Risk
1/27/2011
11:29 AM
50%
50%

Facebook Boosts Security With SSL Encryption

Technology upgrade blocks Firesheep and eavesdropping attacks, but, for now, users must opt in.

How Firesheep Can Hijack Web Sessions
(click image for larger view)
Slideshow: How Firesheep Can Hijack Web Sessions

On Wednesday, Facebook announced that it's adding HTTPS, which uses SSL/TLS encryption, to secure all communications between browsers and Facebook Web servers. The move means that Facebook users will now see a lock icon or a green SSL address bar when using the Facebook site.

Previously, Facebook used HTTPS only on pages that required users to enter a password. Now, extending HTTPS to all pages means better security because tools such as Firesheep -- an automated browser extension able to hijack sessions with Web 2.0 sites -- as well as packet sniffers will no longer work against the site.

There's only one catch: HTTPS won't be enabled by default. According to Facebook security engineer Alex Rice, "we hope to offer HTTPS as a default whenever you are using Facebook sometime in the future."

In the interim, the feature will shortly -- over the next few weeks -- become available to all users. To activate it, they'll have to manually select it on the "advanced security features" page, which is located under the "account security" section of the "account settings" page.

Rice warned that users may see some issues, at least in the short term. "Encrypted pages take longer to load, so you may notice that Facebook is slower using HTTPS. In addition, some Facebook features, including many third-party applications, are not currently supported in HTTPS. We'll be working hard to resolve these remaining issues."

But based on other Web sites' experiences, any slowdowns should be minor, as long as Facebook correctly implements the protocol. For example, in July 2010, Google software engineer Matt Cutts posted an assessment of Google's experience. In brief: "If you stop reading now you only need to remember one thing: SSL/TLS is not computationally expensive anymore."

Google made HTTPS non-optional for all Gmail users in January 2010 as a way to boost security after finding that the protocol required no additional hardware and consumed very few resources. "On our production frontend machines, SSL/TLS accounts for less than 1% of the CPU load, less than 10 KB of memory per connection, and less than 2% of network overhead," said Cutts.

Facebook faced criticism for not following Google's lead more quickly, especially after the arrival last year of Firesheep. Its author, Eric Butler, said he built the tool to highlight the inherent vulnerability of using Facebook on an unencrypted Wi-Fi network.

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Comments
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Video
Cartoon Contest
Write a Caption, Win a Starbucks Card! Click Here
Latest Comment: "Why else would HR ask me if I have a handicap?"
Current Issue
The Changing Face of Identity Management
Mobility and cloud services are altering the concept of user identity. Here are some ways to keep up.
Flash Poll
Slideshows
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
CVE-2013-7445
Published: 2015-10-15
The Direct Rendering Manager (DRM) subsystem in the Linux kernel through 4.x mishandles requests for Graphics Execution Manager (GEM) objects, which allows context-dependent attackers to cause a denial of service (memory consumption) via an application that processes graphics data, as demonstrated b...

CVE-2015-4948
Published: 2015-10-15
netstat in IBM AIX 5.3, 6.1, and 7.1 and VIOS 2.2.x, when a fibre channel adapter is used, allows local users to gain privileges via unspecified vectors.

CVE-2015-5660
Published: 2015-10-15
Cross-site request forgery (CSRF) vulnerability in eXtplorer before 2.1.8 allows remote attackers to hijack the authentication of arbitrary users for requests that execute PHP code.

CVE-2015-6003
Published: 2015-10-15
Directory traversal vulnerability in QNAP QTS before 4.1.4 build 0910 and 4.2.x before 4.2.0 RC2 build 0910, when AFP is enabled, allows remote attackers to read or write to arbitrary files by leveraging access to an OS X (1) user or (2) guest account.

CVE-2015-6333
Published: 2015-10-15
Cisco Application Policy Infrastructure Controller (APIC) 1.1j allows local users to gain privileges via vectors involving addition of an SSH key, aka Bug ID CSCuw46076.

Dark Reading Radio
Archived Dark Reading Radio

The cybersecurity profession struggles to retain women (figures range from 10 to 20 percent). It's particularly worrisome for an industry with a rapidly growing number of vacant positions.

So why does the shortage of women continue to be worse in security than in other IT sectors? How can men in infosec be better allies for women; and how can women be better allies for one another? What is the industry doing to fix the problem -- what's working, and what isn't?

Is this really a problem at all? Are the low numbers simply an indication that women do not want to be in cybersecurity, and is it possible that more women will never want to be in cybersecurity? How many women would we need to see in the industry to declare success?

Join Dark Reading senior editor Sara Peters and guests Angela Knox of Cloudmark, Barrett Sellers of Arbor Networks, Regina Wallace-Jones of Facebook, Steve Christey Coley of MITRE, and Chris Roosenraad of M3AAWG on Wednesday, July 13 at 1 p.m. Eastern Time to discuss all this and more.