SSL encryption is certain to become a big issue very shortly, as the next major release of the Chrome browser, version 56.0, will issue warnings to users attempting to access websites that don’t offer secure “https” connections. In the past, this would have placed an unreasonable financial burden on non-ecommerce websites for small businesses and personal blogs, which is now somewhat mitigated by the availability of free and open source SSL certificates from Let’s Encrypt.
Although this does away with the expense of purchasing certificates, Let’s Encrypt’s certs are only valid for 90 days. There is free autorenewal software available, but it requires SSH access to install, which is usually not available on shared hosting plans. As SSL encryption becomes more of a necessity for all sites, expect to see hosting companies move to make the free installation of Let’s Encrypt certifications a part of their service.
Let’s Encrypt is a free, automated, and open certificate authority (CA), run for the public’s benefit. It is a service provided by the Internet Security Research Group (ISRG).
We give people the digital certificates they need in order to enable HTTPS (SSL/TLS) for websites, for free, in the most user-friendly way we can. We do this because we want to create a more secure and privacy-respecting Web.
The key principles behind Let’s Encrypt are:
- Free: Anyone who owns a domain name can use Let’s Encrypt to obtain a trusted certificate at zero cost.
- Automatic: Software running on a web server can interact with Let’s Encrypt to painlessly obtain a certificate, securely configure it for use, and automatically take care of renewal.
- Secure: Let’s Encrypt will serve as a platform for advancing TLS security best practices, both on the CA side and by helping site operators properly secure their servers.
- Transparent: All certificates issued or revoked will be publicly recorded and available for anyone to inspect.
- Open: The automatic issuance and renewal protocol will be published as an open standard that others can adopt.
- Cooperative: Much like the underlying Internet protocols themselves, Let’s Encrypt is a joint effort to benefit the community, beyond the control of any one organization.
We have a page with more detailed information about how the Let’s Encrypt CA works.