Twitter Implements Forward Secrecy; Says It 'Should Be The New Normal'

from the protecting-your-privacy dept

There’s been a lot of talk recently about getting more web companies to look at using forward secrecy to make HTTPS connections even more secure. That link from Parker Higgins at EFF explains the basics. It appears that folks at Twitter were paying attention, as they’ve now announced how they’ve implemented forward secrecy to better protect privacy. In practical terms, this means that if someone (hello NSA peoples!) is recording all encrypted traffic today, and then are later able to crack or steal Twitter’s private encryption keys, they shouldn’t be able to go back and decrypt the stored data. That’s as opposed to the way many now implement security, in which if the key gets out, it’s basically game over for privacy on previously encrypted files.

The Twitter blog post on this actually goes into a fairly detailed discussion about the technology choices they made, and the trade-offs involved. It’s pretty clear this wasn’t just written by a PR person. That said, security researcher Nicholas Weaver notes some potential issues with Twitter’s transport encryption choices, noting that there are some indications that RC4 is no longer secure, even when used in TLS. Hopefully further changes can make it even more secure.

That said, the Twitter blog post makes a key point towards the end, about how greater and greater security, especially against the ability of an entity like the NSA, needs to be “the new normal.”

At the end of the day, we are writing this not just to discuss an interesting piece of technology, but to present what we believe should be the new normal for web service owners. A year and a half ago, Twitter was first served completely over HTTPS. Since then, it has become clearer and clearer how important that step was to protecting our users’ privacy.

If you are a webmaster, we encourage you to implement HTTPS for your site and make it the default. If you already offer HTTPS, ensure your implementation is hardened with HTTP Strict Transport Security, secure cookies, certificate pinning, and Forward Secrecy. The security gains have never been more important to implement.

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Companies: twitter

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Comments on “Twitter Implements Forward Secrecy; Says It 'Should Be The New Normal'”

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out_of_the_blue says:

Here's the payload: "secure cookies, certificate pinning"

Those will be NECESSARY and PERMANENT, which will allow better TRACKING. So this is actually stealth way to force everyone to be tracked, NOT about security.

And a communication service in which presumably one wants the messages widely read is contrary to encryption! To me: sense no makes.

Cerf – who is Google’s chief internet preacher – added: “Privacy may be an anomaly.”


Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Here's the payload: "secure cookies, certificate pinning"

Those will be NECESSARY and PERMANENT, which will allow better TRACKING. So this is actually stealth way to force everyone to be tracked, NOT about security.

You have to work extra hard to so totally misunderstand things. I mean, you didn’t just misunderstand something, you took it to a new level of blatant wrongness.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Here's the payload: "secure cookies, certificate pinning"

Secure cookies refer to Secure and HttpOnly attributes.

The Secure attribute is meant to keep cookie communication limited to encrypted transmission, directing browsers to use cookies only via secure/encrypted connections. If a webserver sets a cookie with a secure attribute from a non-secure connection, the cookie can still be intercepted when it is sent to the user by man-in-the-middle attacks.

The HttpOnly attribute directs browsers not to expose cookies through channels other than HTTP (and HTTPS) requests. An HttpOnly cookie is not accessible via non-HTTP methods, such as calls via JavaScript (e.g., referencing “document.cookie”), and therefore cannot be stolen easily via cross-site scripting (a pervasive attack technique[29]). Among others, Facebook and Google use the HttpOnly attribute extensively.

The certificate pinning, may or may not be used for tracking by one entity but it reduces the tracking by others meaning instead of everyone being able to track you only that one entity you contacted will be able to do it.

So please enlighten us all, how is this bad at all? I be surprised if you actually can backup your big mouth there.

Anonymous Coward says:

to prevent passive wiretapping

why would twitter want this encryption ?? tweets are public knowledge anyway, what is the point of encryption ???

Although writers publish everything, the encryption protects the readers against wiretapping by 3rd parties. This forces them to use active MitM attacks. See why reading anonymous is important.

Only twitter learns what readers are interested in. To protect against that, readers need to read without all cookies, supercookies, Etag-headers, caching headers and guard all other browser fingerprinting attacks. Or use Tor.

Still an improvement.

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