SSL/TLS best practices for websites

Keeping Secrets

10. HTTP

Although SSL and TLS have been developed to secure any connection-oriented protocol, the most important need was that of protecting HTTP. Still today, encrypted access to websites is the most common use for TLS. However, the web has evolved from a simple system for the delivery of documents to a complex application platform.

10.1 No MixedContent

Encryption is not included in the HTTP repertoire. Therefore, many websites do not use encryption. Often the reason is the extra effort and the expertise required. Additionally, some web browsers complicate the situation by allowing providers to mix secure and unsecured content within an HTML page.

For security reasons, it is best to set up transport encryption for the complete domain name, including its sub-domains. The use of HTTP Strict Transport Security (HSTS) also prevents mixed content from the same domain, and Content Security Policy prevents insecure content from third parties.

10.2 CookieSecurity

HTTP cookies that the developer do not declare as secure, rip a hole in the security concept. An attacker on the network can still read cookies on fully encrypted websites. A point that deserves special attention in quality assurance of web projects. Also, casual cookie rules allow an attacker to inject cookies into other web applications.

An attacker will typically use an application on a related subdomain; that is, attack through or use a fictitious subdomain. Although this technique does not give the attacker confidential information, a skilled attacker might be able to elevate their privileges through the application.

As an antidote, cookie encryption or integrity checking is recommended. Although cookie encryption is more secure, you can use integrity checking as alternative if the cookies need to be readable for JavaScript.

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