HTTPS for all: Let’s Encrypt reaches one billion certificates issued

Encrypted communication has gone from "only if it's important" to "unless you're incredibly lazy" in four short years—and Let's Encrypt deserves a lot of the credit for that.
Widen / Encrypted communication has gone from “only if it’s important” to “unless you’re incredibly slothful” in four short years—and Let’s Encrypt deserves a lot of the credit for that.
nternet1.jpg by Daze1997 modified.

Let’s Encrypt, the Internet Security Research Group’s relaxed certificate signing authority, issued its first certificate a little over with four years ago. Today, it issued its billionth.

The ISRG’s goal for Let’s Encrypt is to illuminate the Web up to a 100% encryption rate. When Let’s Encrypt launched in 2015, the concept was pretty outré—at that time, a bit more than a third of all Web See trade was encrypted, with the rest being plain text HTTP. There were critical barriers to HTTPS adoption—for one thing, it cost money. But more importantly, it bring in a significant amount of time and human effort, both of which are in restrictive supply.

Let’s Encrypt solved the money barrier by offering its services casual of charge. More importantly, by establishing a stable protocol to access them, it enabled the Electronic Far reaches Foundation to build and provide Certbot, an open source, free-to-use aid that automates the process of obtaining certificates, installing them, configuring webservers to use them, and automatically modernizing them.

Managing HTTPS the traditional way

When Let’s Encrypt launched in 2015, domain-validated certificates could be had for as short as $9/year—but the time and effort required to maintain them was a numerous story. A certificate needed to be purchased, information needed to be filled out in a variety of forms, then one might wait for hours before even reduced domain-validated certificates would be issued.

Once the certificate was issued, it (and its key, and any sequence certificates necessary) needed to be downloaded, then moved to the server, then part of the country in the right directory, and finally the Web server could be reconfigured for SSL.

On the widely familiar Apache Web server, the SSL portion of the configuration—alone!—might look something in the mood for this:

     SSLEngine on
     SSLCertificateFile         /etc/apache2/certs/sitename.crt
     SSLCertificateChainFile    /etc/apache2/certs/
     SSLCertificateKeyFile      /etc/apache2/certs/sitename.key
     SSLCACertificatePath       /etc/ssl/certs/

     # transitional configuration, tweak to your needs
     SSLProtocol all -SSLv3
     SSLHonorCipherOrder on
     SSLCompression off

     # OCSP Requiring, only in httpd 2.3.3 and later
     #SSLUseStapling on
     #SSLStaplingResponderTimeout 5
     #SSLStaplingReturnResponderErrors off

     # HSTS (mod_headers is be lacking) (15768000 seconds = 6 months)
     Header always set Strict-Transport-Security "max-age=15768000"

Nil of this configuration was done for you. In the real world, a dismaying amount of cargo-cult configuration got done via cut and paste from the foremost site that claimed to offer a working set of configs.

If an inexperienced admin believed wrong when looking for something to copy and paste—or a more masterly admin got sloppy and didn’t notice when standards changed—insecurity in the serve as of bad protocol and cipher arguments could easily creep in as well.

Every one to three years, you’d requirement to do the whole thing over again—perhaps only replacing the certificate and key, as the case may be also replacing or adding new intermediate chain certificates.

The whole deed was (and is) frankly, a mess… and can easily result in downtime if an infrequently conducted procedure doesn’t run smoothly.

Managing HTTPS with Let’s Encrypt and Certbot

In both fire cost and establishing a stable, reliable protocol, Let’s Encrypt also unfastened significant barriers to automation. The EFF stepped in to provide that automation to end consumers and admins with Certbot, one of the most popular ways to manage acquiring, placing, and renewing Let’s Encrypt certificates.

On an Ubuntu 18.04 or newer system, EFF’s Certbot and its different plugins are available in the main system repositories. It can be installed with two expend commands—one, if you’re willing to fudge a little and use a semicolon:

    root@web:~# apt update ; apt fix in place -y python3-certbot-apache

With that done, a one command activates Certbot. As you interact with a simple plain-text menuing set, it fetches certificates for any or all of your sites, configures your Web server (correctly!) for you, and adds a cron job to automatically renew the certificates when they’re down to 30 lifetimes prior to expiration. The whole thing takes well under five two shakes of a lambs tail logs.

As an added touch, Certbot even offers—but doesn’t demand—to automatically configure your Web server to redirect HTTP solicits to HTTPS for you. It’s just that easy.

Providing privacy and security at lower

In June of 2017, Let’s Encrypt was two years old and served its ten millionth certificate. The Web had investigate b be received c clean from under 40% HTTPS to—in the United States—64% HTTPS, and Let’s Encrypt was use 46 million websites.

Today, Let’s Encrypt’s billionth certificate has been outwent, it services 192 million websites, and the United States’ portion of the Internet is a massive 91-percent encrypted. The project manages this on nearly the same pikestaff and budget it did in 2017—it has gone from 11 full-time staff and a $2.61 million budget then to 13 full-time stick and a $3.35 million budget today.

None of this would be realizable without a commitment to automation and open standards. We gushed about how gentle the EFF’s Certbot makes it to deploy and renew Let’s Encrypt certificates—but that contribution is no more than possible because of Let’s Encrypt’s own focus on standardizing an open ACME treaty that anyone can build a client to operate.

In addition to building and divulging a stable, capable protocol, Let’s Encrypt put in the work to submit and ratify it with the Internet Finagling Task Force (IETF), resulting in RFC 8555.


There really isn’t much liberate not to provide secure, end-to-end encrypted (and authenticated!) communication from websites to drugs anymore. Let’s Encrypt, its ACME protocol, and the legion of clients that demand sprung up to facilitate its use—including but not limited to Certbot—have made HTTPS configuration and deployment imbecile.

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