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HARICA announcement on Kiwifarms

2023-05-16 HARICA Support

HARICA supports the freedom of speech and expression, and the right for privacy which is why it invested time and effort to support and offer Onion certificates. This decision was welcomed by the Tor community.

HARICA does not check or censor website content protected by its certificates. However, every CA must follow a process to handle complaints from Third Parties and Law enforcement authorities associated with HARICA-issued certificates. If the complaint claims that a certificate is used in violation of the CP/CPS or the Greek/European Law, HARICA is obligated to investigate and check whether those claims are valid. HARICA takes complaints seriously and is especially sensitive to the “forbidden certificate use” clause in section 1.4.2 of its CP/CPS.

In the Kiwifarms case, we received such a complaint and proceeded with our investigation which led to reviewing existing online content. The following URLs were especially examined:

Without dismissing the seriousness of other concerning activities reported, HARICA was especially concerned with activities that might have led to suicides. A decision was made to revoke the certificate and an email was sent to the subscriber notifying that the certificate would be revoked in 3 days (on 2023-05-18), and that a new certificate should be obtained by another CA, which should be a trivial task to be completed within 3 days.

Minutes after sending that email, HARICA’s support team started receiving threat messages from unknown individuals, witnessing the behaviour described in the “Escalating threats” of https://blog.cloudflare.com/kiwifarms-blocked/. Support team members participating in the communications with the subscriber were personally targeted.

HARICA considers this behaviour unacceptable. As a non-profit CA, we try to support the Internet community with the best of our abilities and in a very challenging and demanding industry. If HARICA personnel continues to receive harassment for what is a CA decision (not a personal decision), we will have to revisit the risks associated with providing Onion certificates and possibly discontinue this service. Our personnel’s good health and safety is of upmost importance.

Among the numerous threat messages HARICA received, there was one case that followed the reporting procedure, was kind and polite, and highlighted the fact that there are currently only two publicly-trusted CAs that issue certificates for Onion domain names, and HARICA is one of them. This significantly minimizes the options of Subscribers with Onion domain names.

After considering that factor, HARICA decided to postpone the revocation action and wait for further investigations, if any, by the Greek Law enforcement authorities. The community should not mistakenly think that HARICA’s decision to postpone the revocation was due to the threats we received. We continue to reserve the right to revoke or not issue a replacement certificate, but we respect the fact that this particular subscriber has only one other option to obtain a certificate to protect their website. We hope more CAs will be able to support Onion certificates to alleviate that problem.

University of Athens – Network Operation Center
Panepistimiopolis Ilissia
Postcode: 157 84 Athens, Greece
HARICA is the Hellenic Academic & Research Institutions Certification Authority. It participates in all major Global "ROOT CA" Trust Programs, and operates as a "Trust Anchor" in widely used Application Software and Operating Systems.
It has received a successful Conformance Assessment Report fulfilling the requirements of Regulation (EU) 910/2014 (also known as eIDAS) in the areas of "Qualified" Certificates for electronic Signatures/Seals, website authentication, and "Qualified" Timestamps.