Some networks and internal web resources require users to authenticate themselves using a digital certificate. Client certificates allow users on ChromeOS devices to access these types of networks and resources.
To enhance the security of networks and internal resources, organizations authenticate users on employee and student devices using client-side digital certificates. For example, EAP-TLS (802.1x) authentication to allow access to LANs and mutual TLS/SSL authentication to allow access to internal web resources.
There are several steps to put a client certificate on a device, including:
- Generating a key pair securely on the device.
- Sending the public key as well as other identifying and authenticating information to a certificate authority (CA) to obtain a certificate.
- Importing the certificate to the device
Different CAs support different enrollment protocols, such as SCEP and EST, and organizations have specific workflows, checks, and rules that have to be checked before granting a certificate.
Client certificates are backed by the Chrome Trusted Platform Module (TPM) on ChromeOS devices. This ensures that the private key never leaves the device.
Manage and provision client certificates
To securely distribute certificates and authentication keys from your Simple Certificate Enrollment Protocol (SCEP) server to users’ devices, you can use the Google Cloud Certificate Connector. For details, see Use the Google Cloud Certificate Connector or Configuring Certificate Enrollment for ChromeOS via SCEP for a comprehensive guide.
Starting with Chrome version 37, partners, such as CAs, infrastructure management vendors, and customers, can write an extension using the chrome.enterprise.platformKeys API to provision client certificates on ChromeOS devices. By using an extension, a wide variety of CAs, enrollment protocols, and any form of web-based workflow can be supported. Customers using Microsoft Active Directory Certificate services can use Google's Enterprise Enrollment tool to request and install certificates for Chrome devices. For more information, see Use the Certificate Enrollment for ChromeOS extension.
When the chrome.enterprise.platformKeys API user Token is used (id equals "user"), client certificates obtained using extensions are unique to a user and device. For example, a second user on the same device has a different certificate. When the user signs in to another device, a different certificate is issued by the CA. Because client certificates are backed by the TPM, the certificate can't be stolen and installed on another device or be hijacked by another user. When you remove a user from a device, the certificate is removed as well.
To provision client certificates using a third-party extension:
- Verify that you have a Chrome service. See Chrome service options.
Your Admin console makes it easy to deploy and control users, devices, and apps across all ChromeOS devices in your organization.
- Obtain an onboarding extension using the chrome.enterprise.platformKeys API that implements your onboarding workflow and integrates with your CA.
Go to the Chrome Web Store to find an extension for the CA you use. If an extension doesn’t already exist for the CA, you can build one yourself or hire a consultant or vendor to build one for you. For more information, see the Developer Guide.
- Force-install the extension for your users. The chrome.enterprise.platformKeys API is only available to extensions that are force-installed by policy. See Automatically install apps and extensions.
- Verify that the network is configured so users in the guest or onboarding network can connect to it, and so the guest or onboarding network can communicate with the CA.
In most cases, a guest or onboarding network does not have privileged access, so it can be used only to browse the extranet and to reach the CA for certificate onboarding. The certificate onboarding process can be initiated using this network. You can pre-configure the guest or onboarding network on all the ChromeOS devices that you manage. For more information, see Manage networks.
- Verify that each ChromeOS device is enrolled in the domain. Only users in the domain where the device is enrolled can use the device certificate. See Enroll ChromeOS devices.
As an administrator, you can configure the provisioning flow for user and device certificates.
User certificates are bound to a managed user’s session. They can be used for user-level authentication to websites, networks, and third-party applications.
Device certificates are bound to a managed device. They’re exposed in multiple places, such as:
- Affiliated user sessions for users who are managed by the same domain as the device.
- Chrome sign-in screens, where the certificates are surfaced to networks and as part of the third-party SAML sign-in flow.
Note: Device certificates are only surfaced in a third-party SAML sign-in flow if you configured the Single Sign-On Client Certificates policy.
- Devices in managed guest session and kiosk mode, where the certificates are surfaced to websites, networks, and third-party apps.
These certificates can also be used by extensions, such as VPN clients using the chrome.platformKeys API. Access to the certificates is granted in different ways depending on whether an account is managed or not. For more information, see Access model for extensions and client certificates.
From a guest or onboarding network, the user attempts to connect to the EAP-TLS (802.1x) network for the first time without a valid certificate. At this point, if an extension is force-installed, it guides the user through a set of steps (including authentication) before installing the certificate issued by the CA. When the certificate is installed, the user can select the EAP-TLS (802.1x) network and successfully connect.
Note: If you choose to deploy certificates with the Google Cloud Certificate Connector, they are deployed silently in the background. They should be immediately available when attempting to connect to the EAP-TLS (802.1x) network if the device can connect to Google servers on a guest or provisioning network.
When an internal webpage requires mutual TLS/SSL authentication, the internal web resource displays a message to the user that a certificate is required. At this point, the user can launch the extension that you force-installed, go through a similar set of steps as described for connecting to an EAP-TLS network, and refresh the browser to access the internal webpage.
The chrome.platformKeys API allows extensions to access client certificates managed by the platform. Android apps use KeyChain APIs. The permission model governing their use depends on whether the user account is managed or unmanaged. The following applies regardless of whether the device is enrolled or not.Unmanaged account
When the user signs in with an unmanaged account, such as their personal account, they own and are under full control of the certificates that have been manually imported onto the device. In this scenario, the user can grant a specific extension the permission to use chrome.platformKeys to access a particular certificate. There are no further restrictions.Managed account
When the user signs in with a managed account, such as their work account, the administrator is in charge of granting access to certificates that are meant for corporate usage. The administrator does that by specifying extensions and Android apps that are allowed to use client certificates.
To make settings for a specific group of users or enrolled Chrome browsers, put the user accounts or browsers in a group or organizational unit. Only user accounts can be added to groups. For details, see Groups and Add an organizational unit.
To specify extensions and Android apps that can use client certificates:
In the Admin console, go to Menu DevicesChromeApps & extensionsUsers & browsers.
If you signed up for Chrome Browser Cloud Management, go to Menu Chrome browserApps & extensionsUsers & browsers.
- (Users only) To apply the setting to a group, do the following:
- Select Groups.
- Select the group to which you want to apply the setting.
- To apply the setting to everyone, leave the top organizational unit selected. Otherwise, select a child organizational unit.
(Optional) If you don’t already manage the extension or Android app in your Admin console:
Click Add and choose an option:
Add from Chrome Web Store
Add from Google Play
Find the extension or Android app and click Select. If prompted, accept the app permissions on behalf of your organization.
In the list, find and click the extension or Android app that you want to manage.
In the panel that opens on the right, under Certificate management, turn on Allow access to keys.
Note: If you select an extension and don’t see the setting, the extension does not support certificate management. If you select an Android app and don't see the setting, the app has not yet been approved to access certificate management APIs. Contact us to request approval.
- Click Save.
The user isn't asked to grant permission to access enterprise certificates, and only certificates that have been imported using the chrome.enterprise.platformKeys API qualify for corporate usage. An extension can still ask the user to select a certificate if the extension has access to multiple certificates. Any certificate that is generated or imported by other means, such as manually, is not available for the API for managed accounts.
Managed Android apps cannot ask users to select an enterprise certificate through KeyChain APIs. The system always picks an enterprise certificate on behalf of the user, if one is available. The KeyChain notifies Android apps of all certificates they have available in the background, and apps themselves can choose to show some dialog to users directly in-app.
Considerations for Android apps
- User certificates are supported for Chrome version 89 or later.
- Device certificates are supported for Chrome version 93 or later.
- Not all Android apps have been approved for access. To request approval for a certain Android app, contact us.