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Paul Merrell

We're Halfway to Encrypting the Entire Web | Electronic Frontier Foundation - 0 views

  • The movement to encrypt the web has reached a milestone. As of earlier this month, approximately half of Internet traffic is now protected by HTTPS. In other words, we are halfway to a web safer from the eavesdropping, content hijacking, cookie stealing, and censorship that HTTPS can protect against.

    Mozilla recently reported that the average volume of encrypted web traffic on Firefox now surpasses the average unencrypted volume

  • Google Chrome’s figures on HTTPS usage are consistent with that finding, showing that over 50% of of all pages loaded are protected by HTTPS across different operating systems.
  • This milestone is a combination of HTTPS implementation victories: from tech giants and large content providers, from small websites, and from users themselves.
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  • Starting in 2010, EFF members have pushed tech companies to follow crypto best practices. We applauded when Facebook and Twitter implemented HTTPS by default, and when Wikipedia and several other popular sites later followed suit. Google has also put pressure on the tech community by using HTTPS as a signal in search ranking algorithms and, starting this year, showing security warnings in Chrome when users load HTTP sites that request passwords or credit card numbers.

    EFF’s Encrypt the Web Report also played a big role in tracking and encouraging specific practices. Recently other organizations have followed suit with more sophisticated tracking projects. For example, Secure the News and Pulse track HTTPS progress among news media sites and U.S. government sites, respectively.

  • But securing large, popular websites is only one part of a much bigger battle. Encrypting the entire web requires HTTPS implementation to be accessible to independent, smaller websites. Let’s Encrypt and Certbot have changed the game here, making what was once an expensive, technically demanding process into an easy and affordable task for webmasters across a range of resource and skill levels.

    Let’s Encrypt is a Certificate Authority (CA) run by the Internet Security Research Group (ISRG) and founded by EFF, Mozilla, and the University of Michigan, with Cisco and Akamai as founding sponsors. As a CA, Let’s Encrypt issues and maintains digital certificates that help web users and their browsers know they’re actually talking to the site they intended to. CAs are crucial to secure, HTTPS-encrypted communication, as these certificates verify the association between an HTTPS site and a cryptographic public key. Through EFF’s Certbot tool, webmasters can get a free certificate from Let’s Encrypt and automatically configure their server to use it.

    Since we announced that Let’s Encrypt was the web’s largest certificate authority last October, it has exploded from 12 million certs to over 28 million. Most of Let’s Encrypt’s growth has come from giving previously unencrypted sites their first-ever certificates.

    A large share of these leaps in HTTPS adoption are also thanks to major hosting companies and platforms--like WordPress.com, Squarespace, and dozens of others--integrating Let’s Encrypt and providing HTTPS to their users and customers.

  • Unfortunately, you can only use HTTPS on websites that support it--and about half of all web traffic is still with sites that don’t. However, when sites partially support HTTPS, users can step in with the HTTPS Everywhere browser extension.

    A collaboration between EFF and the Tor Project, HTTPS Everywhere makes your browser use HTTPS wherever possible. Some websites offer inconsistent support for HTTPS, use unencrypted HTTP as a default, or link from secure HTTPS pages to unencrypted HTTP pages. HTTPS Everywhere fixes these problems by rewriting requests to these sites to HTTPS, automatically activating encryption and HTTPS protection that might otherwise slip through the cracks.

  • Our goal is a universally encrypted web that makes a tool like HTTPS Everywhere redundant. Until then, we have more work to do. Protect your own browsing and websites with HTTPS Everywhere and Certbot, and spread the word to your friends, family, and colleagues to do the same. Together, we can encrypt the entire web.
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    HTTPS connections don't work for you if you don't use them. If you're not using HTTPS Everywhere in your browser, you should be; it's your privacy that is at stake. And every encrypted communication you make adds to the backlog of encrypted data that NSA and other internet voyeurs must process as encrypted traffic; because cracking encrypted messages is computer resource intensive, the voyeurs do not have the resources to crack more than a tiny fraction.

    HTTPS is a free extension for Firefox, Chrome, and Opera. You can get it here. https://www.eff.org/HTTPS-everywhere
Paul Merrell

Forget Apple vs. the FBI: WhatsApp Just Switched on Encryption for a Billion People | W... - 0 views

  • For most of the past six weeks, the biggest story out of Silicon Valley was Apple’s battle with the FBI over a federal order to unlock the iPhone of a mass shooter. The company’s refusal touched off a searing debate over privacy and security in the digital age. But this morning, at a small office in Mountain View, California, three guys made the scope of that enormous debate look kinda small.

    Mountain View is home to WhatsApp, an online messaging service now owned by tech giant Facebook, that has grown into one of the world’s most important applications. More than a billion people trade messages, make phone calls, send photos, and swap videos using the service. This means that only Facebook itself runs a larger self-contained communications network. And today, the enigmatic founders of WhatsApp, Brian Acton and Jan Koum, together with a high-minded coder and cryptographer who goes by the pseudonym Moxie Marlinspike, r

  • This means that if any group of people uses the latest version of WhatsApp—whether that group spans two people or ten—the service will encrypt all messages, phone calls, photos, and videos moving among them. And that’s true on any phone that runs the app, from iPhones to Android phones to Windows phones to old school Nokia flip phones. With end-to-end encryption in place, not even WhatsApp’s employees can read the data that’s sent across its network. In other words, WhatsApp has no way of complying with a court order demanding access to the content of any message, phone call, photo, or video traveling through its service. Like Apple, WhatsApp is, in practice, stonewalling the federal government, but it’s doing so on a larger front—one that spans roughly a billion devices.
  • The FBI and the Justice Department declined to comment for this story. But many inside the government and out are sure to take issue with the company’s move. In late 2014, WhatsApp encrypted a portion of its network. In the months since, its service has apparently been used to facilitate criminal acts, including the terrorist attacks on Paris last year. According to The New York Times, as recently as this month, the Justice Department was considering a court case against the company after a wiretap order (still under seal) ran into WhatsApp’s end-to-end encryption.

    “The government doesn’t want to stop encryption,” says Joseph DeMarco, a former federal prosecutor who specializes in cybercrime and has represented various law enforcement agencies backing the Justice Department and the FBI in their battle with Apple. “But the question is: what do you do when a company creates an encryption system that makes it impossible for court-authorized search warrants to be executed? What is the reasonable level of assistance you should ask from that company?”

Paul Merrell

FBI's secret method of unlocking iPhone may never reach Apple | Reuters - 0 views

  • The FBI may be allowed to withhold information about how it broke into an iPhone belonging to a gunman in the December San Bernardino shootings, despite a U.S. government policy of disclosing technology security flaws discovered by federal agencies.

    Under the U.S. vulnerabilities equities process, the government is supposed to err in favor of disclosing security issues so companies can devise fixes to protect data. The policy has exceptions for law enforcement, and there are no hard rules about when and how it must be applied.

    Apple Inc has said it would like the government to share how it cracked the iPhone security protections. But the Federal Bureau of Investigation, which has been frustrated by its inability to access data on encrypted phones belonging to criminal suspects, might prefer to keep secret the technique it used to gain access to gunman Syed Farook's phone.

    The referee is likely to be a White House group formed during the Obama administration to review computer security flaws discovered by federal agencies and decide whether they should be disclosed.

  • Stewart Baker, former general counsel of the NSA and now a lawyer with Steptoe & Johnson, said the review process could be complicated if the cracking method is considered proprietary by the third party that assisted the FBI.

    Several security researchers have pointed to the Israel-based mobile forensics firm Cellebrite as the likely third party that helped the FBI. That company has repeatedly declined comment.

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    The article is wide of the mark, based on analysis of Executive Branch policy rather than the governing law such as the Freedom of Information Act. And I still find it somewhat ludicrous that a third party with knowledge of the defect could succeed in convincing a court that knowledge of a defect in a company's product is trade-secret proprietary information. "Your honor, my client has discovered a way to break into Mr. Tim Cook's house without a key to his house. That is a valuable trade secret that this Court must keep Mr. Cook from learning."

    Pow! The Computer Fraud and Abuse Act makes it a crime to access a computer that can connect to the Internet by exploiting a software bug. 
Paul Merrell

WhatsApp Encryption Said to Stymie Wiretap Order - The New York Times - 0 views

  • While the Justice Department wages a public fight with Apple over access to a locked iPhone, government officials are privately debating how to resolve a prolonged standoff with another technology company, WhatsApp, over access to its popular instant messaging application, officials and others involved in the case said.