[messaging] Proposal: AOL should start offering free SSL Certificates

Daniel Roesler diafygi at gmail.com
Mon Aug 18 18:02:29 PDT 2014

> We could have an implementation ready within a year.

No offense, but how long do you think it will be before
Oracle/IBM/<insert-enterprise-tech-company-here> adopts your standard?
I'm all for PKI alternatives, but your solution is easily a decade
away from replacing X.509.


On Mon, Aug 18, 2014 at 2:27 PM, Tao Effect <contact at taoeffect.com> wrote:
> Sorry, I should have addressed a relevant comment you made:
> Unfortunately, it seems like any sort of PKI alternative is years if
> not decades away, so I began brainstorming short-to-mid-term solutions
> to this problem.
> I do not believe this is the case.
> We could have an implementation ready within a year. We just developers
> people to do it. I am doing my best to extend my time and development
> efforts to making this a reality, but I definitely could use help. Please
> let me know if you are interested!
> Sincerely,
> Greg
> --
> Please do not email me anything that you are not comfortable also sharing
> with the NSA.
> On Aug 18, 2014, at 7:25 PM, Tao Effect <contact at taoeffect.com> wrote:
> Free SSL certs is a great thing, and in that spirit I extend to you my
> half-hearted support for calling on [whoever] to issue free certificates.
> My support is half-hearted, however, because money is not the only problem
> with X.509.
> The main problem with X.509 is that it is insecure.
> X.509 is fundamentally broken. It cannot be patched.
> We need to replace X.509 with something that actually offers security and
> usability to users and sysadmins alike.
> The blockchain is the best known solution as far as replacements for X.509
> go.
> See more info in this README:
> https://github.com/okTurtles/dnschain/blob/master/README.md
> Kind regards,
> Greg Slepak
> --
> Please do not email me anything that you are not comfortable also sharing
> with the NSA.
> On Aug 18, 2014, at 7:13 PM, Daniel Roesler <diafygi at gmail.com> wrote:
> Howdy all, I'm not sure if this is within the scope of this forum, so
> please ignore it if it is.
> A month ago, I proposed that Firefox should change its generic http
> icon to be a broken lock[1]. This would offer a bit of negative
> feedback for websites that do not use https and hopefully encourage
> them switching to https. This was obviously a big ask, and it sparked
> quite extensive discussions in both the Mozilla[2] and Chromium[3]
> security mailing lists. Most people were sympathetic to the goal, but
> the bug eventually got closed as Verified Wontfix.
> Anyway, two of the recurring arguments against the proposal were:
> 1) SSL Certificates are expensive.
> 2) Certificate Authorities are a racket.
> I don't necessarily see these as deal breakers to being more
> aggressive with https adoption, but I can understand where these
> arguments are coming from. StartCom offers a free certificate, but you
> have to pay to have it revoked, and a lot people got burned on that
> during Heartbleed (including me). I'm not aware of anyone else who
> offers a free SSL Certificate, even with the revocation gotcha. So I
> can see how the perception is that certs are a cost that isn't worth
> it for your personal blog or random side project site. Also, I can
> sympathize with the perception that CAs are racket because they all
> come across as pretty scammy with their upsells and add-ons that don't
> actually add much.
> Unfortunately, it seems like any sort of PKI alternative is years if
> not decades away, so I began brainstorming short-to-mid-term solutions
> to this problem.
> I started by looking at the default root certificate repositories that
> the major browsers and operating systems use. They are mostly your
> regular list of CAs and governments, but there's one name that popped
> out as unique: AOL.
> America Online has two legacy certificates[4] in the Microsoft[5],
> Apple[6], NSS[7], and Android[8] default list of root CAs. I'm
> assuming this is from back when AIM as all the rage, but remarkably
> AOL has been keeping up the audits[9] for them. Does anyone have any
> more info on the history of these certs?
> I think might be a great opportunity to address the two problems
> above. Could AOL start offering free SSL Certificates?
> Pros:
> 1) Their root certificates are already in everyone's list (backwards
> compatibility).
> 2) Their core business model is not issuing certificates (not seen as a
> racket).
> 3) They would get a huge press coverage for being a "savior of HTTPS"
> or some such spin (positive spotlight for AOL).
> 4) There would now be competition in the free SSL cert market (maybe
> other CAs would start offering free options, too).
> Cons:
> 1) This would be a cost for AOL. Perhaps other tech companies could
> partner with them to subsidize the cost of issuing the certificate?
> Perhaps there could be kickstarter to pay for the costs? Perhaps AOL
> could spin off a non-profit foundation or donate the certificates to
> Mozilla?
> 2) Unforseen technical problems associated with starting to chain to a
> certificate that hasn't been in active use for a long time. I have no
> idea what these could be. Thoughts?
> 3) SSL certs would likely be issued with no warranty (since they are
> free). Not a deal breaker in my opinion, because the scope for these
> could be for non-commercial use.
> Anyway, just tossing out this idea for feedback. There's no sense in
> pursuing this further if there's technical reasons making this
> impossible. Also, does anyone know anyone who works at AOL?
> -Daniel
> [1] - https://bugzilla.mozilla.org/show_bug.cgi?id=1041087
> [2] -
> https://groups.google.com/forum/#!topic/mozilla.dev.security.policy/iU86qMOwvWs
> [3] -
> https://groups.google.com/a/chromium.org/forum/#!topic/security-dev/rGM2oiKZqZU
> [4] - https://pki-info.aol.com/AOL/
> [5] -
> https://social.technet.microsoft.com/wiki/contents/articles/14216.windows-and-windows-phone-8-ssl-root-certificate-program-april-2012-a-d.aspx
> [6] - http://support.apple.com/kb/HT5012
> [7] -
> https://www.mozilla.org/en-US/about/governance/policies/security-group/certs/included/
> [8] -
> https://android.googlesource.com/platform/libcore/+/master/luni/src/main/files/cacerts/2fb1850a.0
> [9] - https://pki-info.aol.com/AOL/2013_AOLRoot_Audit_Attestation.pdf
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