The data that is transmitted between the website server and the person’s browser is often encrypted with HTTPS. This protection helps to prevent the information from being received and read by any third party as hackers or criminals. If the data is not protected there will be no “S” after HTTP. In most cases the user is redirected to the encrypted page, however, it happens after the initial request. The developers of DuckDuckGo offer a better way to protect the users’ data.
The Internet privacy company DuckDuckGo is launching a new feature called Smarter Encryption. It combines the tracker blocking service and private search capabilities with the tool that enables the user to apply the encryption for a larger number of websites that he or she usually visits. The new feature by DuckDuckGo is available on the mobile browser for iOS and Android, and through DuckDuckGo extension for Chrome and Firefox. Also, the other websites can adapt the feature due to the open-source software.
The founder of DuckDuckGo, Gabriel Weinberg says the people tend to diminish the problem because many websites redirect the users to the encrypted pages automatically. However, there is a great number of sites that work without redirection. DuckDuckGo aimed to create a more comprehensive solution to improve user privacy and web security.
The company is not the only organization that provides the solution to cope with HTTP encryption upgrading issues. There are Chromium’s HSTS Preload List and HTTPS Everywhere browser extension that provide similar functions to the users. The working principle of these offerings is the same. They are compatible with the different browsers including:
- Internet Explorer;
However, DuckDuckGo has one important difference. Instead of filling the lists of the upgradeable web pages manually, the extension populates it automatically. The feature applies the smarts that are used by the private service by DuckDuckGo. When the website supports the HTTP, the crawler automatically sets it as the default feature for all the visitors of the site who use SmartEncryption.
In comparison to the other above-mentioned tools that work on 150,000 websites, SmartEncryption is already available on more than 12 million sites. Due to the feature, you may reach for the encrypted version of the webpage from the start instead of visiting the given website.
The strategy that was chosen by DuckDuckGo was not easy to develop because of the variety of encryption implementations on the Internet. Some websites were encrypting only certain pages, so when the SmartEncryprion tried to upgrade the user’s connection, the functionality might break. That is why the developers applied a lot of visual tests to check how the pages look after using the encryption to resolve the bugs. The beta-version of SmartEncryption was released in the year 2018 and after a number of tests, the company launched the final version.
The pages that require the encryption feature the most are social media platforms and search engines. Both types of pages have a lot of user-generated content and in some cases do not contain “HTTPS”.
For example, the image-sharing service Pinterest is a fully-encrypted platform but the website contains the links that lead to the outside websites. Once the platform implemented the feature by DuckDuckGo the amount of the outbound traffic that routes through HTTPS increased by 33%. Pinterest commented that when they applied SmartEncryption to 1% of their users, it did not affect the performance of the social network.
DuckDuckGo will apply its new feature SmartEncryption to more and more web pages over time to provide safety to Internet users. Now the Internet has a lot of privacy holes and the issues related to HTTPS protection are a good example. SmartEncryption helps to solve some of the problems related to the users’ privacy on the Internet.