I've previously written about the importance of TLS. There are few domains that I can imagine the protections TLS offers are more important for than the news. The idea that articles I read could be manipulated be an attacker on the network is absolutely frightening to me, and the fact that I have no privacy from anyone else on the network with respect to which articles I'm reading is similarly disturbing.
Given the obvious importance of privacy, authentication, and integrity for critical news, I wanted to see how the top newspapers did, in terms of offering, and hopefully even requiring, TLS for their websites. Here's how the top ten newspapers, by circulation in the US, did:
- The Wall Street Journal: No TLS
- The New York Times: No TLS
- USA Today: No TLS
- Los Angeles Times: No TLS
- Daily News: TLS technically available, but badly mis-renders due to blocked mixed content
- New York Post: No TLS
- The Washington Post: No TLS
- Chicago Sun-Times: TLS available, but not required
- The Denver Post: No TLS
- Chicago Tribune: No TLS
Ok, maybe print newspapers aren't the best place to look. So I combed through the Alexa Top 150, looking for news websites to see how they did, these are companies with major internet presences, surely they'll do better (I've excluded sites that were also present in the first list):
- ESPN: TLS technically available, but badly mis-renders due to blocked mixed content
- CNN: No TLS
- Fox News: No TLS
- Forbes: No TLS
- The Daily Mail UK: No TLS
- CBS Sports: TLS technically available, but badly mis-renders due to blocked mixed content
- BBC: No TLS
- NPR: No TLS
- TMZ: TLS available, but not required
- NBC News: No TLS
- ABC News: TLS technically available, but badly mis-renders due to blocked mixed content
- Time: TLS technically available, but page doesn't fully function due to blocked mixed content
There you have it. TMZ's TLS is better than almost any other top news website on the internet. [Editor's note: an earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that TMZ redirected HTTP to HTTPS. This is incorrect.]
We should all be appalled, and the news sites embarrassed, by this pathetic state of TLS deployment for critical news outlets. There is no reason for TLS not to be deployed by every single website, much less websites whose contents is this critical. It's not the '90s anymore, TLS has exactly one performance problem: it is not used widely enough.
If you, the reader, work for one of these websites, please, advocate internally for prioritizing the availability of TLS, redirecting HTTP traffic to HTTPS, and deploying HSTS.
Everyone else, please reach out to the news websites you read and ask them for TLS, to protect your privacy and the integrity and authenticity of your access to these websites.
Surely a fundamental component of a free press, ultimately necessary for a functioning democracy, is the ability of the people to access the press uninterrupted.
Hi, I'm Alex. I'm a software engineer at Mozilla, working on Firefox security. Before that I was a software engineer with the U.S. Digital Service. I'm an avid open source contributor and live in Washington, DC.