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Why 3 million Let’s Encrypt certificates are being killed off today – Naked Security


Let’s Encrypt was all over the news recently – the cybersecurity news, at any rate – for the laudable reason that it just issued its 1,000,000,000th TLS certificate.

TLS certificates are the cryptographic sauce that puts the S in HTTPS, and the padlock in your browser’s address bar.

The padlock doesn’t vouch for the actual content of the website you visit, of course – it doesn’t prove that the content it presents is correct, or that its downloads are malware free – but it nevertheless provides several benefits that you don’t get with an unencrypted, no-padlock connection:

  • The traffic between you and the website is encrypted. This makes it difficult for other people on the internet to sniff out and snoop on exactly what content you are looking at. Even if what you are reading is not personal or private, crooks can learn a lot about you by keeping an eye on what interests you.
  • The traffic between you and the website is integrity-protected. This makes it difficult for other people to tamper with the content on its way back to you – if they try to sneak malware into a file download after it leaves the site and before it reaches you, the modified data will be rejected.
  • The padlock offers evidence that the person who acquired the certificate really does have access to the website you are visiting. That may sound like a weak guarantee – it doesn’t prove that they actually own the website and it doesn’t identify them in case of any future legal dispute – but it makes it harder for random crooks to get certificates with your website’s name in them.

With this in mind, you may wonder why we have HTTP (unencrypted web traffic) at all.

In the same way that modern train doors lock automatically as you leave the station so you can’t fling them open by mistake at 225 km/hr, why not simply “define” the World Wide Web to be encrypted-only, and be done with it?

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