It will be overseen by Internet Security Research Group with backing from EFF, Mozilla, Cisco, Akamai and others, and will offer free HTTPS certificates to all comers, making it radically easier and cheaper to encrypt the Web and make it resistant to mass surveillance.
Currently, most Internet traffic is unencrypted, meaning most interactions you have with websites leave your accounts vulnerable to eavesdropping by everyone from a minimally competent hacker to the U.S. government. The HTTPS protocol—in contrast to HTTP—encrypts your connection and verifies the authenticity of sites, protecting your data and personal information. EFF has been campaigning successfully for a number of years to spread HTTPS from payment pages and banking sites to email, social networking, and other types of sites. But there are still hundreds of millions of domains that lack this protection.
The new Let’s Encrypt project aims to solve that. Let’s Encrypt is a new free certificate authority, which will begin issuing server certificates in 2015. Server certificates are the anchor for any website that wants to offer HTTPS and encrypted traffic, proving that the server you are talking to is the server you intended to talk to. But these certificates have historically been expensive, as well as tricky to install and bothersome to update. The Let’s Encrypt authority will offer server certificates at zero cost, supported by sophisticated new security protocols. The certificates will have automatic enrollment and renewal, and there will be publicly available records of all certificate issuance and revocation.