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Comodo Uses Intellectual Property Claim to Thwart Free Competitor

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Let’s face it: it’s hard to compete with free. The Let’s Encrypt initiative has been around for some time now as part of essentially all of Silicon Valley’s mission to make the web a more secure place through the use of the secure sockets layer protocol, which is a system that relies on certificate authorities vetting the validity of a data.

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SSL is fundamental to certain types of web transactions, but over the years it has become more and more evident that no part of the open web should not be using it, as attackers have grown increasingly sophisticated at attacking both ends of the transmission when SSL is not in use. Let’s Encrypt has made it dead simple for even the newest systems administrators to implement SSL by releasing easily automated software that allows the certificate to be generated from within the server itself, saving time for those who have many sites to manage.

On the other hand, Comodo Group, Inc. has been in the web security game since 1998, and has amassed a large business on it. The company was the largest issuer of SSL certificates as of February last year, according to Wikipedia, and is still used by many larger corporations. Of course, small organizations have always had other options when they did not want to pay the fee for a certificate – there is StartSSL, which offers free certification for non-profits and other small outfits, and then there was always the option of a self-signed certificate. However, this last option is not really an option at all, since many browsers have long not been friendly with them.

In a recent blog post, Let’s Encrypt lamented that Comodo was attacking them through the use of the American intellectual property system. Specifically, Comodo is vying for “at least three” trademark applications that include the term “Let’s Encrypt.” If successful, this could have serious implications on the Let’s Encrypt initiative, most notably that they would be forced to change their name, creating confusion amongst browser developers, users, and, perhaps most importantly, systems administrators. From a security perspective, the resulting chaos could lead to confusion among web surfers, and open the way for bad actors to use false certificates.

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A user on the Comodo forum saw to it that they were taken to task, crying for shame on them:

Do you really need this, Comodo? Stealing brand someone else made up?

In an uncharacteristic move for larger tech companies, Comodo’s CEO Melih Old responded directly:

How can you prove it was them who made it up? […] Isn’t this why we have Trademark laws and courts? […] When Lets Encrypt copied Comodo’s 90 day free ssl business model, we could not protect it. Lets encrypt could have chosen 57 days, 30 days or any other number for the lifetime of their certificates. But they chose to use Comodo’s 90 day Free SSL model that we established in the market place for over 9 years!!!

We invented the 90 day free ssl. Why are they copying our business model of 90 day free ssl is the question! Comodo has provided and built a Free SSL model that give SSL for free for 90 days since 2007! Trying to piggy back on our business model and copying our model of giving certificates for 90 days for free is not ethical.

They clearly wanted to leverage the market of Free SSL users we had helped create and establish and that’s why they created exactly same 90 day free ssl offering. So why did they choose 90 day????? That is the question!

The last bit is the most interesting thing about the CEO’s response because one of the features of Let’s Encrypt is that it requires the certificates to be renewed every 90 days. While this can be automated, many companies are okay with a certificate lasting 6 months, or a year, or even longer in some cases. A certificate issued to a company like, for instance, Facebook, might be trusted for longer by all parties involved. This does not mean it’s the best practice, and Let’s Encrypt makes clear that their decision is based on security best practices, saying here:

  1. They limit damage from key compromise and mis-issuance. Stolen keys and mis-issued certificates are valid for a shorter period of time.
  2. They encourage automation, which is absolutely essential for ease-of-use. If we’re going to move the entire Web to HTTPS, we can’t continue to expect system administrators to manually handle renewals. Once issuance and renewal are automated, shorter lifetimes won’t be any less convenience than longer ones.

More to the point, Let’s Encrypt is not intending to make build a business around issuing certificates. The initiative is sponsored by industry heavyweights such as Cisco, Facebook, Shopify, and other deep-pocketed companies that have no need to make money on a venture such as this. The end goal is a more secure web, not a bottom line. This makes Old’s argument all the more suspect, if not misinformed. But Old does not stop there. He goes on to double-down on this claim as a response to the above-mentioned Let’s Encrypt blog post, stating:

so whose certs are these? Of course Comodo’s!!! So they are admitting they are copying our innovation of 90 day free ssl certs!

In a later post, Comodo employee Robin Alden made clear that Comodo would not make a long fight of this. The employee said:

Josh posted a link to the application and as of February 8th it was already in a state where it will lapse. […] Josh was wrong when he said we’d “refused to abandon our applications”. We just hadn’t told LE we would leave them to lapse. […] We have now communicated this to LE.

LE presumably stands for Let’s Encrypt. However, this claim makes little sense, since Let’s Encrypt was already issuing certificates when Comodo filed its claims. Either way, if the trademark applications do collapse, then Let’s Encrypt will not have a long and drawn-out battle to deal with in order to retain the right to use two pretty common words, in conjunction, as its name.

It seems that the pace of technology is such that to truly remain profitable, a company must continually find new ways to attract money, because things become free over time. A good example of this would be how web mail now almost universally has replaced mail by Internet service providers, and now it seems that free alternatives to certificate authorities will become the norm in the coming decades, as well.

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Jamie Dimon May Hate Bitcoin, but J.P. Morgan Is Embracing Blockchain

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J.P. Morgan Chase CEO has made it abundantly clear that he hates bitcoin, but that hasn’t stopped his firm from adopting the technology that underpins the digital currency system.

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J.P. Morgan Launches Pilot Program 

On Monday, America’s biggest bank rolls out the next phase of its blockchain pilot program. The effort will facilitate a faster, more secure transfer of cross border payments between J.P. Morgan and other banks, including Royal Bank of Canada and Australia and New Zealand Banking Group.

Although the new program will not trade cryptocurrency, it will use the landmark record-keeping technology that underpins it. The Wall Street Journal reports that J.P. Morgan will use the same blockchain technology behind digital currency Ethereum.

Despite widespread concern over cryptocurrency, financiers are enamored with blockchain. They, like many others, say the technology can significantly increase the speed of cross-border payments. The system currently in place is extremely complex, and requires multiple streams of communication between various participants. The blockchain has the potential to cut down transaction time from as much as 15 days to mere hours.

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The pilot program aims to achieve a secure distributed ledger across financial institutions, enabling banks to work together to process transactions. Connecting transaction data through a shared network will greatly reduce the number of steps it takes to verify and process transactions.

J.P.’s embrace of blockchain doesn’t mean he’s going to warm up to cryptocurrency. His latest criticism of bitcoin came on Friday when he said it had “no actual value” and that “governments are going to crush it.” He did, however, give a glowing review of blockchain.

“We actually use it. It will be useful for a lot of different things,” Dimon said at a conference in Washington, as quoted by The Wall Street Journal. “God bless the blockchain.”

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Cryptocurrency Adoption Will Lead to Free Money Transfers, According to Top Tech Investor

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The rapid adoption of cryptocurrency will soon pave the way for free global money transfers, according to a top technology investor.

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Cathie Wood, the CEO of Ark Invest, says cryptocurrencies like bitcoin are going to spearhead a system of free money transfers worldwide. She cites the already huge reduction in conversion fees from fiat currencies into crypto and back again. The current rate for those transactions is 2-3%, which is a fraction of the 7-8% money transfer services like Western Union charge.

But Wood says crypto transfer fees could soon fall to zero as companies prioritize valuable transaction information above anything else.

The cryptocurrency market approached record highs over the weekend, hitting a total value of $176.6 billion. Bitcoin’s market cap surged above $90 billion last week and reached a high of $96.7 billion recently. That surpassed the capitalization of major equities like Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley.

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If bitcoin were a stock, it would be the 15th largest member of the Nasdaq and the 58th largest on the New York Stock Exchange.

Computing Power as a Commodity

In Wood’s view, that the growing value of cryptocurrency will lead to the commoditization of bandwidth and computing power.

“It’s interesting that you’ve got corn and oil and copper trading on the exchange but you don’t have computing power, and bandwidth, and storage,” Wood said, according to CNBC. “Well we think that’s going to happen because of blockchain technology and all of the cryptos that are coming along.”

Woods has placed special emphasis on Ethereum, a unique platform that operates more like a “cryptocommodity” than anything else.

Ark Invest is the author of the widely cited whitepaper, Bitcoin: A Disruptive Currency. In it, the firm argues that cryptocurrency has the potential to be the most disruptive development since the Internet. The investment manager controls $1.7 billion of asset funds focused exclusively on emerging technologies.

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Jamie Dimon Doesn’t Want to Talk About Bitcoin Anymore

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Jamie Dimon doesn’t have anything to say about bitcoin anymore. The head of J.P. Morgan Chase & Co has been heckled by the blockchain community since he declared cryptocurrency to be a “fraud,” and that he would fire any employee trading it for being “stupid.”

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Bitcoin’s New Record

Dimon also doesn’t think much of bitcoin’s new record high. The virtual currency spiked more than 8% on Thursday to surpass $5,200.00 for the first time.

“I wouldn’t put this high in the category of important things in the world, but I’m not going to talk about bitcoin anymore,” Dimon said Thursday, as noted by Bloomberg.

J.P. Morgan has taken a less adversarial approach to cryptocurrency. In addition to handling bitcoin-related trades – something that came to light after Dimon’s warning – the financial giant is keeping its options open. J.P. remains “very open minded” to possible uses of cryptocurrencies “if they are properly controlled and regulated,” according to Chief Financial Officer Marine Lake.

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Mainstream Appeal Growing

The growth and widespread adoption of cryptocurrency hasn’t been lost on the financial community. Earlier this month, Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein tweeted that his firm is weighing the possibility of trading cryptocurrency.

Fidelity Investments is also mining cryptocurrency, and making a lot of money doing it. Fidelity says its chief motivation for mining isn’t profit, but learning about the growing cryptocurrency market.

Increased mainstream adoption of bitcoin is seen by many as a necessary precursor to a more stable currency. Countries like Japan are spearheading adoption by introducing favorable regulation of the cryptocurrency space. But regulatory approval has not been uniform.

Russia recently became the third major economy in the span of a month to put the clampdown on cryptocurrency trading. China and South Korea have also implemented new controls on the market, focusing heavily on initial coin offerings.

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