Google Adding Some TLDs to Browser HSTS List Automatically

Apparently, Google is automatically adding some of its TLDs to browser HSTS lists–i.e., it is impossible to access any registered domains on those TLDs without using SSL on modern browsers.

As someone who likes to see as much Internet traffic encrypted by default, I think that’s kind of cool. As someone who owns quite a few domains on those TLDs, it is annoying that this was never disclosed when I purchased those domains.

Yes, HSTS is very good, but this can create some unexpected problems. There are occasionally situations where you may need to do an http call in the process of configuring or testing a site, and registrars need to be more upfront that this is not going to be possible with these Google-administered TLDs.

So Google has built HTTPS protection directly into a handful of top-level domains—the suffixes at the end of a URL like “.com.” Google added its internal .google top-level domain to the preload list in 2015 as a sort of pilot, and in 2017 the company started using the idea more extensively with its privately run suffixes “.foo” and “.dev.” But in May 2018, Google launched public registrations of “.app,” opening up automatic, preloaded encryption to anyone that wanted it. In February of this year, it opened up .dev to the public as well.

Which means that today, when you register a site through Google that uses “.app,” “.dev,” or “.page,” that page and any others you build off it are automatically added to a list that all mainstream browsers, including Chrome, Safari, Edge, Firefox, and Opera, check when they’re setting up encrypted web connections. It’s called the HTTPS Strict Transport Security preload list, or HSTS, and browsers use it to know which sites should only load as encrypted HTTPS automatically, rather than falling back to unencrypted HTTP in some circumstances. In short, it fully automates what can otherwise be a tricky scheme to set up.

“Web security stuff is complicated, and not every end user or even every site creator understands all of the complexities,” says Ben Fried, Google’s chief information officer. “The thing that I like about using these new top-level domains in this way is it dramatically decreases the burden on each site creator to get to the best practices. Nothing has to be done, because every subdomain in that top-level domain is HTTPS only and the browser won’t even try to access it any other way.”

The breakthrough moment came from engineer Ben McIlwain’s realization that an entire top-level domain could go on the preload list. “Internally it took off from there,” Fried says. “We realized these are two things that had developed independently that all of a sudden were way more powerful when combined.”

It Is 2019, and ESPN Still Doesn’t Give a S— About Its Users’ Security

Why the f— is ESPN still not using TLS in 2019? This is extremely irresponsible behavior from a company owned by one of the largest media companies in the world (Disney). There are zero excuses for putting its users at risk this way.

Mozilla’s Cartoon Intro to DNS over HTTPS

Mozilla’s Lin Clark has a cartoon guide to DNS over HTTPS that . . . well . . . bottom line, there is no way to talk about DNS over HTTPS without getting fairly technical (one of the subheads on Lin’s lengthy pice is “What isn’t fixed by TRR with DoH?”) but this is probably as close as anyone is going to get.

A cartoon intro to DNS over HTTPS
A cartoon intro to DNS over HTTPS

Let’s Encrypt Now Issues > 50 Percent of the SSL Certs Used by the Top Million Websites

In April, Let’s Encrypt crossed the threshhold of issuing more than 50 percent of the SSL certificates for sites in NetTrack’s database of the top million websites.

NetTrack SSL Issuer Chart
NetTrack SSL Issuer Chart

Let’s Encrypt to Offer Wildcard Certificates in 2018

Let’s Encrypt announced today that they plan to offer wildcard certificates beginning in January 2018.

A wildcard certificate can secure any number of subdomains of a base domain (e.g. * This allows administrators to use a single certificate and key pair for a domain and all of its subdomains, which can make HTTPS deployment significantly easier.

Wildcard certificates will be offered free of charge via our upcoming ACME v2 API endpoint. We will initially only support base domain validation via DNS for wildcard certificates, but may explore additional validation options over time. We encourage people to ask any questions they might have about wildcard certificate support on our community forums.

That is excellent news. Wildcard certificates are fairly expensive. I’m paying $94/year for a Comodo PositiveSSL wildcard cert through a reseller. If you go directly to Comodo, they want $249/year which is going to be well out of the range of a lot of people to afford.

It will be interesting to see what the uptake is on this, as I assume wildcard certificates are a major profit center for certificate authorities. It would also be interesting to see an analysis of what effect Let’s Encrypt has had on the economics of CA’s already.

Are those who use Let’s Encrypt large companies and individuals who weren’t using SSL at all beforehand, or is a significant portion of that activity from people who opted for a free alternative.

I know I was at the point where I needed to buy a single domain certificate last year and opted for Let’s Encrypt because of its low, low price of nothing.

Let’s Encrypt Reaches 100 Million Certificates Milestone

Let’s Encrypt announced this week that they’d passed the 100 million certificates issued threshhold,

Let’s Encrypt has reached a milestone: we’ve now issued more than 100,000,000 certificates. This number reflects at least a few things:

First, it illustrates the strong demand for our services. We’d like to thank all of the sysadmins, web developers, and everyone else managing servers for prioritizing protecting your visitors with HTTPS.

Second, it illustrates our ability to scale. I’m incredibly proud of the work our engineering teams have done to make this volume of issuance possible. I’m also very grateful to our operational partners, including IdenTrust, Akamai, and Sumo Logic.

Third, it illustrates the power of automated certificate management. If getting and managing certificates from Let’s Encrypt always required manual steps there is simply no way we’d be able to serve as many sites as we do. We’d like to thank our community for creating a wide range of clients for automating certificate issuance and management.

The press release also notes that when Let’s Encrypt began issuing certificates, Firefox’s Telemetry report found that

. . . less than 40% of page loads on the Web used HTTPS . . . In the 19 months since we launched, encrypted page loads have gone up by 18%, to nearly 58%.

A very good trend.