CAcert offers free certificates. Nevertheless, the CA does not function completely without money. For example, the electricity bills of the data centre in the Netherlands must be paid. The annual expenses of CAcert are about 3000 dollars/Euro. In view of the more than 300,000 users, that’s not much. How does CAcert pay these bills?
First of all, the membership fees of the members of CAcert Inc. (association) cover about 1/6 of the expenses. The remaining 2,500 require donations. In the first quarter of 2018, 11 people from 6 countries from Australia through Tatarstan to the United Kingdom made a donation.The chart on the left shows the distribution of donors by country (USA, UK, France, Germany, Australia, Tatarstan). To the right of the amount donated: one quarter each comes from the USA and Australia. We thank all donors very much for their generosity. In order to pay all bills by the end of the year, twice as many people would have to donate an amount.
Possibilities Bank transfer in Euro: secure-u e.V. / Bank: Hamburger Volksbank e.G. / IBAN: DE50 2019 0003 0008 5478 07 / BIC: GENODEF1HH2 (“for CAcert”) (secure-u-association is our local partner in Germany) Bank Transfer in Australia:
Westpac Bank for AU$: Account Name: CAcert Inc / SWIFT: WPACAU2S / Account No.: 180264 Paypal: https://www.paypal.com/ (currently not working due to Paypal Issue) Paypal donation via secure-u e.V.
Grid-based methods are currently raising great expectations in the development of cryptography that is secure from quantum computers. Mathematicians associate grids with a number of difficult tasks involving the measurement of vector spaces. The difficulty of these problems increases exponentially with the complexity of the grid. For cryptographic applications, grids with hundreds of dimensions are used.
One of the first to make mathematical grids usable for cryptography was the Hungarian-American computer scientist Miklós Ajtai, who worked at the IBM research centre in Almaden. In the mid-1990s, he opened the door to a new field of cryptography. Shortly after the turn of the millennium, grid cryptography was still the work of a small group of researchers, reports the Italian-American computer scientist Daniele Micciancio in a YouTube lecture. In the meantime, one has to read more than 100 essays a year to keep track of this rapidly expanding field of research.
Vadim Lyubashevsky is one of the researchers who have excelled here. He worked with Micciancio at the University of California in San Diego as a doctoral student. Today, he conducts research at the IBM research laboratory in Rüschlikon on the Lake Zurich, Switzerland.
The IBM researcher has done much to transform the lattice theory, which has been developed over the past 25 years, into computer software that is relevant to practice. According to Lyubashevsky, a so-called Cryptographic Suite for Algebraic Lattices (Crystals) is already being used internally by IBM, but also by Google and Cisco for testing purposes. It has been shown that these programs work very efficiently, they are faster than conventional cryptographic methods. Only the memory requirements are slightly higher because the keys are longer.
IBM has not only developed software, but also hardware: the prototype of a tape drive can store encrypted data on 20-TByte tape cartridges in a way that cannot be converted into plain text even by quantum computers.
However, such products cannot be commercialised as long as there are no binding standards for post-quantum cryptography that ensure the interaction of hardware and software components from different manufacturers. The computer world is therefore waiting for the American National Institute of Standards (Nist) to complete a long-term evaluation of quantum-safe cryptographic procedures. An important milestone has just been reached in this process: at the end of July, the American authority announced the end of the second round of evaluation.
When the Nist began to deal with quantum-secure cryptography in 2015, 82 proposals were available for selection. After two evaluation rounds, 7 algorithms remained, including several proposals from IBM. According to the latest Nist evaluation report, the grid-based proposals are considered the most promising. After a third round, which is expected to take 12 to 18 months, binding standards should finally be in place by the end of 2021.
In 1994, the American mathematician Peter Shor was able to show that quantum computers, which were still hypothetical at the time, could greatly accelerate the decomposition of prime factors. Thus, the security of asymmetric encryption is no longer guaranteed. New encryption methods have to be developed that can withstand the quantum computers: Post-quantum cryptography is needed.
It is not possible to wait until the new computers are ready for use and then solve the security problems they raise. For one thing, the development of cryptographic procedures takes time. On the other hand, data sometimes have a long life span. If their confidentiality has to be guaranteed for decades, it is essential to develop an idea today of what tools will be available to an attacker in ten or twenty years’ time. Moreover, it cannot be ruled out that malicious actors are already hoarding encrypted data today in order to read them in plain text later, when quantum computers become available.
The fact that the dangers that quantum computers pose to cryptography have been discussed for a long time, and that it may take a long time before these dangers become real, weakens the awareness of the problem in some places; this “long time and not for a long time” lends many people a false sense of security. But the task of dealing with post-quantum cryptography can no longer be put off any longer.
“The danger is acute,” says the introduction to a report published in April by the American consulting firm Rand Corp. “Quantum computers pose a threat to every government agency, all critical infrastructures and all branches of industry.” This is a new type of threat that is not comparable to conventional security problems. It is directed against the very foundations of the Internet. It threatens to be a “quantum disaster”, an author of the study told journalists. The German Federal Office for Information Security (BSI) also sees an “acute need for action” with regard to post-quantum cryptography.
A revolution is imminent: With the help of quantum mechanical effects, new types of computers could one day quickly solve computing tasks that today’s machines cannot cope with. That is good news. On the one hand. On the other hand, it is bad news. Because commercial computer science as we know it today depends on the existence of computing tasks that computers can cope with. The high computational effort forms a protective wall that secures communication channels. Quantum computers could tear down this protective wall.
Around Lake Zurich, researchers are involved in various teams for the development of post-quantum cryptography. The new encryption methods should protect secrets entrusted to the Internet for decades to come.
For centuries, and even in the late 1970s, it seemed inevitable that the sender and recipient of secret messages would use the same key. This form of protected message exchange is called symmetrical. Since then, asymmetric encryption methods have become generally accepted. They enable the secure exchange of information between two communication partners who are facing each other for the first time and have not had the opportunity to agree on a common key beforehand.
The asymmetric encryption methods use mathematical functions that can only be inverted with great effort. These are one-way or trapdoor functions: In one direction, the passage is easy to pass through, but the way back is blocked. A widely used encryption method is based on the multiplication of two large prime numbers. It does not demand much from a calculating machine, but the opposite way, the prime factorization, is too much for common computers.
deutsch: Ab sofort können Zahlungen aus dem SEPA-Raum* auf das europäische Bankkonto von CAcert überwiesen werden. Für Spenden können Sie weiterhin das Bankkonto von Secure-U in Deutschland verwenden (so vermeiden wir, dass Geld sinnlos hin- und her geschoben wird, da Secure-U für uns die Server mietet); für Mitgliederbeiträge sollte jedoch das untenstehende Bankkonto in der Schweiz verwendet werden, da nur dann der Mitgliederbeitrag dem Mitglied zugeordnet werden kann. Sie finden untenstehend Name, Postleitzahl/Ort, IBAN-Kontonummer und Bank:
italiano: A partire da ora, i pagamenti dall’area SEPA* possono essere trasferiti sul conto bancario europeo di CAcert. Per le donazioni prego di utilizzare il conto bancario Secure-U in Germania; tuttavia, per le quote associative, si deve utilizzare il conto bancario in Svizzera sotto indicato, poiché solo in tal caso la quota associativa può essere assegnata al socio. Qui di seguito trovate nome, numero postale/località, numero di conto IBAN e banca:
English: As of now, payments from the SEPA area* can be transferred to CAcert’s European bank account. For donations, the Secure-U bank account in Germany can still be used (to avoid that money is transfered twice on the same account); however, for membership fees, the bank account in Switzerland listed below should be used, as only then the membership fee can be assigned to the member. Below you will find name, postcode/town, IBAN account number and bank:
The bank is rated AA/stable by Standard&Poor. It also has a state guarantee from the state (canton) of Grisons (one of Switzerland’s 26 provinces).
Français: Dès à présent, les paiements provenant de l’espace SEPA* peuvent être transférés sur le compte bancaire européen de CAcert. Pour les dons, continuez d’utliser le compte bancaire Secure-U en Allemagne; en revanche, pour les cotisations, il convient d’utiliser le compte bancaire en Suisse indiqué ci-dessous, car ce n’est qu’alors que la cotisation peut être attribuée au membre. Vous trouverez ci-dessous le nom, le code postal/le lieu, le numéro de compte IBAN et la banque :
* SEPA Area: all 27 countries of the European Union, furthermore: Guadeloupe, French Guyana, Martinique, Réunion, Mayotte, Saint-Pierre, Miquelon, Canary Islands, Azores, Madeira, Ceuta, Melilla, United Kingdom, Gibraltar, Isle of Man, Jersey, Guernsey, Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Norway, Iceland, Monaco, San Marino, Holy Seed, Croatia, Andorra.
From September onwards, HTTPS certificates may only be issued for a maximum of one year.
Reading time: 1 min.
The maximum validity of certificates for proof of identity on the web will be further reduced – in the next step to one year. Although a vote on this issue in the CA/Browser Forum failed in September due to resistance from the certification authorities, it is still being discussed. But in March Apple came forward and declared that Safari will only accept certificates issued after September 1, 2020 if they are not valid for more than one year.
Now Mozilla and Google are following suit and creating facts. In the past, terms of 5 years were not unusual. Currently, certificates may still be issued for 2 years (more precisely: 825 days — i.e. plus some grace period). With the renewed tightening, Chrome, for example, delivers an ERR_CERT_VALIDITY_TOO_LONG if a certificate was issued after September 1, 2020 and is valid for more than 398 days.
The main reason for the constant shortening of the certificate lifetime is the fact that there is no generally functioning revocation mechanism by which a certificate could be revoked. Revocation lists (CRLs) and the Online Certificate Status Protocol (OCSP) have proven to be unsuitable and are now switched off by default.
The browser manufacturers still maintain their own internal revocation lists, which they can use to react to acute incidents. But this is a quasi manual procedure that can only cover significant problem cases. Ultimately, the browser manufacturers are now focusing on damage limitation: if, for example, the secret key of a certificate is stolen, an expiration date that is approaching as soon as possible should solve the problem.
No need for action for users
Lets Encrypt, which meanwhile dominates the market, is the pioneer and only issues certificates for 3 months anyway. Renewal is then automated via ACME. According to Mozilla, however, the other certification authorities have also agreed to only issue certificates for 398 days from September 1. In view of the demonstration of power of the browser manufacturers, they probably don’t have much choice.
As a web site operator, you don’t have to do anything else – even if you still have a certificate with a longer validity in operation. The new rule only applies to certificates issued after September 1, 2020.
À partir de septembre, les certificats HTTPS ne peuvent être délivrés que pour une durée maximale d’un an.
Temps de lecture: 1 min.
La validité maximale des certificats pour la preuve d’identité sur le Web est encore réduite – dans l’étape suivante à un an. Un vote à ce sujet au sein du CA/Browser Forum en septembre a échoué en raison de la résistance des autorités de certification. Mais en mars, Apple s’est manifesté et a déclaré que Safari n’acceptera les certificats émis après le 1er septembre 2020 que s’ils ne sont pas valables plus d’un an.
Aujourd’hui, Mozilla et Google suivent le mouvement et créent des faits. Dans le passé, des mandats de 5 ans n’étaient pas inhabituels. Actuellement, les certificats peuvent encore être délivrés pour 2 ans (plus précisément : 825 jours — c’est-à-dire plus un certain délai de grâce). Avec le nouveau resserrement, Chrome, par exemple, délivre un ERR_CERT_VALIDITY_TOO_LONG si un certificat a été délivré après le 1er septembre 2020 et est valable plus de 398 jours.
La principale raison de la réduction constante de la durée de vie des certificats est le fait qu’il n’existe pas de mécanisme de révocation généralement opérationnel permettant de révoquer un certificat. Les listes de révocation (CRL) et le protocole OCSP (Online Certificate Status Protocol) se sont révélés inadaptés et sont désormais désactivés par défaut.
Les fabricants de navigateurs tiennent toujours leurs propres listes de révocation internes, qu’ils peuvent utiliser pour réagir à des incidents graves. Mais il s’agit d’une procédure quasi manuelle qui ne peut couvrir que les cas problématiques importants. En fin de compte, les fabricants de navigateurs se concentrent maintenant sur la limitation des dommages: si, par exemple, la clé secrète d’un certificat est volée, une date d’expiration qui approche le plus tôt possible devrait résoudre le problème.
Pas de nécessité d’action pour les utilisateurs
Lets Encrypt, qui domine entre-temps le marché, est le pionnier et ne délivre de toute façon des certificats que pour 3 mois. Le renouvellement est ensuite automatisé via ACME. Selon Mozilla, cependant, les autres autorités de certification ont également accepté de ne délivrer des certificats que pour 398 jours à partir du 1er septembre. Compte tenu de la démonstration de puissance des fabricants de navigateurs, ils n’ont probablement pas beaucoup de choix.
En tant qu’exploitant de site web, vous n’avez rien d’autre à faire – même si vous disposez toujours d’un certificat d’une durée de validité plus longue en service. La nouvelle règle ne s’applique qu’aux certificats délivrés après le 1er septembre 2020.
In the past few weeks Dirk Astrath and me upgraded some of our infrastructure systems to Debian Buster and implemented some performance improvements.
The blog system you are just visiting is one of these systems. We also upgraded the wiki system and finished the setup of the new community Webmail system.
The old staff list and community email password reset pages have been replaced with a modern system that is now available at https://selfservice.cacert.org/.
The git code hosting system at https://git.cacert.org/ has been upgraded to Debian Buster too and has been switched from gitweb to cgit for the git web frontend for much better performance. The old gitweb URLs are automatically redirected to the new cgit URLs. This change has the positive side effect that you can now use git clone directly using the https-URLs of the git repositories.
In the background we added Puppet configuration management for the above mentioned systems and replaced the aged nrpe-based monitoring with Icinga 2 agents.
We setup a new community start page at https://community.cacert.org/ that leads you to resources that we think is relevant for our community members.
We have a problem with the signer machine, certificates are currently not created.
There is no way to access the signer machine via internet, to make sure that the machine can not be hacked, so a personal visit to the data center will be necessary to check the machine and get it running again.
Sadly the current Covid-19 pandemy makes travelling to the data center very difficult, so we have no way to fix this problem soon! I’m afraid that it may take several weeks till we get access to the machine and find out the reason for this problem.
Update: Currently we hope that we will be able to make the visit to the data center around easter weekend.
Of course this depends on other developments we have no influence on. For example further restrictions to travelling or intra-EU border crossing may prevent this visit.
Update: In case you can’t access https://www.cacert.org or https://secure.cacert.org currently due to the expired certificate, you may reset the HSTS-status in Chrome:
Open chrome://net-internals/#hsts and delete www.cacert.org and secure.cacert.org settings there. Accessing www.cacert.org will then give you a warning about the expired certificate, but you’ll then be able to continue.
Update: A visit at the datacenter is planned for 2020-05-04 to enable the signer again as well as additional administration tasks on other hardware.
Update: All services are normal again, see new blog post.
Frédéric Grither from France has resigned as treasurer of CAcert Inc. However, he will continue to offer his expertise and experience as a member of the CAcert finance team. On 13 February 2020, the Committee (Board) was able to fill the vacancy by electing Christophe Meesters from Belgium to the Committee. Christophe is a proven financial expert.
Bret Watson from Australia is now also supporting us in the finance team, particularly with regard to Australian issues. The board is very grateful to know that the finances of our fellowship are in good hands and that we have managed to spread the work over several shoulders.