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Deprecating Non-Secure HTTP

Today we are announcing our intent to phase out non-secure HTTP.

There’s pretty broad agreement that HTTPS is the way forward for the web.  In recent months, there have been statements from IETF, IAB (even the other IAB), W3C, and the US Government calling for universal use of encryption by Internet applications, which in the case of the web means HTTPS.

After a robust discussion on our community mailing list, Mozilla is committing to focus new development efforts on the secure web, and start removing capabilities from the non-secure web.  There are two broad elements of this plan:

  1. Setting a date after which all new features will be available only to secure websites
  2. Gradually phasing out access to browser features for non-secure websites, especially features that pose risks to users’ security and privacy.

For the first of these steps, the community will need to agree on a date, and a definition for what features are considered “new”.  For example, one definition of “new” could be “features that cannot be polyfilled”.  That would allow things like CSS and other rendering features to still be used by insecure websites, since the page can draw effects on its own (e.g., using ).  But it would still restrict qualitatively new features, such as access to new hardware capabilities.

The second element of the plan will need to be driven by trade-offs between security and web compatibility.  Removing features from the non-secure web will likely cause some sites to break.  So we will have to monitor the degree of breakage and balance it with the security benefit.  We’re also already considering softer limitations that can be placed on features when used by non-secure sites.  For example, Firefox already prevents persistent permissions for camera and microphone access when invoked from a non-secure website.  There have also been some proposals to limit the scope of non-secure cookies.

It should be noted that this plan still allows for usage of the “http” URI scheme in legacy content. With HSTS and the upgrade-insecure-requests CSP attribute, the “http” scheme can be automatically translated to “https” by the browser, and thus run securely.

Since the goal of this effort is to send a message to the web developer community that they need to be secure, our work here will be most effective if coordinated across the web community.  We expect to be making some proposals to the W3C WebAppSec Working Group soon.

Thanks to the many people who participated in the mailing list discussion of this proposal.  Let’s get the web secured!

Richard Barnes, Firefox Security Lead


 

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