Twitter offers HTTPS to boost security
Twitter users can now use the HTTPS protocol across the site, as yet another web company opts for better security for its users.
However, like Hotmail, Twitter isn’t turning the added security protocol on by default and it doesn’t yet work via mobile browsers.
Twitter has previously offered a secured version of the site by visiting https://twitter.com, but users can now request to the added layer of protection via the Settings menu.
“This will improve the security of your account and better protect your information if you’re using Twitter over an unsecured internet connection, like a public Wi-Fi network, where someone may be able to eavesdrop on your site activity,” explained communications manager Carolyn Penner in the Twitter blog.
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Penner said Twitter hoped to make HTTPS the default setting “in the future”, but didn’t explain why that wasn’t happening now.
The HTTPS setting is already the default for the login page, and when using the Twitter app on iPhones and iPads.
However, Penner warned that even if a user has selected the “always on” HTTPS, it doesn’t carry over to mobile browsers or to all third-party apps.
If mobile users want the added security layer, they need to use https://mobile.twitter.com until the company finds a way to share the setting to phones. “If you use a third-party application, you should check to see if that app offers HTTPS,” she added.
While email and retail sites may seem more obvious places for added security than Twitter – where the tweets are supposed to be public – Sophos researcher Paul Ducklin advised anyone using the site to switch on HTTPS.
When users sign into the site, Twitter sends a session cookie to the browser to keep you logged in. “You login once, and the session cookie identifies you for the rest of the current session,” said Ducklin on the Sophos blog.
“Unfortunately, if you login to Twitter over unencrypted Wi-Fi – such as at a coffee shop or an airport lounge – then anyone who can sniff your session cookie can pretend to be you,” he said. “That means they can post tweets as you. And you don’t want that.”