Of late Verisign has been heavily pushing a new initiative for extended verification certificates, going so far as being on record criticising Mozilla for not keeping up with security innovations that Microsoft has already implemented, to give this some context, EV certificates are similar to the Class 3 certificates CAcert issues, minus the huge price tag.
While we applaud the effort to unify procedures and processes CAs employ we feel things have been heavily slanted towards commercial certificate authorities so much so that it seems to be more about keeping a strangle hold on the market and the price tag that comes with it then any actual improvements with security that end users might enjoy.
As a result, there is a number of flawed assumptions being pushed that can only be seen as helping out Verisign’s bottom line, not helping out end users, and while I can understand Microsoft’s motivations for accepting Verisign’s recommendations so openly, one must start to question Mozilla’s motives for even contemplating doing the same.
Now, if this was to truly help out users, surely we would hope for wide spread adoption, but this won’t be the case, even Verisign has expectations that 99% of sites will stick with the status quo. This becomes even more interesting when you take into account how this will be or is implemented in browsers.
Currently Firefox turns the URL bar yellow when the site is secured with SSL, with EV certificates the URL bar will turn green, this is supposed to indicate that the site is great and super and should be implicitly trusted, but if most sites are yellow users will tend to associate yellow as being just as good as green. We’ve seen this behaviour in the past with people simply clicking through any popups, which occur far too regularly and people only end up clicking without even reading them.
CAcert was aware at the time of discussions that occurred between most/all browser vendors and some certificate authorities, however when we asked to participate our requests largely fell on deaf ears.
The bigger problem here is with the Mozilla Foundation itself, well over a year ago, there was university trained researchers falling over themselves to help out the mozilla foundation, they had conducted real studies into how to improve the browser experience and way to help users to detect fraudulent websites. The Mozilla Foundation basically snubbed the researchers and their efforts at creating proof of concepts in the hope of having their research utilised for the benefit of everyone.
The research has since been incorporated in tool bars by HP and others for Internet Explorer.
It makes you wonder how much research Verisign and others have completed to back up their claims that this will help users?
This is yet another example of people being told what they need to be safe, when it’s most likely not going to do anything except convince businesses to spend more money with Verisign, so again I’m left wondering why the Mozilla Foundation is entertaining this current push by Verisign to lock out competitors, and has little or no benefit for users and businesses in general, even though helping users is the excuse being used as why this is needed.