The security domain CA then retrieves the information about the subsystem from its LDAP database, and returns that information to the requesting subsystem.
The subsystem authenticates to the security domain using a subsystem certificate.
Consider the following when planning the security domain:
  • The CA hosting the security domain can be signed by an external authority.
  • Multiple security domains can be set up within an organization. However, each subsystem can belong to only one security domain.
  • Subsystems within a domain can be cloned. Cloning subsystem instances distributes the system load and provides failover points.
  • The security domain streamlines configuration between the CA and DRM; the DRM can push its KRA connector information and transport certificates automatically to the CA instead of administrators having to manually copy the certificates over to the CA.
  • The Certificate System security domain allows an offline CA to be set up. In this scenario, the offline root has its own security domain. All online subordinate CAs belong to a different security domain.
  • The security domain streamlines configuration between the CA and OCSP. The OCSP can push its information to the CA for the CA to set up OCSP publishing and also retrieve the CA certificate chain from the CA and store it in the internal database.