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
121 Pieces of Malware Flagged on NSA Employee's Home Computer
Kelly Jackson Higgins, Executive Editor at Dark Reading,  11/16/2017
Mobile Malware Incidents Hit 100% of Businesses
Dawn Kawamoto, Associate Editor, Dark Reading,  11/17/2017
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Video
Cartoon
Current Issue
Managing Cyber-Risk
An online breach could have a huge impact on your organization. Here are some strategies for measuring and managing that risk.
Flash Poll
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
CVE-2017-0290
Published: 2017-05-09
NScript in mpengine in Microsoft Malware Protection Engine with Engine Version before 1.1.13704.0, as used in Windows Defender and other products, allows remote attackers to execute arbitrary code or cause a denial of service (type confusion and application crash) via crafted JavaScript code within ...

CVE-2016-10369
Published: 2017-05-08
unixsocket.c in lxterminal through 0.3.0 insecurely uses /tmp for a socket file, allowing a local user to cause a denial of service (preventing terminal launch), or possibly have other impact (bypassing terminal access control).

CVE-2016-8202
Published: 2017-05-08
A privilege escalation vulnerability in Brocade Fibre Channel SAN products running Brocade Fabric OS (FOS) releases earlier than v7.4.1d and v8.0.1b could allow an authenticated attacker to elevate the privileges of user accounts accessing the system via command line interface. With affected version...

CVE-2016-8209
Published: 2017-05-08
Improper checks for unusual or exceptional conditions in Brocade NetIron 05.8.00 and later releases up to and including 06.1.00, when the Management Module is continuously scanned on port 22, may allow attackers to cause a denial of service (crash and reload) of the management module.

CVE-2017-0890
Published: 2017-05-08
Nextcloud Server before 11.0.3 is vulnerable to an inadequate escaping leading to a XSS vulnerability in the search module. To be exploitable a user has to write or paste malicious content into the search dialogue.