Privacy and security are core values of ours at VMware, which is why our recent decision to support Let’s Encrypt is, in the words of VMware Principal Engineer Joe Beda, “an obvious win for everyone involved.”
As a free, automated and open source certificate authority supported by the non-profit Internet Security Research Group, Let’s Encrypt is dramatically impacting the security and privacy of the internet by moving the world toward the more secure, HTTPS (SSL/TLS) website standard.
In fact, global HTTPS page loads grew from 39% of total traffic to more than 80% between Let’s Encrypt’s launch in 2015 and the close of 2019, according to the project’s 2019 Annual Report. Let’s Encrypt adoption played a pivotal role in these gains, and the certificate authority expects to issue its one billionth certificate in the early part of 2020.
“Let’s Encrypt has completely changed an industry by helping to make SSL encrypted communications ubiquitous, creating a secure and more privacy-respecting internet in return,” said Dirk Hohndel, Chief Open Source Officer at VMware.
At the core of Let’s Encrypt’s success is its creation of the Automated Certificate Management Environment (ACME) protocol. Before ACME, HTTPS was considered too costly and complex for widespread adoption. In 2015, for example, an Electronic Frontier Foundation study found that it would take an experienced systems administrator between one and three hours to get a certificate and install it on a webserver. Further, they must renew that certificate every 90 days in a similarly complex process that often led to expired or misconfigured certificates.
Most websites, however, are not run by experienced systems administrators; rather, a significant percentage are personal domains or other small projects. The creation of ACME was critical in simplifying and automating the HTTPS process so that even these zero-budget websites can implement the protocol and join a secure and private web.
“I’m excited by Let’s Encrypt’s leadership in creating a more secure and private internet by breaking down walls so that everyone has access to the basic building blocks of security. And Let’s Encrypt is doing it in a fundamentally cloud native way – API-driven, self-service and based on open source,” said Joe.
This open source approach is among the key principals that Let’s Encrypt follows and is a major reason that VMware is proud to stand behind the organization. Its protocols are published as open standard, and all certificates issued or revoked are publicly recorded and available for anyone to inspect.
These standards are possible because of the support of a strong open source community and generous sponsors. In 2020, that support will be channeled toward the ultimate goal of complete HTTPS automation that is almost completely hidden from the user. The hope is that, soon, most users will be able to flip a switch and enable HTTPS right then and there.
“I’m excited to support Let’s Encrypt in their goal to develop the completely open source infrastructure that makes [a secure and privacy-respecting internet] happen,” said Dirk.
To join the Let’s Encrypt effort, visit the “Get Involved” section of their website, explore their GitHub, and follow them on Twitter. And make sure to follow our blog and Twitter (@vmwopensouce) for updates on VMware’s work with the Let’s Encrypt project.