Soon, your embarrassing Wikipedia searches will be encrypted
Wikimedia announced this week it was in the process of implementing HTTPS by default across all of its sites, including Wikipedia. The HTTPS protocol will create an encrypted connection between users’ computers and Wikimedia sites, in an effort to protect transmitted data and make it difficult for governments or third parties to monitor traffic. Wikimedia will also use HTTP Strict Transport Security (HSTS) to prevent communications being sent over HTTP.
HTTPS is not new for Wikimedia. Since 2011, users have been able to implement HTTPS manually through the browser extension HTTPS Everywhere, and logged-in users have defaulted to HTTPS since 2013. Wikimedia has previously held off on defaulting to HTTPS because of the problems it could create for users with low bandwidth or poor connections, according to Motherboard. HTTPS can also affect selective censorship of websites, meaning people in certain countries where censorship is prevalent may have trouble accessing any Wikimedia sites at all.
Compared to sites like Yahoo Mail (which uses default SSL encryption) and Facebook, Wikimedia is not a high-stakes site for security. But the announcement comes at a time when user privacy and security is a growing concern across the internet. This week, the US government also announced it would also be moving to an HTTPS standard. All publicly accessible federal websites will be required to default to HTTPS by December 31st of 2016, according to a White House statement.
Wikimedia says it is in the final stages of the transition, and hopes to complete it in the upcoming weeks.