Security and Self-Driving Computers

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We have to admit to ourselves: we do not really like to turn on automatic updates. We do not like relinquishing control. Even if we do not really know what the announced update contains, we like to have one look at it before we hit the “update” button.


Often, still, we do not even have an automated update option available - like on our phones. And we are nagged every other month or so that an update is available, that we should install it and if we please can hit the “ok” button now to start it.

My mother usually calls me when her phone asks her to update. “Should I?” she asks. And I always say “Yes!” And she keeps on calling me.

Well, that’s what mothers do anyway. But you get the point.

This is technical nonsense. It’s all part of the Legal Blame Game: “Make sure, when things go wrong, we have an excuse.” But from a technical and security point of view, updates need to happen without user intervention, for everyone.

For our security infrastructure, we try to avoid this and jump from “no updates” to full automation. Because expired certificates are just too embarrassing for everyone.

Oh, and we can make it free at the same time - because automation.

[Insert the story of Let’s Encrypt (LE) that everyone knows…]

LE is interested to get broad support, so one of the most commonly used web server on the planet was a natural target. greenbytes proposed to MOSS (Mozilla’s Open Source Support) for a grant and got it going in 2017.

This talk gives a summary of what is nowadays available in Apache, what is still on the road ahead, and where one may contribute (Hint: ACME fuzzing anyone?)! 

Stefan Eissing 
Stefan is one of the founders of greenbytes, a small software consultancy company in Germany with customers such as Adobe, SAP, Google and Deutsche Telekom. And very active in the IETF http working group and related areas. Personally, he has obsessed about computers forever - it seems - and sees no reason for stopping. In 2015 he became part of the Apache httpd project after he did the HTTP/2 implementation for the server.