Feeds

Twitter fires up stronger, anti-snooping encryption for its millions of twits

Crypto-boffinry to keep network traffic secret even if private keys swiped

The essential guide to IT transformation

Twitter says it has rolled out stronger encryption to safeguard its users' connections from eavesdroppers.

The micro-blogging ad-pusher said it has switched on "forward secrecy" for traffic to and from its desktop and mobile websites and its app interface; this goes beyond the protections afforded by traditional HTTPS.

Specifically, Twitter says it is now using the Elliptic Curve Diffie-Hellman (ECDHE) cipher suites. Simply put, these attempt to thwart a third party from decrypting intercepted network packets even if Twitter is later compromised or pressured by g-men into hand over its private keys. This is done by generating a randomized per-session key that's shared between the browser (or app) and Twitter's servers without them exchanging the key in full, even encrypted.

"On top of the usual confidentiality and integrity properties of HTTPS, forward secrecy adds a new property," Twitter security engineer Jacob Hoffman-Andrews said in a blog post.

"If an adversary is currently recording all Twitter users’ encrypted traffic, and they later crack or steal Twitter’s private keys, they should not be able to use those keys to decrypt the recorded traffic."

According to Twitter, as much as 75 per cent of its internet traffic is already established using ECDHE; the remaining 25 per cent comes from older third-party clients that do not support the key agreement protocol.

While Twitter did not mention the NSA specifically, the company underscored the need of users to maintain strongly secured connections and protect against possible surveillance by a third party that could tap into a network or listen in on a session.

Such snooping tactics were found to have been employed by the NSA to collect data from the internet's backbone fibre cabling and the lines connecting major data centers. In the wake of NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden's revelations, a number of web service providers are stepping up encryption on their packets.

Hoffman-Andrews suggested that the use of security protocols such as those introduced by Twitter should soon become the standard for security protection online. He urged other web application developers to consider placing similar protections on their own sites.

"At the end of the day, we are writing this not just to discuss an interesting piece of technology, but to present what we believe should be the new normal for web service owners," he said,

"A year and a half ago, Twitter was first served completely over HTTPS. Since then, it has become clearer and clearer how important that step was to protecting our users’ privacy." ®

Next gen security for virtualised datacentres

More from The Register

next story
e-Borders fiasco: Brits stung for £224m after US IT giant sues UK govt
Defeat to Raytheon branded 'catastrophic result'
Germany 'accidentally' snooped on John Kerry and Hillary Clinton
Dragnet surveillance picks up EVERYTHING, USA, m'kay?
Snowden on NSA's MonsterMind TERROR: It may trigger cyberwar
Plus: Syria's internet going down? That was a US cock-up
Who needs hackers? 'Password1' opens a third of all biz doors
GPU-powered pen test yields more bad news about defences and passwords
Think crypto hides you from spooks on Facebook? THINK AGAIN
Traffic fingerprints reveal all, say boffins
Rupert Murdoch says Google is worse than the NSA
Mr Burns vs. The Chocolate Factory, round three!
Microsoft cries UNINSTALL in the wake of Blue Screens of Death™
Cache crash causes contained choloric calamity
prev story

Whitepapers

5 things you didn’t know about cloud backup
IT departments are embracing cloud backup, but there’s a lot you need to know before choosing a service provider. Learn all the critical things you need to know.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Build a business case: developing custom apps
Learn how to maximize the value of custom applications by accelerating and simplifying their development.
Rethinking backup and recovery in the modern data center
Combining intelligence, operational analytics, and automation to enable efficient, data-driven IT organizations using the HP ABR approach.
Next gen security for virtualised datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.