Does your Certifying Authority have a clue who you are? Do they care?

Joe Abley jabley at isc.org
Fri Dec 5 16:26:22 UTC 2003


On 5 Dec 2003, at 11:01, Valdis.Kletnieks at vt.edu wrote:

> On Fri, 05 Dec 2003 09:28:05 CST, Adi Linden said:
>> While the ssl certificate is meant to verify the owners identity, as a
>> consumer I would never trust a ssl certificate for that purpose. It 
>> does
>> provide a reasonable effort to keep information between me and the 
>> server
>> confidential. That's worth something, I guess.
>
> So what does the PKI actually buy you that using a throwaway 
> self-signed cert
> doesn't provide?

There is an expectation that URLs which do not produce "this 
certificate is not trusted" messages are safe for people to use to 
disclose sensitive information like credit card numbers. The average 
consumer has been educated to this effect at great length by 
commerce-oriented websites and browser vendors.

It doesn't matter whether the expectation is reasonable; what matters 
is that the expectation exists.

If there's a risk that people will be afraid to type credit card 
details into a merchant's web page, and that risk can be reduced by 
spending some relatively small number of dollars with a CA, then 
merchants will spend the dollars, and the myth is perpetuated.

You could try and re-educate the market, but since there's no money in 
teaching people not to trust CAs, it's difficult to see who would do 
the re-education.


Joe




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