Google latest effort to boost the number of website deployed as HTTPS is a new “security panel” in Chrome to help developers pinpoint anything preventing them from “green padlock” status in the browser.
In the aftermath of Edward Snowden’s leaks about government surveillance, Google’s Chrome Security team proposed marking all HTTP websites as “affirmatively non-secure”. The proposal made some sense, since HTTP sites do nothing to defeat surveillance attacks, yet are the only occasion when all browsers are guaranteed not to warn users that there is no security.
HTTPS sites on the other hand do encrypt connections to users and have had a digital certificate for the site validated by a Certificate Authority. Yet deploying HTTPS correctly can be challenging. For example, Chrome marks an HTTPS site with mixed content — meaning it has secure and non-secure resources — with a yellow triangle on a padlock, which could be more alarming to users than no warning at all.
Chrome doesn’t yet mark HTTP sites as non-secure, but over the coming days Google will be rolling out a new set of tool for developers in Chrome 48, called “security panel”, that should help them iron out any problems standing in the way of a green padlock symbol.
Currently, the only tool available for developers to debug their insecure connection is the connection tab available to general users when they click on the lock icon next the URL. According to Google, the information available in the tab has been too complicated for most users and too basic for most developers. Also, it hasn’t been clear what caused the downgrade from a green padlock.
The panel will offer developers an overview of common problems relating to the digital certificate, the connection and subresources. These include whether the site has mixed content, whether it using a trusted and valid server certificate, and whether a connection is using an adequately secure protocol, key change and cipher suite.
The new tool will also offer developers a filtered view of the Network Panel to help identify exactly where mixed content is coming from.
Security panel is Google’s latest effort to support its HTTPS everywhere campaign. It began using HTTPS as a ranking signal in search in 2014 and in December tweaked its indexing system to crawl for the HTTPS equivalents of HTTP pages and if the content matches but one is using HTTPS, it will elect the page using the more secure protocol.