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Use https securely

Thursday, June 7th, 2012


Nowadays everyone understands how easy to hijack unsecured http session. So, https is the key for secure web. Sometime people don’t use https for small project due to price of certificates, http://www.startssl.com/ solves this problem, they give (Class 1) certificates for free, and verified (Class 2) have ridiculous cost. Therefore the only problem is errors of https usage.

keep cookie safe

The cookie can be stolen before redirect to https, to avoid cookie theft you need to use ‘Secure’ flag. It instructs browser to send cookie only thru https connection.

Set-Cookie: mycookie=somevalue; path=/securesite/; Expires=12/12/2345; Secure;

make correct redirect

When certificate is adjusted for usage with application server you need to redirect users from http://mysite.com to https://mysite.com. The redirect opens vulnerability as an attack can be performed before redirect.

The HTTP/1.1 specification (rfc2616) informs us that http responsе codes 301 (“moved permanently”) и 302 (“found”/”moved temporarily”) can be cashed by browser. So by using of Expires or Cache-Control max-age with big expiration dates we can avoid redirects.

Expires: Mon, 01 Jan 2099 00:00:00 GMT

Another idea is usage of Strict-Transport-Security header. It informs browser that website accessible only thru https. All http quires will be rewritten on client-side by browser.

Strict-Transport-Security: max-age=31556926;

It tells browser that support Strict-Transport-Securityto use only https for particular site during 1 year. At this time Firefox and Chrome support it, Opera waits till this standard change type to ‘agreed’ or ‘established’.

don’t mix content

You should ensure that you don’t use content from http sites. Often people forget that they use CDN to load libraries or Google analytics. So check for each http entry on your site and change it to https.

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