Tech's plan to offer free Web encryption

The tech sector is trying to bring free, secure Internet browsing to the entire Web starting next summer.

A new nonprofit organization, Let’s Encrypt, will offer encryption services to any website, free of cost.

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“This project should boost everyday data protection for almost everyone who uses the Internet," said Peter Eckersley, technology projects director at the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), a digital advocate behind Let's Encrypt.

A cross-section of the tech industry will also back the effort.

Firefox manufacturer Mozilla, tech giant Cisco Systems, cloud services company Akamai and the California public benefit organization Internet Security Research Group are all pitching in.

Since Edward Snowden exposed a variety of U.S. surveillance programs, Internet companies have worked to boost their security by implementing HTTPS, an encrypted version of basic HTTP, which is how all data moves around the Internet.

While several prominent services, including major social networks and banking websites, now encrypt their traffic by default, the vast majority of websites do not.

“Right now when you use the Web, many of your communications — your user names, passwords, and browsing histories — are vulnerable to hackers and others,” Eckersley said.

HTTPS is not widely used because it has “historically been expensive, as well as tricky to install and bothersome to update,” EFF said.

Let’s Encrypt will attempt to remove those barriers.

“By making it easy, fast, and free for websites to install encryption for their users, we will all be safer online,” said Eckersley.

Let’s Encrypt will also maintain a public database of all secured websites and will automatically update and renew their encryption.

EFF expects the project to “dramatically increase the ability of websites around the world to implement HTTPS, increasing the security of hundreds of millions of Internet users every day," said Eckersley.