Three years ago I was inspired by Scofield (or Mr. Harri Hursti) when he claimed that SSL is broken and it cannot be fixed. See the post for details. In reality tech can be fixed, my previous HTTPS-post is about shortcomings and fixes of TLS-encryption. This time I'm writing about another type of HTTPS-shortcoming, trust. This is between humans and is much much harder to fix.
Ok, most users don't see the difference between HTTP and HTTPS. They simply don't pay any attemtion if their address-bar has the lock in it or not. Those rare who do make the distinction between encrypted and non-encrypted web sites are blissfully ignorant about the inner workings of HTTPS. They don't understand the concept of a X.509 certificate nor the need for one. A certificate is needed to (I'm quoting Wikipedia article here) certify the ownership of a public key by the named subject of the certificate. The ownership of a key is important, it is used to make sure the communication parties are the same who initiated the connection. Without that, the security could be easily breached with a man-in-the-middle -attack.
What the certificate isn't designed is to identify nor verify the certificate holder. Technically, the certificate has a suitable field name subject. In HTTPS-certificate, it contains the hostname (or domainname in a wildcard certificate) of the server a secured connection is initiated to. If a certificate is used on a different server, the hostname used for connection and issued in the certificate won't match, and the lock won't "lock" or "go green" depending on your choice of a web browser.
The part where trust comes into play, is because the system is built so, that somebody issues the certificate. There is a chain of certificates to follow up to a root certificate to somebody who has authority to issue them. Any newly generated certificate is untrusted by your browser by default, unless the issuer root certificate is pre-added to your browser. That's where the certificate business (read: money) is. A certificate issuer has gone trough the hard work of pre-installing their certificate to all commonly used web browsers so that some website owner can come in and purchase a certificate from them and it will work and be trusted by any website visitors. What happens here is, you as the website visitor implicitly trust the website you are visiting, because somebody you don't know said they're who they announce themselves to be and they promised to be ok when asked about it. Of course browser and operating system companies play along with this, they do their due diligence and accept requests to distribute those root certificates to establish trust between the issuer and a website.
That's a bold request! Why should I trust somebody whose name is Verisign or Thawte or TeliaSonera, whom I know nothing about! No reason. But that's how security in Internet works.