A Closer Look at Web Encryption with DreamHost's Brett Dunst

Starting with a single server in a college dorm room in 1997, DreamHost has come along way since its humble beginnings...and the company is supporting the efforts to force the Web to finally grow up too.  


Following DreamHost's announcement to support Let's Encrypt - a non-profit formed by two employees at Mozilla (Josh Aas and Eric Rescorla) to provide free secure certificates to domain holders - Website Magazine caught up with Brett Dunst, DreamHost's VP of brand and community, to understand the privacy concerns impacting each and every Internet user, Let's Encrypt's importance to site owners and other news that's moving both the Web and DreamHost forward.


How has DreamHost evolved in the last couple years?

Over the last several years we've grown from being a small, shared Web host for hobbyists into a full-spectrum online service provider used heavily by software developers, entrepreneurs and online content creators. We've expanded our product offerings beyond traditional shared Web hosting and have, in more recent years, entered the cloud services market. DreamObjects, our object storage service, and DreamCompute, our rapidly deployable virtual computing service, have proven extremely popular with application developers in particular. Today, we're hosting more than 1.5 million domain names and we've got just over 400,000 customers.



Why is DreamHost's newest integration with Let's Encrypt important for website operators/owners?

Encryption is crucially important not just for website owners, but for the Web at large. Encryption has been around since the Web's earliest days, but Let's Encrypt has taken its largest barrier to entry - cost - out of the equation entirely.


Edward Snowden's well-publicized revelations have shone a spotlight on the fact that all Internet traffic, regardless of content, is subject to surveillance by anyone. Governments, malware authors, you name it. Most reasonable people wouldn't want a third-party listening in on their phone calls, so why should we allow anyone else to snoop on our Internet traffic? It's our view that anyone on the Web should have a reasonable expectation that their interactions should remain between users and the sites with which they choose to interact.


How is DreamHost acting to keep private data, private?

DreamHost has a comprehensive privacy policy that spells out exactly what we will and will not do with both our customers' data and their personally identifiable information (PII). We also release an annual transparency report to show the number of times customer information was requested by law enforcement - as well as the general nature of the content of those investigations, as permitted by law.


Whenever possible, we side with our customers. They entrust us with their data and we have an obligation to keep it safe from prying eyes at every possibility.


That's why we're so excited about Let's Encrypt - it brings Web encryption to everyone, regardless of technical skill or any ability to pay for it. We've worked extremely hard to make enabling Let's Encrypt a one-click process for all of our managed hosting customers. There's no command-line work needed, no technical knowledge required and no additional fees to pay. DreamHost customers can enable encryption on their website within seconds, and they can do it in less time than it takes to order toilet paper on Amazon.



What vulnerabilities are impacting Let's Encrypt?

It's still early days for the Let's Encrypt project. Like any new technology, they're still finding their legs and getting the word out about their Web-changing technology. They've gone through a comprehensive beta test period, and we're confident that the team behind the project will work quickly to address any issues that may arise.


What are your expectations for Web encryption in the coming months/years?

We hope - and expect - that encryption on the Web will become the norm in the very near future. What was once the realm of ecommerce websites and financial institutions is now within reach of anyone with a website. The entire team at DreamHost is honestly thrilled to stand alongside other like-minded companies at the forefront of this movement to empower and protect all Web users.