Internet-Draft ACME-DNS-CHALLENGE July 2023
Chariton, et al. Expires 11 January 2024 [Page]
Automated Certificate Management Environment
Intended Status:
Standards Track
A. A. Chariton
Independent Contributor
A. A. Omidi
J. Kasten
F. Loukos
S. A. Janikowski

Automated Certificate Management Environment (ACME) DNS Labeled With ACME Account ID Challenge


This document outlines a new challenge for the ACME protocol, enabling an ACME client to answer a domain control validation challenge from an ACME server using a DNS resource linked to the ACME Account ID. This allows multiple systems or environments to handle challenge-solving for a single domain.

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Table of Contents

1. Introduction

The dns-01 challenge specified in section 8.4 of [RFC8555] requires that ACME clients validate the domain under the _acme-challenge label for the TXT record. This unique label creates an impediment limiting the number of other entities domain validation can be delegated to.

In multi-region deployments, where separate availability zones serve the same content, and dependencies across them are avoided, operators need a way to obtain a separate certificate per zone, for the same domain name. Similarly, in cases of zero-downtime migration, two different setups of the infrastructure may coexist for a long period of time, and both need access to valid certificates.

Due to the uniqueness of the _acme-challenge label, operators today have to pick a single ACME challenge solver for their domain name, and then add a CNAME record to this infrastructure. A domain name can only have one CNAME in DNS.

This document specifies a new challenge type, dns-account-01. This challenge leverages the ACME Account Resource URL to present an account-unique stable challenge to an ACME server. This challenge allows any domain name to delegate its domain validation to more than one service through ACME account-unique DNS records.

As now multiple labels can be used to prove domain control, and they depend on the ACME account, any number of them can be generated in advance, and then all required CNAME records can be created statically. The dynamic part of the label depends on the ACME account and not the account key, to allow for seamless account key rollover without the label changing. This ensures very long-lived labels, without any security considerations.

This RFC does not intend to deprecate the dns-01 challenge specified in [RFC8555]. Since this new challenge does not modify or build on any pre-existing challenges, the ability to complete the dns-account-01 challenge requires ACME server operators to deploy new changes to their codebase. This makes adopting and using this challenge an opt-in process.

2. Conventions and Definitions

The key words "MUST", "MUST NOT", "REQUIRED", "SHALL", "SHALL NOT", "SHOULD", "SHOULD NOT", "RECOMMENDED", "NOT RECOMMENDED", "MAY", and "OPTIONAL" in this document are to be interpreted as described in BCP 14 [RFC2119] [RFC8174] when, and only when, they appear in all capitals, as shown here.

3. DNS-ACCOUNT-01 Challenge

When the identifier being validated is a domain name, the client can prove control of that domain by provisioning a TXT resource record containing a designated value for a specific validation domain name.

    "type": "dns-account-01",
    "url": "",
    "status": "pending",
    "token": "ODE4OWY4NTktYjhmYS00YmY1LTk5MDgtZTFjYTZmNjZlYTUx"

A client can fulfill this challenge by performing the following steps:

For example, if the domain name being validated is "", and the account URL of "" then the client would provision the following DNS record: 300 IN TXT "LoqXcYV8...jxAjEuX0.9jg46WB3...fm21mqTI"

(In the above, "..." indicates that the token and the JWK thumbprint in the key authorization have been truncated to fit on the page.)

Respond to the ACME server with an empty object ({}) to acknowledge that the challenge can be validated by the server

POST /acme/chall/Rg5dV14Gh1Q
Content-Type: application/jose+json

  "protected": base64url({
    "alg": "ES256",
    "kid": "",
    "nonce": "SS2sSl1PtspvFZ08kNtzKd",
    "url": ""
  "payload": base64url({}),
  "signature": "Q1bURgJoEslbD1c5...3pYdSMLio57mQNN4"

On receiving a response, the server constructs and stores the key authorization from the challenge token value and the current client account key.

To validate the dns-account-01 challenge, the server performs the following steps:

If all the above verifications succeed, then the validation is successful. If no DNS record is found, or DNS record and response payload do not pass these checks, then the server MUST fail the validation and mark the challenge as invalid.

The client SHOULD de-provision the resource record(s) provisioned for this challenge once the challenge is complete, i.e., once the "status" field of the challenge has the value "valid" or "invalid".

3.1. Errors

The server SHOULD follow the guidelines set in [RFC8555], Section 6.7 for error conditions that occur during challenge validation.

If the server is unable to find a TXT record for the validation domain name, it SHOULD include the account URL it used to construct the validation domain name in the problem document. Clients MUST NOT use or rely on the presence of this field to construct the validation domain name.

3.2. Implementation Considerations

As this challenge creates strong dependency on the kid account identifier, the server SHOULD ensure that the account identifier is not changed during the lifetime of the account.

4. Security Considerations

As this challenge that is introduced only differs in the left-most label of the domain name from the existing dns-01 challenge, the same security considerations apply.

In terms of the construction of the label prepended to the domain name, there is no need for a cryptographic hash. The purpose of that is to create a long-lived and statistically distinctive record of minimal size.

SHA-256 was picked due to its broad adoption, hardware support, and existing need in implementations that would likely support dns-account-01.

The first 10 bytes were picked as a tradeoff: the value needs to be short enough to not significantly impact DNS record and response size, long enough to provide sufficient probability of collision avoidance across ACME accounts, and just the right size to have Base32 require no padding. As the algorithm is used for uniform distribution of inputs, and not for integrity, we do not consider the trimming a security issue.

5. IANA Considerations

5.1. DNS Parameters

The Underscored and Globally Scoped DNS Node Names is to be updated to include the following entry:

RR Type: TXT
_NODE NAME: _acme-challenge_*
Reference: This document

Where _acme-challenge_* denotes all node names beginning with the string _acme-challenge_. It does NOT refer to a DNS wildcard specification.

5.2. ACME Validation Method

The "ACME Validation Methods" registry is to be updated to include the following entry:

label: dns-account-01
identifier-type: dns
Reference: This document

6. Normative References

National Institute of Standards and Technology, "Secure Hash Standard (SHS)", , <>.
Bradner, S., "Key words for use in RFCs to Indicate Requirement Levels", BCP 14, RFC 2119, DOI 10.17487/RFC2119, , <>.
Eastlake 3rd, D., Schiller, J., and S. Crocker, "Randomness Requirements for Security", BCP 106, RFC 4086, DOI 10.17487/RFC4086, , <>.
Josefsson, S., "The Base16, Base32, and Base64 Data Encodings", RFC 4648, DOI 10.17487/RFC4648, , <>.
Eastlake 3rd, D. and T. Hansen, "US Secure Hash Algorithms (SHA and SHA-based HMAC and HKDF)", RFC 6234, DOI 10.17487/RFC6234, , <>.
Leiba, B., "Ambiguity of Uppercase vs Lowercase in RFC 2119 Key Words", BCP 14, RFC 8174, DOI 10.17487/RFC8174, , <>.
Barnes, R., Hoffman-Andrews, J., McCarney, D., and J. Kasten, "Automatic Certificate Management Environment (ACME)", RFC 8555, DOI 10.17487/RFC8555, , <>.


Authors' Addresses

Antonios A. Chariton
Independent Contributor
Amir A. Omidi
James Kasten
Fotis Loukos
Stanislaw A. Janikowski