February brought the start of the exhibition season for CAcert with our presence at FOSDEM – one of the biggest Europe-wide developer conferences in Brussels, Belgium. Of course we performed our well-known assurances, which is very popular at such events, with which CAcert safeguards its certificates by checking users’ ID documents. This allows us to offer a safe and trustworthy certificate authority to our users. Of particular note was that interested people were seeking more detailed information about security – questions such as what it actually means, and why are we not yet in the trust stores of many of the web browsers. It’s true that Let’s encrypt is trusted by the popular browsers, but if you take a close look at the certificate of a site protected with a Let’s encrypt certificate, you will find out that it does not contain any information about the owner. This means it is impossible to verify the identity of the site and therefore it is basically uncertain to which site the browser is actually connected to. CAcert allows the site owner to publish identification information in the certificate after the assurance – for private users as well as for companies. This way, CAcert offers a clear mutual trust, which makes it worth importing the CAcert-Root-certificate from www.cacert.org.
But there’s more: CAcert offers client certificates as well and signs GPG/PGP keys. Anyone who always wanted to sign his emails and encrypt them if needed, can do this easily with CAcert. Most email clients supports S/MIME certificates or PGP. By this means the authenticity of the sender is verified, and the receipient can verify the name of the certificate owner. Also attachments like PDF can be signed this way and protect the document against later changes.
CAcert is supported by an Australian non-profit association, the operation of the server is safeguarded by the German incorporated society secure-u. This structure has advantages, but the Australian society is possible only as long as CAcert has at least three Australian residents as members of the board. In 2017 we want to bring the association behind the web of trust to Europe. This limits the resources of many of the active members, because the handover must be done under appropriate rules. Anyone who wants to support CAcert can find more details at recent blog post “Prosit 2017” or can send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org
For a secure 2017!