new_SSL_certificate.mdwn 2.65 KB
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[[!meta date="Fri, 06 Jan 2012 22:01:54 +0100"]]
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[[!meta title="New SSL certificate for tails.boum.org"]]
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[[!tag announce]]
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[[!toc levels=2]]

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On the same day Tails 0.10 was put out, our website started to use a
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commercial SSL certificate. This new certificate replaces the previous one that
was delivered by the non-commercial [CACert certificate
authority](http://www.cacert.org/).

What are SSL certificates?
==========================

Using HTTPS instead of plain HTTP to connect to a website allows you to encrypt
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your communication with the server. But encryption alone does not guarantee
that you are talking with the right server, and not
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someone impersonating it, for example in case of a [[man-in-the-middle
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attack|doc/about/warning#man-in-the-middle]].
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SSL certificates try to solve this problem. A SSL certificate is usually issued by
a certificate authority to certify the identity of a server. When you reach a
website your web browser might trust an SSL certificate automatically if it trusts
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the authority that issued it.

Commercial certificate authorities are making a living out of selling SSL
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certificates; they are usually trusted automatically by most of the
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browsers.  Other non-commercial authorities, such as
[CACert](http://www.cacert.org/), need to be installed by the operating system
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or by the user to avoid displaying a security warning when visiting the website.
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Weaknesses of the system
========================

But this trust system has proven to be flawed in many ways. For example, during
2011, two certificate authorities were compromised, and many fake certificates
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were issued and used in the wild. See [Comodo: The Recent RA
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Compromise](http://blogs.comodo.com/it-security/data-security/the-recent-ra-compromise/)
and [The Tor Project: The DigiNotar Debacle, and what you should do about
it](https://blog.torproject.org/blog/diginotar-debacle-and-what-you-should-do-about-it).

It is clear for us that getting an commercial SSL certificate is not enough to
strongly authenticate our website, and for example authenticity of our releases.
That's why we always propose you [[stronger ways of authenticating our Tails
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release|install/download#openpgp]] using OpenPGP signatures.
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Why get a commercial certificate then?
======================================

Still we decided to get a commercial certificate for the following reasons:

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- It makes it harder to setup a simplistic [[man-in-the-middle
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  attacks|doc/about/warning#man-in-the-middle]] against the people who didn't use HTTPS so
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  far to visit our website.
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- Our website now is only available with HTTPS enabled. This may be
  important to provide some confidentiality while posting on the forum
  for example.