Reddit defaults to HTTPS as Internet titans rush to embrace encryption

Reddit is the latest site to go all-in on SSL/TLS encryption making it the default for all users before the end of the month.

Better web security has become so commonplace that most sites don't make a big deal about it anymore. Reddit quietly announced on Tuesday it would soon move all users over to HTTPS encryption by default.

The switch over officially begins on June 29 for the self-declared front page of the Internet. Reddit has offered its complete site via HTTPS as an option since September 2014.

Reddit is just the latest major website to move to HTTPS by default, a movement that has been ongoing for at least five years but accelerated following the Snowden leaks. Microsoft's Bing announced on Monday it would encrypt all search traffic by default this summer. A few days earlier Wikimedia, the organization behind Wikipedia, revealed a similar effort. Netflix also plans to add HTTPS for all its pages before the end of the year, and Plex announced HTTPS for all users earlier in June.

While it's far from perfect, many sites are tightening up their security. In March 2014, Google removed the option to turn off HTTPS encryption for Gmail. That same year, Yahoo encrypted all connections between its data centers--a move Google made in 2013--making good on its promise to encrypt everything, including Yahoo Mail. Google also began giving sites without HTTPS lower search rankings.

More recently, Congress began looking at SSL and its potential weaknesses.

Why this matters: Knowing how expansive online government surveillance is, HTTPS is a critical tool for retaining privacy. It can't stop your ISP from knowing which sites you visit, but it can stop anyone from passively reading your traffic. Privacy isn't the only reason to add HTTPS, however, as HTTPS can help defend against malicious attacks such as session hijacking.

More to come

On top of all the HTTPS activity, many companies are also making other efforts to encrypt data. Both Google and Yahoo are working on user-enabled PGP encryption for Gmail and Yahoo Mail, and Facebook added an OpenPGP option to its notification emails earlier in June.

While HTTPS encryption is common among sites with sensitive logins such as banks, email services, search engines and social networks, many sites and blogs don't support HTTPS largely due to the technical and financial hurdles involved. That may change later this year, however, as the Let's Encrypt project begins offering free SSL/TLS certificates this fall.

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