Mozilla Still Finds Failures in Website Security, Survey Shows

July 6, 2017 @ 1:15 PM
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2 min read

The vast majority of the world’s most popular websites lack adequate security controls, according to a recent survey.

Mozilla’s April King used the Mozilla Observatory tool to conduct a survey of the top 1 million websites. She found that 93 percent failed to adopt technologies to protect against cross-site scripting (XSS) vulnerabilities, man-in-the-middle (MitM) attacks and cookie hijacking, according to her post on the Mozilla Security Blog.

Website Security Woes

Of the 13 website security features the Observatory analyzed, two of the most infrequently used were content security policy (CSP) and subresource integrity, both of which can eliminate unsafe JavaScript actions that could lead to XSS vulnerabilities. These features were given considerable weight in the Observatory score.

Other security measures evaluated in the survey include encryption and X-XSS-Protection (XXSSP) — a helpful process for minimizing XSS attacks. The report also considered public key pinning, which can limit the use of fraudulent certificates.

The Good News

The survey was not all bad news, however. In the eight months since the last major Observatory survey in October 2016, failing grades decreased by 2.8 percent, King noted. That means over 27,000 of the world’s largest sites improved. Furthermore, sites earning an A rating jumped by 142 percent, B ratings grew by 79 percent and those with a C grade increased by 90 percent.

Better security scores could be a result of more widespread security technology. For example, the number of sites that have enabled HTTPS grew 36 percent in the past eight months — meaning that 119,000 more websites are now using it.

Building a Safer Internet

Those positive vibes should continue as security awareness and controls become more attainable. “With tools that are free and easy to use, like Observatory, we can begin to see a common framework for building websites,” said King, according to Threatpost. “This type of tool is pushing awareness back into the tool chain and making it very easy for people to implement.”

The problems of securing a website remain largely unsolved. There are differing security standards, for instance — the documentation for which may be hard for site operators to find. But resources such as the Observatory tool can itemize specific steps to increase security and highlight weak points. If widely used, these tools can help create a safer internet for website operators and users alike.

Larry Loeb
Principal, PBC Enterprises

Larry Loeb has written for many of the last century's major "dead tree" computer magazines, having been, among other things, a consulting editor for BYTE mag...
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