HTTPS Everwhere is a good thing… Sort of… 

One of the “big” things of late is the push to have all websites use HTTPS to encrypt traffic to websites. As Stefan Stienne of The Verge noted in the may May 2018 article Google Chrome is removing the secure indicator from HTTPS sites in September:

Here’s a quick HTTPS refresher course: it’s a more secure 
version of HTTP, acting as a secure communication 
protocol for users and websites, making it harder for 
eavesdroppers to snoop on your packets. Your data is 
kept secure from third parties, so most modern sites are 
employing this technology, using Transport Layer 
Security (TLS) the underlying tech behind HTTPS, to do this.

What this means is that the URL bar (or omnibar, or whatever a web browser calls it) will change (using Google Chrome as the example):

Eventually it will be:

In on sense, this is somewhat agreeable. It will ensure that no one can easily snoop what is going back and forth when you connect to a website. That being said, nothing will stop an organisation breaking the TLS chain using a proxy and installing their valid SSL certificate in your browser’s certificate store. Since this certificate is self-signed, the client would receive an SSL warning message. Once the client installs the proxy’s certificate to let the browser trust the certificate, browsing websites with HTTPS will look normal and have the green padlock or no warning in the future (secure connection) in the URL bar.  This works by:

client <===HTTPS===> proxy <===HTTPS===> server
             ^                   ^
    proxy certificate      server certificate

So, unless you actually go and validate the certificate source you can still have your traffic sniffed. Many companies use SSL proxies to ensure that confidential information is not being leaked (assuming SSL decryption is being used for moral, lawful purposes). Of course I, for one, would not be surprised if something like the “Great Firewall of China” is not doing this (of course, law – and culture in some ways – comes into play here, too).

Of course, DNS servers will still know where you are going – you need to resolve an address to an IP address.

Secure Does Not Mean Trusted

All this does not mean that you should trust a website just because communications are encrypted! Anyone can get a Domain Validated (DV) certificate.That’s the way that Let’s Encrypt works. Now, I am not knocking Let’s Encrypt – I use it myself (see URL bar above).

This article on the types of certificates. Higher level certificates such as Organisation Validation (OV) and Extended Validation (EV) are a help. OV has more human intervention in the Certificate Authority (CA) validating that an actual business/organisation is reputable. This puts the organisation’s name in the certificate information. This costs money. EV certificates includes the most effort in validating a business/organisation reputation including extra documentation (See EV SSL Requirements). This costs more money and time. Chrome used to include the organisation’s name in the URL bar (it stopped doing so – I haven’t spent time finding out when but it was before Chrome 66) but Firefox, Internet Explorer and Microsoft Edge still do.

The problem is:

HTTPS ≠ TRUSTED

The website your are connecting must be trusted. Is the site trying to steal your credit card information? Is the site trying to get your personal information for spear phishing purposes? Just because the connection is encrypted (and may be doing so for other purposes than trying to make you think that their site is “trusted” – they may also be encrypting traffic to keep people from knowing what they are up to) does not mean you should trust the site!

That responsibility is up to youdear reader. You need to determine if the site you are entering your credit card or other information is trustworthy. This means, for Chrome at least, you need to look at the certificate and determine if it is truly trustworthy. You need to look at the URL and make sure that it is really the website you are intending to visit – making sure that mybank.com isn’t actually mybonk.com.

Summing Up

Some of the good things about HTTPS everywhere is that it can (not will) help in keeping others from sniffing credit card or other personal information from your connection. Google’s eventual change of not identifying HTTPS and highlighting HTTP should help people understand when their communications can be read by other (or, maybe not so easily read is more accurate).

All that said the trust, the reputation, of where you are connecting is still up to you.

About Mike Pelley

Let’s see… A little about me… I’ve been around information technology since 1983 with computers such as DEC Rainbows (weird machine – the standard DOS couldn’t format its own floppy disks – remember them? – and I had to format them on a friend’s IBM PC) to Radio Shack TRS-80 to Apple ][e and Apple //c in the beginning. I have programmed in 8-bit assembly language on 6502, FORTRAN and COBOL on IBM System/370 (and I still hate JCL), VAX BASIC and COBOL (and a weird and massive WordPerfect 4.0 macro) on DEC VMS (Alpha), C/C++ on Digital Unix (ALPHA), and C/C++, Perl (it may be powerful but I still hate it), PHP on Linux (Red Hat, Centos, Ubuntu, etc.). I have work with databases such as Digital RDB (later to become Oracle RDB), Oracle DBMS, Microsoft SQL Server, MySQL and PostgreSQL on VAX, Alpha, Sun and Intel. Check out my professional profile and connect with me on LinkedIn. See http://lnkd.in/nhTRZe I still think that Digital created some of the best ideas in the world: VAX clustering, DSSI disks (forerunner to SCSI) and the Alpha processor (first commercial 64-bit processor – Red Hat screamed on an Alpha!). DEC just could not seem to be able to give air conditioners away to someone lost in the Sahara Desert! VMware is one of the best ways to get the most out of an x64 server. And I have tried Oracle VM, Virtual Box and Microsoft Virtual Server. Outside of that I am a huge military history buff starting in the early 20th century. I love Ford Mustangs (my ’87 Mustang GT was awesome) and if I had the money I would have a Porsche 928S4. If I had a lot of money I would have a Porsche 911 Turbo. I also play too much AmrA 3 Exile mod. Over 5,000+ hours... I have a wonderful son, Cameron. I have a long suffering (Do you really need all that computer junk?) wife, Paula. I live in Paradise, Newfoundland and Labrador.
This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.