Welcome to the Future of Trust

Even before the Regulation (EU) No. 910/2014 on electronic identification (eID) and trusted services for electronic transactions in the internal market (eIDAS) became fully applicable on 1st of July 2016, a pan-European team of experts led by the Ruhr University Bochum and ecsec GmbH had joined forces in the EU-funded FutureTrust project to facilitate the provision and use of eID and trust services. In more than three years of intensive research and development, the FutureTrust project has produced numerous remarkable innovations, which are now being made available to the general public and outlined in the present blog post.

 

Overview of the FutureTrust System Architecture

Overview of the FutureTrust System Architecture

As shown in the above figure, the FutureTrust project addresses large parts of the eIDAS-Ecosystem and integrates various FutureTrust Services and FutureTrust Pilot Applications as well as the “Global Trust List”, which provides information related to trust service providers across the European Member States and beyond.

There are the following basic FutureTrust Service

  • Pan-European eID-Broker (eID-Broker, eID),
  • Signature Generation & Sealing Service (SigS),
  • Validation Service (ValS),
  • Preservation Service (PresS),

and the following FutureTrust Pilot Applications

  • a Portuguese service for electronic SEPA eMandates (eMandate),
  • an Austrian service for electronic invoices (eInvoice),
  • a Georgian service for electronic Apostilles (eApostille) and
  • the German eIDAS-Portal, which allows to enrol for certificates after an eID-based identification.

Background, Motivation and Problems – as well as solutions provided by FutureTrust!

As shown in the figure below, there are currently[1] around 200 Qualified Trust Service Providers (QTSP) in Europe issuing qualified certificates for electronic signatures, as well as around 100 providers of qualified time stamps.

 

Trust Service Providers

Hence, the eIDAS-Ecosystem is, with respect to these basic trust services, which already existed before the eIDAS-Regulation entered into force, fairly well developed. Similarly, there also exist a significant number of European providers of qualified certificates for issuing electronic seals (93) or website authentication (41). The development of the market seems to be on the right track here. On the other hand, there are very few providers of qualified validation (13), preservation (10 or 11) or electronic registered delivery service (15) so far. Furthermore the very promising option for issuing qualified certificates based on electronic identification (see Art. 24 (1) (b) of the eIDAS-Regulation) – especially in combination with remote signatures – does not yet seem to be practically implemented and available in the market.

Expecting this foreseeable development, the FutureTrust project has built upon experiences and previous work from pertinent projects (e.g. STORK, STORK 2.0, FutureID, e-SENS, SD-DSS, Open eCard, OpenPEPPOL and SkIDentity) in order to close the existing gaps as far as possible by adressing the following problems (P1-P6) and provide tailormade solutions (->):

  • No Open Source Validation Service -> The FutureTrust Validation Service (ValS)
  • No standardised Preservation Service -> The FutureTrust Preservation Service (PresS)
  • No eID-based certificate enrolment -> The eIDAS-Portal of the German Universities
  • No universal signature and seal creation service -> The FutureTrust Signature Generation & Sealing Service (SigS)
  • Cross-border and non-European transactions are challenging -> The pan-European eID-Broker
  • Demand for fundamental research in the area of security, trust and reliability

P1. No Open Source Validation Service -> The FutureTrust Validation Service (ValS)

Many currently available components for validating electronic signatures and seals are

  • limited to specific document and signature formats (e.g. the freely available Adobe Reader only supports the validation of electronic signatures and seals in the PAdES format according to ETSI EN 319 142),
  • have been shown to be vulnerable and / or
  • are proprietary components, for which the sources are not publicly available

and hence the trustworthiness of a specific validation result is very difficult to assess.

Furthermore, as shown in the figure above, there are currently very few qualified validation service for qualified electronic signatures or seals available in Europe.

Against this background, the FutureTrust project has developed a comprehensive Validation Service (ValS), which supports advanced electronic signatures and seals (AdES) as well as related signature objects including X.509 certificates or Evidence Records based on configurable “Signature Validation Policies” and returns the validation result in a machine-readable XML or JSON based validation report (cf. ETSI TS 119 102-2 and OASIS DSS v1.0 Comprehensive Multi-Signature Verification Report Profile).

Format

Standard

Description

CAdES

ETSI EN 319 122

ASN.1-based digital signature based on the “Cryptographic Message Syntax

XAdES

ETSI EN 319 132

XML-based digital signature based on the “XML Digital signature

PAdES

ETSI EN 319 142

PDF document with embedded CAdES signature

JWS

RFC 7515

JSON-based digital signature for web applications, in the future also JAdES

X.509

X.509

Allows to check the status and trustworthiness of an X.509 certificate (see also RFC 5280) based on a suitable Trusted List.

ERS

RFC 4998

Evidence Records, which allow to produce efficient proofs of existence.

More details with respect to the FutureTrust Validation Service (ValS), which will soon be provided as Open Source, will be provided in a forthcoming blog post.

P2. No standardised Preservation Service -> The FutureTrust Preservation Service (PresS)

The well-known fact that signed objects lose their evidential value, if cryptographic algorithms become weak, induces major challenges for applications, which require maintaining the integrity and authenticity of signed data for long periods of time – or even for eternity. While the Technical Guideline BSI TR-03125 (TR-ESOR) had specified components for the preservation of evidence before the advent of FutureTrust, the corresponding ETSI standards for preservation services, such as ETSI TS 119 511 and ETSI TS 119 512 only appeared recently.

Against this background, selected experts from the FutureTrust team have been actively involved in the preservation-related standardisation work within OASIS DSS-X and ETSI ESI such that FutureTrust project has been able to provide a reference implementation of selected preservation schemes from the new preservation standards.

More details with respect to the FutureTrust Preservation Service (PresS) will be provided in a forthcoming blog post.

P3. No eID-based certificate enrolment -> The eIDAS-Portal of the German Universities

Before a qualified trust service provider can issue a qualified certificate to a natural or legal person, it is obliged (see Art. 24 (1) of the eIDAS-Regulation) to verify the identity and, if applicable, any specific attributes of the certificate subject. Furthermore, there are similar requirements for non-qualified certificates, which are issued within the Public-Key Infrastructure of the German Research Network (Deutsches Forschungsnetz, DFN-PKI), which is audited against ETSI EN 319 411-1, and which can be used for electronic signatures, email encryption, authentication or website authentication. In addition to the classical way to perform the identity verification while the subject is physically present (Art. 24 (1) a)), the eIDAS-Regulation also allows to perform the identification remotely using appropriate electronic identification (eID) means (Art. 24 (1) b)), by using qualified signatures or seals (Art. 24 (1) c)) or other identification methods recognised at national level (Art. 24 (1) d)), if they provide equivalent assurance. While the growing number of notified eID schemes and the availability of the pan-European eID-Broker infrastructures strongly suggest to use eID means for the identity verification during certificate enrolment, this option does not seem to be available in practice yet. Against this background, the FutureTrust project has designed and implemented a smart eID-based system for certificate enrolment, which allows to combine University-specific credentials with eID-based identity verification in order to end up with a completely electronic process for certificate enrolment within the DFN-PKI.

More details with respect to this novel certificate enrolment system, which is referred to as the “eIDAS-Portal” of the German Universities, which are participating in FutureTrust, will be subject of a forthcoming blog post.

P4. No universal signature creation service -> The FutureTrust Signature Generation & Sealing Service (SigS)

Even if certificates are already issued, this does not mean that these certificates can easily be used to create signatures or seals in web applications. A universal service for using arbitrary smart card- or remote signature-based certificates of different providers does not seem to exist so far. Through the development of the ChipGateway-protocol by ecsec GmbH and LuxTrust S.A. and the extension and adaptation of the protocol and architecture to support the special features of the German eID card, as well as the latest standards developed by OASIS DSS-X and ETSI ESI, the FutureTrust project has provided a solid corner stone for the envisioned universal signature creation service.

More details with respect to the FutureTrust Signature Generation & Sealing Service (SigS) as well as the related standards produced by OASIS and ETSI will subject of a forthcoming blog post.

P5. Cross-border and non-European transactions are challenging -> The pan-European eID-Broker

Chapter II of the eIDAS-Regulation, which deals with eID systems, aims at creating a standardised interoperability framework with well-defined processes, security levels, minimum requirements and interfaces, but does not intend to harmonise the respective national eID systems. In doing so, the EU Member States can notify their national eID scheme, such that the corresponding eID means will be recognised across Europe for a certain level of assurance, after a careful assessment (“peer review”) has been conducted and the formal notification procedure has concluded with a publication in the Official Journal of the European Union (see 2019/C 150/06 for example). For the technical implementation of the eID interoperability framework, so-called „eIDAS-Nodes“ are provided, which take care about cross-border processes between the application services and the identification services. So far, the envisioned „eIDAS-Nodes“ are not completely available in production yet and the focus of the “eIDAS-Cooperation Network” is limited to EU Member States and countries in the European Economic Area.

Against this background, the FutureTrust project has built upon previous work from pertinent projects, such as FutureID and SkIDentity in order to develop a smart pan-European eID-Broker, which is protected by the European patents EP2439900 and EP2919145, supports a plenty of standards as well as notified eID means from Germany, Estonia, Luxembourg, Belgium and Portugal and is subject of a forthcoming blog post.

While cross-border identification within Europe is often not easy in practice, the electronic processing of transactions with non-European partners poses additional challenges related to data protection specifics in case of transferring personal data to third countries (cf. GDPR, chapter 5) and missing international agreements for mutual recognition of trust services according to Article 14 of the eIDAS-Regulation. Unfortunately, there is no global legislation comparable to the eIDAS-Regulation, which made it necessary in FutureTrust to conduct fundamental research in the area of legal, organisational and technical aspects, which are reflected in relevant academic publications and the prototype of a “Global Trust List” (gTSL). The gTSL is an Open Source component for the trusted management of trust lists according to ETSI TS 119 612, which can be deployed with the other FutureTrust services or as standalone service and which will be subject of a forthcoming blog post.

P6. Fundamental research demand in the area of security, trust and trustworthiness

Conducting security research regularly points out new security problems and vulnerabilities, and with respect to the central concepts of “Trust” and “Trustworthiness”, there does not even seem to be well-founded and generally accepted definitions – not to talk about globally accepted graded minimum requirements. Therefore, it was necessary to scientifically discuss and analyse these fundamental aspects of „Trust“ and „Trustworthiness“ within the FutureTrust project, before formal models were developed, which describe comprehensive “Trust Models”, which finally formed the basis for the objective comparison of trustworthiness of various identification and trust services.

Summary, Acknowledgement and Outlook

The present blog post provided a compact overview of the main problems addressed and solved within the FutureTrust project, which started on 1st of June 2016 and has received funding by the European Commission within the EU Framework Programme for Research and Innovation (Horizon 2020) under the Grant Agreement No. 700542.

As explained throughout this article, the FutureTrust project has conducted fundamental research with respect to the foundations of trust and trustworthiness, has actively supported the standardization process in relevant areas, and has developed numerous services, which ease the use of eID and electronic signature technology in real world applications by addressing the problems outlined above.

The practical applicability of the concepts and software components has been demonstrated in several pilot applications, such as a Portuguese service for electronic SEPA eMandates, an Austrian service for electronic invoices (eInvoice), a Georgian service for electronic Apostilles (eApostille) and last but not least the German eIDAS-Portal, which allows to enrol for certificates after an eID-based identification.

The FutureTrust Services and the FutureTrust Applications are now being made available to the general public step by step and interested parties are encouraged to get in touch with the FutureTrust experts to talk about tailormade solutions and individual needs.

[1] Comparing the current figures (July 2019) with the figures from a recent German article, which has appeared in DuD 2019/04, shows that the number of qualified trust service providers is slightly growing.

Sightseeing the “eIDAS-Ecosystem”

The “Regulation (EU) No. 910/2014 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 23 July 2014 on electronic identification and trust services for electronic transactions in the internal market and repealing Directive 1999/93/EC”, which is commonly known as the “eIDAS Regulation”, is expected to boost trust and efficiency for electronic transactions across Europe and beyond. In this post, we briefly recall what the eIDAS-Regulation is about, invite you to follow us and climb up to a “virtual viewpoint” from which the major parts and services of the “eIDAS-Ecosystem” and their interrelationship become visible, so that you can explore the currently available trust services using the interactive eIDAS-Map and see the overall potential and your individual benefits introduced by this regulation.

The “eIDAS-Ecosystem” at a glance

As shown in the figure, the “eIDAS-Ecosystem” is populated by “Users”, which use some kind of “eIDAS-based Transaction Services”. These Transaction Services in turn may use a variety of “eIDAS Services”, for which the trust is maintained by the “eIDAS Trust System”.

The “eIDAS Trust System”, which deserves a specific treatment in a forthcoming post because of its sophisticated structure, provides the trustworthy foundation for the entire “eIDAS-Ecosystem” by an appropriate combination of measures including accreditation, conformity assessment, supervision and incident handling.

While the realm of “eIDAS-based Transaction Services” is also sufficiently rich to be subject of additional posts, we will introduce and explain the set of “eIDAS Services” in the following, as these services provide the functional core of the “eIDAS-Ecosystem”.

The “eIDAS Services” comprise the “eID-Service” for electronic identification regulated by Chapter II and a variety of “Trust Services” according to Article 3 (16) and regulated by Chapter III of the eIDAS-Regulation. These services in particular comprise

  • the “Signature Generation & Sealing Service” (SigS),
  • the “Validation Service” (ValS),
  • the “Preservation Service” (PresS),
  • the “Electronic Delivery Service” (EDS) and the already widely implemented classical trust services, such as
  • the “Time Stamp Authority” (TSA) and last but not least
  • the “Certification Authority” (CA).

eID-Service

The “eID-Service” provides services for the secure electronic identification and authentication of Users and legal persons. The employed means and services for electronic identification and authentication comprise electronic identification schemes, which have been notified according to Article 9 as well as other schemes. As specified in Article 8 of the eIDAS-Regulation and the related implementing act CIR (EU) 2015/1502, the trustworthiness of an electronic identification scheme and the identification means deployed within, is reflected in its level of assurance. The specified assurance levels range from “low” over “substantial” to “high”. Notified eID schemes which provide at least a substantial level of assurance will be mutually recognized in cross-border transactions according to Article 6 of the eIDAS-Regulation.

Certification Authority (CA)

A Certification Authority (CA) generates electronic certificates and issues them to Users or other entities, commonly called the Subject of a certificate. This may happen directly, via the “eIDAS-based Transaction Service” or the “Signature & Seal Generation Service” (SigS). The SigS interacts with the CA-system, performs an appropriate identification of the Subject and validates the provided identity attributes, which are combined with a public key and are signed by the CA to create the certificate.

Time Stamping Authority (TSA)

Proving the existence of a given set of digital data at a given time is a fundamental requirement in many electronic transactions, which involve electronic signatures, aspects of digital rights management, electronic contracts or require accountability for example. For this purpose, a Time Stamping Authority (TSA) receives the data, which need to be time stamped, or a hash thereof, and returns a time stamp token, which is signed by the TSA.

Signature Generation & Sealing Service (SigS)

The Signature Generation & Sealing Service (SigS) allows to generate (qualified) electronic signatures according to Section 4 and (qualified) electronic seals according to Section 5 of the eIDAS-Regulation in technical formats such as CAdES, XAdES and PAdES for example.

Validation Service (ValS)

The (qualified) electronic signatures and seals generated with the SigS above can be validated with the Validation Service (ValS). The ValS uses the certificates contained in the Trusted Lists according to Article 22 of the eIDAS-Regulation, the corresponding implementing act CID (EU) 2015/1506 and ETSI TS 119 162(v2.1.1) as trust anchors and performs a signature validation according to EN 319 102-1 using an appropriate validation policy.

Preservation Service (PresS)

The long term retention of signed documents requires a form of safekeeping that ensures the legibility and conclusiveness regardless of the storage medium. In order to ensure the legal validity of electronic signatures and electronic seals over long periods of time one needs to apply appropriate preservation techniques as outlined in ETSI SR 019 510.

The preservation techniques realised by a Preservation Service (PresS) according to Article 34 may involve Evidence Records according to RFC 4998 or RFC 6283 or the continuous augmentation of signatures using archive time stamps according to CAdES or XAdES for example.

Electronic Delivery Service (EDS)

In a paper-based world, the only way to know that a letter indeed has reached the addressee is to send it by registered mail. This is a service offered by the mail service providers. The sender writes down his/her statements on a sheet and puts it into a closed envelope, which is marked with the coordinates of the addressee and sends it by mail. The accountability, confidentiality and integrity of the letter are primarily assured by the author, while the mail service providers primarily warrant availability and correct delivery.

According to Article 44 of the eIDAS-Regulation “qualified electronic registered delivery services shall meet the following requirements:

  • they are provided by one or more qualified trust service provider(s);
  • they ensure with a high level of confidence the identification of the sender;
  • they ensure the identification of the addressee before the delivery of the data;
  • the sending and receiving of data is secured by an advanced electronic signature or an advanced electronic seal of a qualified trust service provider in such a manner as to preclude the possibility of the data being changed undetectably;
  • any change of the data needed for the purpose of sending or receiving the data is clearly indicated to the sender and addressee of the data;
  • the date and time of sending, receiving and any change of data are indicated by a qualified electronic time stamp.”

Given these requirements it is obvious that the EDS needs to utilise a variety of other eIDAS Services such as the eID-Service, the SigS, the TSA, the ValS and the certificate status information provided by the CA.

Exploring the overall potential of eIDAS using the interactive eIDAS-Map

The EDS is a nice example that several basic “eIDAS Services” may be combined to form more comprehensive “eIDAS Services” or “eIDAS-based Transaction Services”, which address application-specific needs. A key aspect of the eIDAS-Regulation is that it harmonises the requirements for electronic identification and trust services across Europe and defines the EU-wide legal effect of notified electronic identification means (cf. Article 6), electronic signatures (cf. Article 25), electronic seals (cf. Article 35), time stamps (cf. Article 41), electronic delivery services (cf. Article 43) and last but not least electronic documents (cf. Article 46).

This means that providers and consumers of services may choose among the large number of qualified trust service providers, which are currently active in the European market as exposed by the interactive eIDAS-TSP-Map released today. This map provides an up-to-date overview of the currently existing trust service providers and trust services across Europe.

The individual benefits of the eIDAS-Regulation – What’s in for you?

What kind of benefits the eIDAS-Regulation provides for you depends on your specific role within the “eIDAS-Ecosystem”. The benefit for providers of “eIDAS Services” is that they now can provide and sell their services across Europe, which gives rise to interesting new market opportunities. The benefit for Users is that they may now use a variety of trust services, with well-defined trustworthiness and legal effect. The probably biggest potential benefit of the eIDAS-Regulation however exists for the emerging “eIDAS-based Transaction Services”, which will be subject of a forthcoming post.

Acknowledgement

We gratefully acknowledge that this post is based on contents developed in the FutureTrust project, which has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No. 700542.