Why Wikimedia Is Doubling Down on Data Encryption With HTTPS

June 17, 2015 @ 12:55 PM
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2 min read

Wikipedia is usually considered one of the most comprehensive online resources in the world, and it may soon become one of the safest thanks to the Wikimedia Foundation’s decision to implement HTTPS data encryption across all its sites.

As TechCrunch reported, Wikimedia’s move represents the next step in a process it began two years ago. Until now, data encryption via HTTPS has only been used by default for those who had set up an account and signed in. Updates to the organization’s code base, infrastructure changes and the HTTPS Strict Transport Security will extend this level of protection even to countries where it would have been difficult or impossible in the past.

For most everyday Web users, data encryption will mainly be visible by the green lock icon when they visit sites like Wikipedia, The Next Web said. For IT departments or CISOs who want a better understanding of how it is improving security, the organization is expected to release documentation that will answer the most critical questions. It may even encourage other enterprises to follow suit.

In some cases, better data encryption can come with trade-offs in site performance. As Infosecurity Magazine noted, however, Wikimedia Foundation has configured its use of HTTPS to ensure Wikipedia pages don’t load more slowly, for example. If the user experience for Wikimedia users remains strong or even improves, it would be a good case study in why extensive testing is such a critical component of adopting measures such as HTTPS.

Forbes suggested that Wikimedia is making data encryption a priority in part to keep in step with the U.S. federal government, which is also mandating the use of HTTPS for all agency websites. Better data security will also potentially ensure privacy isn’t affected by those who attempt to spy or censor online information that is contributed to user-generated sites like Wikipedia.

The more everyday people flock to a set of highly popular online services, the more steps like data encryption will become a security expectation that must be met. The Verge pointed to models such as Facebook and even Yahoo Mail, which uses SSL encryption rather than HTTPS. This kind of protection may not be what everyday consumers ask for, but enterprises are starting to realize it’s what most of them need.

Shane Schick
Writer & Editor
Shane Schick is a contributor for SecurityIntelligence.