Dark Reading is part of the Informa Tech Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them.Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.

Risk

3/21/2012
02:22 PM
Connect Directly
Google+
LinkedIn
Twitter
RSS
E-Mail
50%
50%

Firefox Takes Privacy Lead With HTTPS By Default

Firefox users soon won't have to worry about their browsers betraying their search queries.

Securing The Super Bowls Of Sports
Securing The Super Bowls Of Sports
(click image for larger view and for slideshow)
Mozilla has fixed a Firefox "bug" that allowed information about users' searches to be easily observed.

The "bug," reported to Mozilla by privacy researcher Christopher Soghoian over a year ago, is in fact a feature: Web browsers rely on unprotected HTTP connections for Web search, thereby allowing anyone with access to Deep Packet Inspection tools, like ISPs or governments, to monitor and censor search data.

In addition, Web browsers using HTTP connections leak search queries through the "referrer header"--the keywords entered as search queries are transmitted to the destination website when a link returned in a search results list is clicked. Websites receiving search traffic happily collect this information because it's valuable for marketers to know the search terms that brought visitors to their sites.

[ Read HP Combines PC, Printer Groups. ]

Having begun tests of HTTPS search in 2010, Google last October said it would relay search queries over encrypted HTTPS connections for all signed-in users. In so doing, the company is shielding Internet packets from prying eyes and preventing the transmission of search query keywords to websites. But the percentage of Google searches conducted by signed-in users remains quite small: Google engineer Matt Cutts has suggested that less than 10% of Google searches come from those signed-in to their Google Accounts.

Mozilla has gone a step further, enabling HTTPS by default in Firefox, thereby making privacy protection available to all users of its browser.

"We are currently testing the change to use SSL for built-in Google searches in our Firefox nightly channel," a Mozilla spokesperson said via email. "If no issues are uncovered, it will move through our Aurora and Beta release channels before eventually shipping to all our Firefox users. This will include migrating the changes to our non-English version of Firefox, as well."

So it may be a few months before the average Firefox user sees this change, which the Electronic Frontier Foundation has been trying to encourage through its HTTPS Everywhere campaign.

"This is a big deal for the 25% or so of Internet users who use Firefox to browse the Web, bringing major improvements in privacy and security," Soghoian wrote in a blog post on Wednesday.

Soghoian, incidentally, filed a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission against Google in 2010 for claiming to support privacy but failing to take action to prevent browsers from leaking search queries, which Google has acknowledged may reveal personal information.

Soghoian credits Google with supporting Mozilla's decision to implement HTTPS by default--Google has a search deal with Mozilla and will end up processing the more resource-intensive encrypted traffic--but questions why Google's Chrome engineers have allowed themselves to be beaten to the punch.

"For the Chrome team, whose browser has otherwise set the gold standard for security (and who have proposed and implemented a mechanism to enable websites to limit referrer leakage), this must be extremely frustrating and probably quite embarrassing," he wrote. "Hopefully, they will soon follow Mozilla's lead by protecting their users with HTTPS search by default."

Google did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Secure Sockets Layer isn't perfect, but there are ways to optimize it. The new Web Encryption That Works supplement from Dark Reading shows four places to start. (Free registration required.)

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Comments
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
Bprince
50%
50%
Bprince,
User Rank: Ninja
3/22/2012 | 12:26:12 AM
re: Firefox Takes Privacy Lead With HTTPS By Default
Tech savvy users will care about this, but I doubt many people will know the difference, which I suspect is one of the reasons other browser vendors haven't done it.
Brian Prince, InformationWeek/Dark Reading Comment Moderator
COVID-19: Latest Security News & Commentary
Dark Reading Staff 6/1/2020
Stay-at-Home Orders Coincide With Massive DNS Surge
Robert Lemos, Contributing Writer,  5/27/2020
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Video
Cartoon Contest
Write a Caption, Win a Starbucks Card! Click Here
Latest Comment: "Well I dont run on MacOS, so I need to take extra precautions"
Current Issue
How Cybersecurity Incident Response Programs Work (and Why Some Don't)
This Tech Digest takes a look at the vital role cybersecurity incident response (IR) plays in managing cyber-risk within organizations. Download the Tech Digest today to find out how well-planned IR programs can detect intrusions, contain breaches, and help an organization restore normal operations.
Flash Poll
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
CVE-2020-13659
PUBLISHED: 2020-06-02
address_space_map in exec.c in QEMU 4.2.0 can trigger a NULL pointer dereference related to BounceBuffer.
CVE-2020-10703
PUBLISHED: 2020-06-02
A NULL pointer dereference was found in the libvirt API responsible introduced in upstream version 3.10.0, and fixed in libvirt 6.0.0, for fetching a storage pool based on its target path. In more detail, this flaw affects storage pools created without a target path such as network-based pools like ...
CVE-2020-10739
PUBLISHED: 2020-06-02
Istio 1.4.x before 1.4.9 and Istio 1.5.x before 1.5.4 contain the following vulnerability when telemetry v2 is enabled: by sending a specially crafted packet, an attacker could trigger a Null Pointer Exception resulting in a Denial of Service. This could be sent to the ingress gateway or a sidecar, ...
CVE-2020-10136
PUBLISHED: 2020-06-02
Multiple products that implement the IP Encapsulation within IP standard (RFC 2003, STD 1) decapsulate and route IP-in-IP traffic without any validation, which could allow an unauthenticated remote attacker to route arbitrary traffic via an exposed network interface and lead to spoofing, access cont...
CVE-2020-13757
PUBLISHED: 2020-06-01
Python-RSA 4.0 ignores leading '\0' bytes during decryption of ciphertext. This could conceivably have a security-relevant impact, e.g., by helping an attacker to infer that an application uses Python-RSA, or if the length of accepted ciphertext affects application behavior (such as by causing exces...