Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure (HTTPS) has evolved into the de facto standard for secure Web browsing. Through the certificate-based authentication protocol, Web services and Internet users first authenticate one another ("shake hands") using a TLS/SSL certificate, encrypt Web communications end-to-end, and show a padlock in the browser to indicate a communication is secure. In recent years, HTTPS has become an essential technology to protect social, political, and economic activities online.
At the same time, widely reported security incidents—such as DigiNotar's breach, Apple's #gotofail, and OpenSSL's Heartbleed—have exposed systemic security vulnerabilities of HTTPS to a global audience. The Edward Snowden revelations—notably around operation BULLRUN, MUSCULAR, and the lesser-known FLYING PIG program to query certificate metadata on a dragnet scale—have driven the point home that HTTPS is both a major target of government hacking and eavesdropping, as well as an effective measure against dragnet content surveillance when Internet traffic traverses global networks. HTTPS, in short, is an absolutely critical but fundamentally flawed cybersecurity technology.
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