The push to HTTPS

Last year, Google started giving websites that have an SSL cert a ranking boost. As part of that announcement they said it was done to push the web to be more secure. But they also wanted to go even further and push for “HTTPS everywhere”.

This week it was announced this measure is going to be taken a step further with a new feature in Chrome where it will show a big red “X” on unsecured sites. Firefox also has plans for this.

The EFF and security researchers are applauding the move. One example is it prevents governments from blocking specific pages. They instead have to block the whole domain which is much more noticeable. You can read about Russia’s WikiPedia ban for more context.

Dave Winer is one proponent against this and in a recent post he said:

I wonder if they’ve even tried to quantify the outages they’ll cause. So many sites are simply residing on a hard disk somewhere, served by an ancient version of some unknown and not maintained server software, chugging along as someone keeps paying the electric bill, and replaces a broken hardware component when needed. The people who created the site might not have understood HTTPS or how to deploy it, and many are long gone. Some of course are dead. We are certainly not all sitting around doing nothing waiting for a handful of programmers on a mail list to make us perform a ridiculous act of security theater for our blog posts written in 2002. 

Most of these sites do not need HTTPS. It isn’t an issue for my ancient blog posts. Or yours.

I personally think the current proposal with a red “X” is not the right solution. Yes, users will notice it at first, but give it two weeks and that icon will be totally ignored. I like the proposal on the Firefox report where someone suggested the browser just alert when submitting a form on an unsecure site, but I think it’ll be ignored after a while as well.

Free SSL’s

Let’s Encrypt and AWS are two service now offering free SSL certs. As the market shifts toward free services I’m sure implementation will get easier and easier until all web hosts just have support by default.

Of course, this would be a lot of work and a lot of companies would need to make big architecture​ changes.