All the Russian websites that have expired or revoked TLS certificates, rejoice. Russian digital ministry on Thursday announced establishing a new Certificate Authority, to support TLS connections to all such affected websites.
Sanctions from western nations have hit the payments and websites of Russia, which have no way of renewing their sites’ TLS certificates for encrypted connections. This broken protocol will thwart all browsers to dump such websites, and push alternative ones to users. To stop this, the Russian government jumps in with an in-house made solution.
Russia’s Certificate Authority
Certificate Authorities are legitimate TLS certificate issuers, which are used by websites to make browsers believe they’re legitimate service providers. Any website that doesn’t have a TLS certificate is often untrusted, and be backed off by the visitors. This is due to the encrypted connection it makes between the users’ browsers and the website’s server.
Since it’s important, most websites on the internet, today use this. But, Russian websites are cut off from this privilege lately, since most of the CAs are from Western and European based, and are subjected to sanctions against Russia for it’s war against Ukraine.
As the Russian websites continue to suffer from this cut-off, their government has come up with it’s own certificate authority to supply the necessary TLS certificates to all those affected websites. This was announced on Russia’s unified public service portal, where it promises to deliver the certificates within five days of requests.
While it’s good for Russian websites, mainstream browsers accepting the certificates issued by a Russian entity is highly unlikely. Web browsers like Chrome, Edge, Firefox, etc have a set of protocols and pre-listed CAs, to accept all the TLS certificates coming from them.
But accepting Russia’s CA isn’t likely, considering the sanctions imposed by their countries. Well, Russians still have Yandex, a web browser that’s often termed as Russian Google. Yandex has 16% of the local market share, far behind 55% of Google’s Chrome. Yet, it’s a go-to browser for Russians.
Another issue here is the possibility of the Kremlin intercepting the connections, which are made using their just created CA’s TLS certificates. As such man-in-the-middle attacks too are likely to happen, mainstream browsers accepting this new CA is highly unlikely.
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