Symantec believes it's the first certificate authority to actually offer ECC SSL certificates, but Entrust also markets what it calls a "hybrid" ECC certificate product as a somewhat future-oriented technology, noting that some older browsers wouldn't support ECC.
The ability of Web browsers to support a vendor's specific certificate crypto "root" is an important question. The Microsoft Internet Explorer, Google Chrome and Mozilla Firefox browsers typically have coded into the various versions the certificate "root" information, and Symantec says this has been done in the case of its ECC SSL certificate technology. Google software engineer Adam Langley underscored the commitment to ECC in Symantec's announcement today by saying, "We believe in constantly furthering security, which is why Chrome supports Elliptic Curve Digital Signature Algorithm on all modern operating systems."
There must also be a way for the Web server to support an ECC server certificate, and Hoblit said open-source Apache now has an "ECC-optimizing version" while it is possible to activate ECC connectivity in other servers as well. He noted that Symantec has been in pilot tests of ECC with several industry partners, including Citrix, Akamai Technologies, AT&T, HID, Juniper, F5 Networks, Opera Software, Red Hat and Google. Some of these tests are being done to ensure ECC works smoothly in cloud-based environments. There's also some expectation that ECC will be a suitable type of crypto for mobile devices as well.
"The future is going to necessitate higher security cryptography and Akamai sees ECC as a technology that will allow cloud platforms to scale to meet those security needs without the crippling complexity of today's common algorithms," said Stephen Ludin, chief architect at Akamai. He indicated Akamai is anticipating that as the "ecosystem" for ECC gets ready, Akamai will be able to use it in its services.
But even if ECC for SSL server certificates takes off, enterprise customers will likely be operating in a kind of dual-mode with RSA-based and ECC-based SSL certificates for servers for some time. The Symantec Managed PKI for SSL for enterprise customers available in the next few weeks will have the newer ECC certificate in addition to the traditional RSA certificate at the same price. If the ECC certificate used on a Web server recognizes that the incoming Web browser doesn't support ECC, it will automatically default to RSA-based SSL to accommodate the Web visitor, says Hoblit.