The percentage of websites protected with HTTPS secure encryption—indicated by the lock icon in the address bar of most browsers—has jumped from just over 40% in 2016 to 80% today. That’s largely due to the efforts of Let’s Encrypt, a nonprofit certificate authority co-founded in 2013 by J. Alex Halderman, a U-M professor of computer science and engineering.
By offering a free service, Let’s Encrypt has turned the implementation of HTTPS from a costly, complicated process to an easy step that’s within reach for all websites. The certificate authority is now the world’s largest, providing more HTTPS certificates than all other certificate authorities combined.
Halderman and his collaborators at Let’s Encrypt—the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Mozilla, Cisco and Stanford University—have published a paper detailing how the project came to fruition. They hope it serves as a model for streamlining other aspects of the internet infrastructure we all rely on every day.