Twitter is to begin switching user sessions to https by default.
A tweet from the micro-blogging website's global PR page announced that it was starting to turn HTTPS on by default for some users, after it introduced optional HTTPS sessions earlier this year. Then users had to enable HTTPS manually.
The news follows another recent announcement from Yahoo, where it said that it was ‘committed to ultimately bringing a solution to the marketplace', despite not offering HTTPS for webmail.
In a statement posted on Twitter around its lack of HTTPS for webmail, Yahoo! said: “Yahoo! is committed to protecting the security and privacy of online communications through our products. The Yahoo! Mail team is actively engaged in developing and testing more secure platforms for our users that keep performance top of mind. This is a complex and challenging area but Yahoo! is committed to ultimately bringing a solution to the marketplace.”
HTTPS, and SSL level encryption which the traffic is sent through, was last prominently in the news when the Mozilla Firefox extension Firesheep demonstrated the ease at which HTTP sessions could be ‘sniffed' and hijacked. That also made it possible for a third party to impersonate users by hijacking their sessions.
Ivan Ristic, director of engineering at Qualys, was asked if he felt whether more websites should be offering secure connectivity. He said: “Our research found that most sites fail to use SSL properly, which means that they are simply not secure. We are not even talking about getting everything right, most sites fail to get the basics right.
“The only way to be secure is to have sites that have 100 per cent SSL coverage, but such sites are still very rare. I feel that more sites should be offering secure connectivity but even those sites that claim to secure HTTPS don't do it well enough to achieve real security.”
Asked if he felt that Firesheep had helped raise the awareness of SSL, Ristic said he felt that Firesheep helped a lot.
“If you look at the SSL/TLS security community, we've been talking about how important it is to use 100 per cent secure communication to protect web applications. Despite that, very few sites and developers were actually paying attention,” he said.
“When Firesheep appeared, it showed how easy it actually was to hack non-SSL sessions and people responded to the threat. My conclusion is that developers, on average, are simply not aware of security issues and they need a highly public event to notice them.”