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Encryption Security

Thawte Bought by Verisign 123

ChrisKnight was of the many people that wrote with the story on news.com that VeriSign has purchased Thatwe Consulting. Purchase price was reportedly $575 million, although the deal must still be approved.
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Thawte Bought by Verisign

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  • I am not a mozilla contributor (but I read about it on the web).

    AFAICT, there is no crypto in Mozilla due to the international nature of the dev. effort. There is a separate crypto project, and no doubt Netscape will add a crypto module if the Mozilla product becomes Navigator 5.0. No crypto => no CA. For Netscape > 4.5 there are some Verisign CA certs that expire in 1999, but some are good to 2028, so it depends on your host's cert (which may expire).

  • On overpriced-scames....

    You can go ahead and create your own keys and certificates... What you're paying Verisign for is not 100% related to your keys.

    First, you're paying to have a certificate that's been signed by an authority that just happens to be preinstalled in 99% of the browsers out there.

    You're also paying for the "trust" factor that goes into getting a certificate. Yeah, the lowerst level ones aren't much more than filling out paperwork, but (AFAIK) in order to get one of the more expensive ones, you must go through more steps to establish "who" you are.

    If all you want is to establish secure connections, you don't need either of their services. If you want to be able to do so without having a little warning pop up on a users screen, you need to enlist their services.

    That all said, if the merger/acquisition goes through, close attention should be paid to their pricing... If they immediately yank the low-cost certificates, or even if it's an eventual thing, a big stink will need to be made IMMEDIATLEY...

    Until then, though... More power to them.
  • Why is this a problem? *ANYONE* can run a CA, it's a matter of how you get your CA recognized by current browser that I wonder about.
  • They are the only two who happen to be handing them out; many other CA's are preloaded in NS and IE.. they just aren't in the business.

  • Equifax is definately in the Certificate Provider business. Some rather large companies do business with them. Are they that much of a non-player?
  • You know, I felt good knowing there were 20 some other organization CAs preloaded in NS and IE....
    but now that Verisign ownes all but 4 or 5 of them, I wonder... this is sleazy!

    Really, though.. run your OWN ca, and direct people to a page that explains how the whole process works (more than Verisign does!) to the common man, and have them simply accept the key into their browser.

    Better yet, offer them client keys as well!
  • http://www.usdoj.gov/atr/contact/newcase.htm

    That's the page where it says to send complaints to.
  • by / ( 33804 ) on Monday December 20, 1999 @01:25PM (#1458187)
    Heck, I don't weigh that much less than that. Neither do a bunch of my friends. Maybe we should get together and beat up on Verisign and steal its lunch-money.

    These companies really have to learn that it's not that impressive if they weigh only slightly more than the average American male. Even if America is a chronically obese nation.

    Maybe Microsoft would like to help them out by hooking them up with some of that combination bovine-growth hormone [purefood.org] and human-g rowth hormone [google.com] regimen that's keeping Gates's hair so glossy and thighs so sexy. They'll help make Verisign a man [wvu.edu]. How do I know this? Try searching Google for "make you a man" [google.com]. Microsoft comes up as #2. Does Judge Jackson know about this?....
  • At the end of the year, the Verisign certs will be about as useful as a self-signed one. The bad PR that could cause would give them no choice but to buy out Thatwe because if they get a bad write up in something like the Wall Street J about the problem, they effectly will have no market share, a huge debt and no way out. When that happens their stock goes into the penny stock class and the doors close.
  • Is...
    I understand PKI. I understand x.509 certificates.

    What I don't understand is why, in the first place, X.509 certificates were required to use SSL. It should not be necessary. Why are modern browsers set up so that you cannot use SSL unless you have appropriate x.509 certificates? I mean, I have no problem with the browser telling me it's unsigned, or untrusted, but I should still be able to use session encryption.
  • "Most harmful of all is the message that Verisign's buy-outs have conveyed to every company with the potential to innovate in the securities industry. Through its conduct toward Netscape, Thawte, Compaq, Microsoft, and others, Verisign has demonstrated that it will use its prodigious market power and immense finances to harm any firm that insists on pursuing initiatives that could intensify competition against one of Verisign's digital-certificates products. Verisign's past success in hurting such transactions and stifling innovation deters investment in technologies and orders that exhibit the potential to undermine Verisign. The ultimate result is that some innovations that would truly benefit customers never occur for the sole reason that they do not jive with Verisign's vision."

    With appologies to Brunchi ng Shuttlecocks [brunching.com].
  • Obviously you are not a nerd as such. 95% of *NIX users i know, admins, graphic artists etc have installed apache+mod_ssl and required a cert. With verisigns rediculously high prices, and the vast majority of these people not wanting to pay this much, they shopped around and found thawte. This is all in the normal system install/configuration phase. No brain power required, just common sense.
  • Entrust's primary business is creating entire Private Key Infrastructure systems (PKIs) for Fortune 500 businesses. These are the systems that allow companies to issue and revoke their own certificates. Entrust has a big business in large corporations with thousands of employees.

    In certain circles in industry (like financial services), Verisign was primarily looked at as a service bureau who was willing to deal with small businesses. I realize that from the perspective of the consumer and small ISP they look like the only game in town. But, this was never the case at the high end.

    I think this is a good acquisition for Verisign. It solidifies their position in the small and mid-sized business marketplace. This also creates an opportunity for a competitor, although it may not be a small company that tries to enter this market.


    Dave Aiello

  • There is a simple out for this though.. browsers like MS and NS simply have to recognize OTHER CA's as authoritative. This is the only thing giving them power.

    (gee, is that somewhat similar to the current DNS structure that gave Verisign so much power? ie: it only works because our products all use it by default.)
  • Cheers,

  • please, if you take the trouble to post stuff like this, at least let us why we should care. --Dave
  • Thawte ... Verisign ... certificates ... security ... all this talk is giving me a headache ... it's making me thirsty too ... I need another beer.
  • by twit ( 60210 ) on Monday December 20, 1999 @12:04PM (#1458201) Homepage
    First of all, good move, Thawte. They've successfully maximized shareholder value. In other words, they've sold out at the right time. Verisign, having grabbed a lot of the big names, will probably go on to increase its market share; Thawte, having failed to, may be at the peak of its value - especially when, not if, the net stock bubble collapses.

    Bad move, Verisign. First of all, the net stock bubble is called a bubble for a reason. However, when acquiring other companies, you should buy for value or make acquisitions strategically. Does Thawte own anything, other than marketshare, that Verisign doesn't already have? In most mergers and buyouts, the purchaser usually ends up losing equity when the euphoria wears off. I doubt that this will be an exception to the rule.

    I can deplore Microsoft's mania in acquisitions, but more often than not they acquire intelligently - taking out possible competitors, buying into new technologies. They don't acquire just for the hell of it. Paradoxically, they have too much money to do that.

    Bad move, for the global net. Thawte is a South African company, and so the purchase takes an international venture with global reach and sucks it into the gaping maw of Silicon Valley. Not that there's anything intrinsically wrong with the valley. It's just that something sticks in my craw with one location dominating an entire industry.

    Bad move, for everyone. A 200-lb gorilla in any industry is bad for business. A 200-lb gorilla in the security industry is worse. The security industry is based on trust (or at least mistrust) :-), and a 200-lb gorilla, with enough marketshare, can drive the market into inferiority and incompetence quite easily. Look at the consumer operating system market if you don't believe me :-).

  • Verisign makes a move that would leave it in a very strong position in the market. Now down to GTE, Belsign and Verisign - with Verisign having established itself as the Wall Street darling. It will continue to move higher as word spreads.
  • Slashdot CA sounds like a feasible solution. Or at least a true open source .org CA who could provide these services - please don't read this as the .gov.
  • Do they work like PGP signing where if you trust can be sort of delegated down a "tree" of signed certificates? Or does wach and every certificate need to be provided by a ceritified authority?
  • It's just that something sticks in my craw with one location dominating an entire industry.

    Like the possibility of the entire industry's headquarters being eliminated in one really big earthquake like the one California may have in its future?

  • First of all I'm scared. A company ruling mor then 90% of the ceritifacte market is a nightmare. I'm glad I chosed PGP instead of S/MIME.

    But the question is: How to introduce new (root) certificate instances? Well, only a new browser version will make it possible for the "dummy" user without hassle.

    So next stop is Mozilla/Netscape 5.0.

    I suggest on this "stop" to add/introduce an open certificate instance(but don't read that as "insecure") like the german cert/dfn. This root instance should be driven by scientific or nonprofit institutes with can't be beaten or bought.

  • It was also my immediate thought when I read the news article.


  • by Y2K is bogus ( 7647 ) on Monday December 20, 1999 @01:54PM (#1458213)
    Please moderate this up!

    You can submit your comments on this matter to:


    I have sent my comments and sent this email to my friends, do the same!
  • Thawte also has "offices" in countries all over the world. However when you run into a snag (the local office can't verify your documents, or is taking weeks to verify them) they direct you to deal with their head office.

    I've dealt with Thawte for a long time. Most of the time you get great service from the local office (in my case the Toronto branch) but I've had to deal with their head office on three occasions in the last three years.

  • EVERYONE call this number and complain about the ridiculous monopoly that has ensued!

    The Justice Department, Anti-Trust Division
    (San Francisco, California)

  • Remember, this deal is subject to approval still. Hopefully, someone in gov't will notice this one company will be 98% of the market and will put the brakes on the deal.
  • It's especially bad news given that verisign's commitment to customer service seems to indicate that they already think they have a monopoly. IOW: They suck with more negative pressure than a telco.

    That assertion is based on some recent personal experiance.

  • Perhaps the more appropriate place might be the South African government's Dept. of Trade and Industry (http://wwwdti.pwv.gov.za/dtiwww/ [pwv.gov.za]). The Minister is Mr A. Erwin. His snail-mail address is:

    Private Bag X274
    South Africa

    He also has an email addess listed on the web site, but spamming him might be counter-productive. Does anybody from South Africa have a better person/place to email/write to? They should really be alerted to how bad this merger is for all of us.
  • The US Export Controls, annoying as they are, sate that they don't restrict export of authentication products, only privacy-protection products. This means that a program that only signs and verifies keys, but doesn't generate them, is perfectly exportable, and a service that certifies keys can operate cross-border with no harassment.

    In reality, it's a bit more restrictive than that - the RSA algorithm uses the same routines for encryption and signature verification, and for decryption and signature, so export of source code for RSA-based certification systems, which should be legal, might not be (or at least might have trouble getting permits if you apply for them; John Gilmore's permit for DNSSEC was granted and then yanked). But export of binaries still should be fine, assuming they're only designed to do signatures and verifications well, and that's enough to run a business on.

    Digital Signature Algorithm/Standard (DSA/DSS) signatures only provide signing/verification, not encryption, so a system using them should be exportable without a permit, even in source code. (In reality, the "subliminal channel" misfeature means you can use it for slow symmetric-key encryption by hiding bits in your choice of random numbers, but that's ugly and the Feds like to pretend it's not built-in - at least if you don't add subliminal-channel support to your crypto source code.)

  • I believe that one was about a 7.x. Woke me up, shook me up a bit, but caused essentially no damage. The only injuries came from an Amtrak train that got unlucky.

    But even the Northridge earthquake, with an epicentre right in the middle of a heavily populated area, only killed 16-odd people. It was a smaller earthquake, but the really big ones are only expected to occur in the boonies. The effects of the 7.x in a distant area of Southern California were way less than the effects of a 6.x in a major population centre.


  • How in the HECK did that comment get a score of 1??????

    Rob, I think we have a Slashdot bug here. An AC posted a first post message, and it got a score of 1!
  • Indeed. Thawte's been the most friendly 'major company' I've seen yet.
    • The Web of Trust: instead of Verisign personal certificates, only costing money and making no assumptions about identity, unlike Thawte, which issues such certificates for free, following a Web of Trust scheme - never just to make money
    • Very friendly to the open source people, supports PGP and open source web servers, even back then when Verisign refused to know any non-commercial SSL implementation for Apache
    • They offer free IRC-based technical support
    • They link and suggest Fortify on their site
    • They have the best privacy policy I've ever seen - read it - you'll like it! [thawte.com]
    Now, would Verisign sell Thawte certificates when Verisign's root CA expires at 1/1/2000 on Navigator 4.5 and lower? I wonder if this was their intention...
  • hehe, I just renewed my cert as of the 15th.
  • One other notable here. Verisign is going to have a lot of problems with their root rollover in a bunch of different browsers. Come Jan 1st, many browsers certs are going to expire. Thawte had this problem a couple fo years ago, but wasn't that big of a deal. But Verisign is looking at a large percentage of browsers that have to get "fixed" by installing a new cert. Thawte will not have this problem and they were hyping this BIGTIME on their site for the last month or so and it has mysteriously disappeared. Watch those prices...I got lucky and renewed as of the 15th.
  • Although internet security is a high priority on everyone's list, but this deal does not seem to extend that, as it says in the article is just a purchase transaction, not like some M$ assimilation practices.
  • There's something fishy about this deal...
  • Oh, come now. It's not just running some key generators; it's also paying for the care and feeding of lawyers to draw up CSPs and contracts that say things like:

    In the event that anything goes wrong, or you use your certificate for some nefarious purpose, you indemnify us of any wrongdoing. We disclaim everything.


  • I've come to the conclusion long ago that everything companies do can be attributed to what the decision makers believe will make them more money. Think about that.
  • Well this kinda sucks seeing as how i have to renew our certificates (from thawte) shortly. (1/2000)
  • by cybaea ( 79975 )

  • by winterstorm ( 13189 ) on Monday December 20, 1999 @11:42AM (#1458242)
    Thawte services are very different in flavour than Verisigns. Thawte has a "web of trust" system for personal certificates based on the PGP web of trust ideal. Thawte offers wildcard certificates. Thawte certificates are priced reasonably.

    Thawte provided signing support for SSLeay keys very early on. Verisign is slow to change.

    On the other hand if things get complicated (if your verification documents for a certificate are not "normal") then dealing with Thawte can be a pain. Thawte has its head office in Africa. Have you ever tried to send a long fax to Africa? If you get a clean line you might get one or two pages through at a time.

  • ...that Verisign now has a monopoly on commerical browser certificates. Thawte and Verisign are the only two companies to issue commercial browser certificates for both NS and IE.
    Kyle R. Rose, MIT LCS
  • by Count Fragula ( 67767 ) on Monday December 20, 1999 @11:43AM (#1458245)
    Looking at the list of the 27 root certifications in IE 5, i see that 21 of them are either held by Thawte or Verisign. Now, I've been a Verisign customer for a long time, and I like the fact that I can count on their root certificate being in 99% of browsers out there, but there was always a peace of mind that came with knowing I had Thawte to go to if i was ever dissatisfied. Well, no more.

  • Anyone notice that you can't just buy a server certificate anymore from Verisign. They want to sell you a whole package deal of services and other things for 128 bit certificates.


    I also don't like the fact there is now no competition to Verisign and that they have huge requirements and slow to respond to problems and can't track documents within their own company that you send them. If you can't do everything the Verisign way then God help you since they will drag everything out forever and loose documentation you send them.
    I also see they are buying Signio E-Commerce payment service for busines to business e-commerce transactions. Where will they stop, they are starting to sound like they want to be like Microsoft only they want to control all secure and E-Commerce stuff on the internet.
    Verisign also charges more or at least use to charge more for basic secure certificates. Looks like the days og just buying a certificate for your server are over. Now you have to buy a whole package of services and you probably won't be able to get wildcat certificates any more either. Which is a real problem since I shouldn't have to pay $950*x just for a few servers in my own domain for easier adminstration purposes to do internal stuff via a secure web page.

    This just plain sucks!
  • by Anonymous Coward
  • by epictetus ( 5123 ) on Monday December 20, 1999 @12:29PM (#1458248)
    Verisign is sure to jack up their prices if and when the deal goes through. There should be a market for cheap certificates sold to small sites that want to be secure without paying a Verisign tax.

    There's already open-source software out there for generating certificates. The other barriers to entry are:

    1. Name recognition. If you're in charge of security at a medium to big size company, your chief goal is to protect your own ass. To that end, you'll spend the extra money to buy Verisign, because nobody ever got fired for using Verisign.

    2. Being in the browser. This is a big one; your CA cert has to be pre-loaded into your user's browsers. This involves paying many thousands of dollars to MS and Netscape.

    The other things you need to be a CA are:

    1. Legal staff and Certification Practice Statement.

    2. Clerks for researching and verifying identity.

    3. A killer operations and security infrastructure to protect the CA's key and prevent unauthorized signing.

    CAs can and should be a commodity. The thing to watch out for is Verisign introducing proprietary technology into their certificates, or making exclusive deals with the browser manufacturers.
  • Entrust has global export approval for their website certificates, great customer support (speaking from experience), no Y2K expiration issues, unlike Verisign.

    There's only one catch.

    Their certs are signed off on by (drumroll) Thawte! Which is now a subsidiary of Entrust's rival, Verisign. Hm.
  • I would like to verify that this is the correct place to complain to before spamming anyone.

    Can you post information more information about this address, such as where it came from and how best to identify the issue we are protesting?
  • Entrust.net is another certificate provider on the net. They are trying to go head to head with Verisign in the web server market. (They own the enterprise in Canada, and are one of two in the US Gov't PKI architecture)

    They did not want to pay the gazillions that it cost to have their CA cert embedded in the browsers, so they got THAWTE to cross cert with them.

    This now means that the Entrust.net intermediate cert is OWNED and could be YANKED by Versign. And Verisign could be the only major player.

    If this does not happen, then at least we will still have more than ONE choice for server certs.

    Just my $0.04 Euro.
  • There are good reasons why Thawte or Verisign can charge more money for a certificate than you can charge. Firstly and most importantly their root certificates are shipped in both major browsers' trusted root stores. Secondly these companies can justifiably claim to be secure to the max.

    I believe having their root certificate in the browser is _the_ number one factor and this is due to change very soon - Windows 2000 and NT4 SP6 both introduce a large number of new trusted players into IE, for example Baltimore, Belgacom, Cable and Wireless, Deutsche telekom, Swisskey, etc.

    So maybe Thawte are grabbing the cash and getting out at what they think might be the top of the market... I've always considered Thawte to be a pretty smart company.

    And there really is a need for a Slashdot CA, people do not want to pay $200 to get a code-signing certificate just for some .jar file they are distributing for free anyway.
  • Older browser versions would then still trust the Thawte root (and by extension Entrust.net's root), but the new ones would not.

    This is true. I think the point that you are missing is that you have to dowload the intermediate cert to your server to enable the chain of trust to be completed.

    Verisign could remove this intermediate cert (as it is now theirs.) and thus one could not complete the installation of an Entrust.net issued cert into their servers.

    I agree entirely that older browswers will still trust the Thawte root. Verisign cannot take this away. But at the rate that things are changed in the browser market, newer versions are being released almost every couple of months. It will only take two months for people to stop trusting the Thawte root.
  • I agree. I also accelerated the switchover of
    my clients because of Verisign's spam.

    The following companies also have root-signing
    certificates in Navigator 4.7:

    ABAecom (Am. Bankers Assn)
    ANX Network
    Access America (DST)
    American Express
    Canada Post Corp.
    DST (provider to quite a few others)
    Entrust (DST)
    GTE CyberTrust
    MCI Mall
    National Retail Federation (DST)
    Novell (DST)
    TC TrustCenter
    United States Postal Service
    Uptime Group

    Anyone know whether any of these sell certs?
  • Nice thought, but there are two central problems:

    1. AlterNIC tried this with DNS, and all it required was the cooperation of folks who ran DNS servers all over the world (a relatively small group, actually.) Didn't work.

      I definitely won't take the odds on anyone being able to convince the Internet-using public (most of which is stupid, frankly) to install new certs in their browsers. Also, forget about getting them preinstalled in the browsers -- M$ is buddy-buddy with Verisign, and without IE support, no one will use our CA.

    2. If sites are all directing folks to download new certs (I know this will happen anyway with the root rollovers, but bear with me), we will be training folks to accept any cert that they stumble across. Since anyone can create a cert, this could open up unsuspecting users to thinking a connection is ``secure'' when there is no guarantee (even the slight guarantee given by the current CAs) that the other end is who they say they are.

    I would say, at best, that if this goes through, SSL should be considered proprietary and dead, and should be shunned by those of us who think computing should be open. It's quite a shame.

  • Internet Explorer now has over 80% of the browser market, and its lead is increasing each week.

    About Thawte, it's pretty coincidental for me to be seeing this article now, since I just signed up for a Thawte certificate late last night. There was one part of the sign-up process that was very unclear -- choosing a CSP. Thawte's web site did nothing for helping a new user decide the pros and cons of the different choices. I just went ahead and picked the Microsoft Base Cryptography because it was the default and because I know I can change it later, but could anyone recommend some links to comparisons between the different choices?

    Thankful cheers,

  • (I know you probably already know this, but others may not.)

    Certificates are required because you need to know that the other end of the connection is who they say they are. Without that assurance, you open yourself up to a man-in-the-middle attack:

    1. Alice is using SSL to talk to secure.bob.com. Eve wants to see what Alice and secure.bob.com are talking about.

    2. Eve positions herself between Alice and secure.bob.com. She creates two public/private key pairs. She sends one of those public keys to Alice, posing as secure.bob.com. and the other to secure.bob.com, posing as Alice.

    3. As Alice sends data to secure.bob.com, Eve decrypts it with her key and re-encrypts it with secure.bob.com's real public key. The same happens in the other direction.

    This can't happen with certificates because secure.bob.com's public key is authenticated with the certificate. (Admittedly, Alice doesn't have a cert in most SSL transactions, but most people settle for the end that they feel needs to be most trustworthy -- the server -- to have the cert.)

    Now keep in mind that most browsers are designed to keep the large portion of the Internet-using public (who are stupid) from hurting themselves. Hence the need for certificates, because there is no way you are going to get Grandma to understand man-in-the-middle attacks -- and if you tell her about them, she most certainly will not trust SSL in general.

    That said, the SSL patches to lynx don't require certs. :-)

  • If you're going to have a big earthquake, i'd have to say california would be the best place to have it....

    not too long after the earthquakes in turkey, and taiwan, there was one in southern california larger than the one in turkey, but less than the one in taiwan (forgive me for being vague i don't remember the numbers) and if i recall correctly there were fewer than 10 reported injuries...

    then again it was in the boonies area of southern california, but thats where they seem to happen most lately anyhow
  • I know someone that worked for verisign for a brief period of time, and they said that the company didn't have their act together *at all*. It sounded like most of the internal projects going on were horribly mis-managed, and that network security was an absolute joke. Apparently they use a lot of firewalls there, but there are so many holes punched in them that it defeats the purpose.

    Anywho, all I know is that verisign is twice as expensive and takes twice as long as thawte to get ANYTHING done. This is a prime example of the word "monopoly"... nowhere else does the consumer get screwed and not know any better.
  • ummmm
    since when do prices go down due to increased demand?

    prices go up do to increased demand

    and demand increases due to dropped prices

  • Well if you wish you can set up an SSL server, create your keys; and then sign your own certificate, i.e. "Signed by John Doe Certificate Authority". The server will work perfectly well and the browsers can talk perfectly happily with it. The only problem is when you access the site you will get some dialog boxes popping up telling you that the site is untrusted. Modern browsers will let you set up an encrypted session with a server that they don't trust - but they will tell you what they're doing first.
  • Not strictly open-source, since what they provide are certificates, not code that has a source to open, but what they provided is an alternate set of policies and prices for certificate service. Anybody else could do the same - they basically di d a good sales job as a second-source certifier, and appealed to the small market by lower prices and more flexible policies, and got the big browsers to include them.

    PGP doesn't do a hierarchical certification; it does a web of trust instead, where everybody can certify anybody else's key. The browsers don't use it, but the obvious way to adapt it would be to let you include your own PGP key as a certifier and trust anybody who's key you've signed.

  • You can also submit them to the FTC:

    antitrust@ftc.gov [mailto]

    This one is important - make your opinion known!

  • I visited the BankGate site and my browser reported that their root was untrusted and would I like to trust it? How should I know??!? I said "no thanks" so the transaction failed.

    I visited the GlobalSign site and my browser reported that their root was untrusted and would I like to trust it? How should I know??!? I said "no thanks" so the transaction failed.

    This is how it works in the real world with unskilled users, it's a major deployment problem (just ask anyone who has ever tried to implement self-signed certs in an intranet.) This is why only the companies with their roots in the browsers are going anywhere, at present this means Thawte and Verisign - period. I know I said Win2K or SP6 would change that but not for the foreseeable future...

    Oh yeah and I visited the BT TrustWise site and my browser reported that their root was ... well, Verisign's root actually! They are just a reseller.

  • I wonder how much it would take to start a low-cost, open certificate authority.

    No $300 cert charges, no renewal bullshit, just fax us acceptable information and we sign your CSR.

    I know one thing for sure - I don't relish the idea of dealing with Verisign (one word - ripoff). I've found Thawte to be a decent business (with the exception of them billing credit cards from South Africa - that doens't go over too well).

    I wonder if there's enough support among the open-source community to get something like this going?

  • Actually "tens of millions" of dollars worth of corporate liability insurance doens't cost that much. My company has 5 million in liability, $5 million in errors and ommissions etc. It's relatively affordable and I can purchase additional coverage in blocks of 5 mil. The cost on insurance like that is about $2100 a quarter and it covers the same sorts of issues (we are software developers.) The barrier to entry is getting you cert bundled with browsers and you can bet I am looking into getting into the Cert business right now. It's a great opportunity.
  • For those who haven't used it, Thawte is an alternative service to Verisign, whose rates are on average about one half of Verisign's. I think all of these Certificate services are overpriced scams, but at least Thawte was less so.

  • Frpom the Verisign press release [verisign.com]:

    As a combined entity, VeriSign and Thawte will be able to implement a consistent set of global standards for the issuance and management of digital certificates for websites and software developers

    It sounds like they want to own the standards and establish a monopoly of closed source rules.

    And it will be a monopoly:

    They are also the only two digital certificate providers with commercial availability of 128-bit website certificates

    Any chance that the mergers and monopolies comission (or whatever it is called in SA) will block this? Please!? Not another MSFT.

  • The certificate business was already incestuous enough. This deal is basically going to leave the whole shebang in the hands of VeriSign and MS, and that can't be good for the rest of us. A system based on trust cannot rely on a small group of organizations known to play fast and loose with the public interest.
  • This sucks. Verisign sucks. What's the status on trusted CA's in Mozilla? It would be cool to make OpenCA the default and require all of that extra clickthru for Verisigns crappy certs.
  • by Billy Donahue ( 29642 ) on Monday December 20, 1999 @11:47AM (#1458281)
    I've always thought that Thawte did
    a better job than Verisign. They are cheaper
    too, I believe..(though it's been a while)..

    They do NOTHING for you! They don't even
    make your site more secure...
    They are snake-oil salesmen, at best.

    Watch as Bruce Schneier gives these jerks a firm talking-to: here [counterpane.com]

  • These two companies are THE companies for digital certificates. If you ever needed to setup a secure web server or get a thrid party certificate these two were the people to see. Personally I prefer thwate because they were reasonably priced but now i have no choice. answer your questions?!

  • Perhaps. But there is also the possibility that this is the push that will be needed to get other players to jump into the market. There will certainly be markt niches that Verisign won't be filling. Other players can work on those. This round goes to Verisign, but the game isn't over.

    By the way, I don't have any personal axe to grind against Verisign. I like to see a competitive marketplace with some choices. When the only choice is whether to feed the big gorilla, or stroll over to the park and watch the ducks because there aren't any other primates left ....
  • Aside from just being a monopoly here.... I was always reassured by the fact that Thawte Consulting was a SEPERATE ENTITY from Verisign. Going through them actually seemed to give some semblance of higher security. Then again, who knows what the future holds...
  • Somebody should organize something like this. With Netscape 5 coming up, I think that'd be a good chance to bring up a new CA. By the way, you might also get away with paying money to the much more agreeable redhat and debian instead for them to include your certicates. --fred
  • by EisPick ( 29965 ) on Monday December 20, 1999 @11:50AM (#1458286)

    Consider the following:

    • As this chart [thawte.com] on the Thawte site makes clear, these two companies combined own almost 100% of the market.
    • The barriers to entry in this market are huge: A new certificate authority would not be recognized by the current installed base of browsers.
    • Having two competing firms in this market clearly benefitted consumers. A server certificate from VeriSign costs $349; Thawte's costs $125.

    This is bad news for consumers.

  • I got a Thawte certificate because their website promised that if laws ever changed in the country their database was in such that they had to divulge its contents, they were prepared to move their database within hours. I also got it because of their support for PGP public key signing.

    Now, they're being bought out by Verisign who I have no such trust in, and who isn't, IMHO, a good member of the community. I'm not at all happy about this.

    I think I'm going to ask the my Thawte certificate be revoked, and all my data wiped from their databases. I do NOT trust Verisign at all. They seem more like opportunists out to make a buck than people who really understand the paranoid world of security.

  • by Anonymous Coward
    GTE (www.cybertrust.com) has a root certificate which is valid until 2018 in NS 4.5+ and MSIE 4+. It's a tad expensive, but let's hope their prices will go down due to increased demand.
  • Have you ever tried to send a long fax to Africa? If you get a clean line you might get one or two pages through at a time.

    Thawte has offices in the US, dealing with them is easy.

  • Verisign also charges more or at least use to charge more for basic secure certificates. Looks like the days og just buying a certificate for your server are over. Now you have to buy a whole package of services and you probably won't be able to get wildcat certificates any more either. Which is a real problem since I shouldn't have to pay $950*x just for a few servers in my own domain for easier adminstration purposes to do internal stuff via a secure web page.

    If what you want to do is admin your server over a secure webpage, you don't need their services at all. Just generate your own certificate and *presto* ... your own secure server connection.


    If the price on their certificates goes up, that'll be bad... but really you only need to purchase a certificate if you're setting up an ecommerce site. If that's what your doing, then $500-$1000 is a drop in the bucket. If that's not what you're doing, you can probably just sign your own.
  • But this is a market that's very difficult to enter. You have to get the vast majority of browsers to include your root certificate. That's why this is so bad. It means that people will *have* to deal with Verisign's ridiculous pricing if they want to set up an https server that's used by the public. Just at the point where Thawte was entrenched enough to be a completely viable alternative.
  • Agreed :(

    Please read Thawte's President essay [thawte.com].

    Especially comments on VeriSign:

    A loss of $21 million, on revenues of $9 million, of which $3 million in revenues came from a book transaction with a parent company. Damn. Wow. Sheesh.
    Will we list Thawte? Unlikely. I don't think investors would understand and be prepared to pay a premium for a small company that is profitable but not over hyped. And I like my autonomy too much! Besides, we plan to diversify and push the "Thawte" brand independently of certificates, so it will be nice to have a wholly owned cash generator over time. But that's a different story, and actions speak louder than words!

    It might relate only to IPO, but...

  • I fact you could have your own personal vertifcates for free! I believe there is the need for a non-profit CA on the Internet. Something like the PGP key database at MIT, but using X.509 certificates.

    Did it exist: yes, THAWTE! Does it still exist: with Verisign acting as the key God? I wouldn't be suprosed if I'd get a bill next week.

  • by Anonymous Coward
    There's a little more to it than that. You have to keep those key generators awful damn secure. For any more than a base-level certificate you have to check that the recipient really is who he says. Plus you need the market position so everyone knows your public key.

    Of course as Bruce Schneier points out [counterpane.com], PKI ain't such a secure and necessary deal as it's made out to be, so to a certain extent Verisign is just smoke and mirrors.

  • If these were both American companies, I would think that this would run into anti-trust trouble, especially in the current regulatory climate. However, given that this is an international deal, does anybody know how regulation works?
  • a year ago, I browsed verisign and thawte's web sites to educate myself on certs. Verisign's web site was full of legal disclaimers, uninformative in the grand old bureaucratic style, and without humor or humanity. Thawte's web site was informative --a geek can learn things from it-- and had a human voice.
    what gubmint agency do I write to protest this merger?
  • Thawte Bought by Verisign

    Imagine my surprise when I read that Verisign bought Thought. I could understand if they had patented it, but bought Thought?

    I'm still wrong though.

  • Forgive my ignorance, but why must trusted certificates be handled exclusively by a bunch of companies??!?!? I think the way IE and NS comes with "trusted" certs is a little off... Doesn't it only represent certificates that NS and MS "trusts"? If the web of trust is entrusted (pun intended) upon a few companies, they're basically telling you who to trust -- or more bluntly, who they want you to trust.

    Isn't the whole idea of the web of trust mechanism to allow anyone to verify certificates they receive from somebody? Now if this verification goes through a bunch of companies (which eventually merge into a monopoly), isn't there the possibility that there could be some foul play?

    Competition is healthy. As long as certificate providers have competition, they cannot afford to play foul. But as soon as competition is gone, all bets are off. Mergers of companies like these that are the sole provider of certificates to IE and NS are not good.

egrep -n '^[a-z].*\(' $ | sort -t':' +2.0