Trusting unknown parties for security? Welcome to the web


At The Economist, Glenn Fleishman writes about a fundamental flaw in the industry standard security system for websites, SSL, familiar to all of us as the little lock icon that appears for 'secure' websites. Recently, a cracker was able to issue himself security certificates for domains at Skype and elsewhere, making clear the problem of assigning trust to certificating authorities just because.

The secure web infrastructure was designed in part to defend against this. The browser may be tricked into connecting to a server designed to extract your identity or intercept communications, but the browser will see the wolf under the sheep's clothing. It will alert the user and hinder him from connecting to a server that lacks a certificate, issued by some CA, for the domain it claims to be representing. But if a valid certificate can be obtained, neither the user nor the browser have any idea that they have been hijacked.

A big part of the problem seems to be the willingness of browser- and OS-makers to turn a blind eye to sleazy CAs.

The web's trust issues [The Economist]