Wikipedia Crew Plotting Anti-NSA Snooping Security Boost

The Wikimedia Foundation is speeding up its implementation of SSL encryption in light of surveillance revelations from whistleblower Edward Snowden, claiming it had been the target of one of the programs.

The group, which manages Wikipedia, said it appeared to have been “specifically targeted by XKeyscore”, a program that assembles metadata on targets selected by the National Security Agency (NSA).

Wikipedia security boost

It had already planned to introduce SSL to Wikipedia, meaning users would see HTTPS in the site’s URL, telling them their web use was protected. But now it will be “speeding up these efforts”, over concerns about XKeyscore.

“Our current architecture cannot handle HTTPS by default, but we’ve been incrementally making changes to make it possible,” said Ryan Lane, operations engineer at the Wikimedia Foundation.

From 21 August, it plans to implement HTTPS for login for Wikimedia users. HTTPS will continue after login too. Later in the year it will introduce HTTPS for anonymous users by default, “gradually moving toward soft-enabling it on the larger projects”, meaning search engines will start to return HTTPS pages rather than HTTP results.

The Foundation will also consider bringing in perfect forward secrecy, designed to protect the private key used in typical Diffie-Hellman key exchanges.

It may start to force redirecting users from HTTP pages to the HTTPS versions in the future.

“Until HTTPS is enabled by default, we urge privacy-conscious users to use HTTPS Everywhere or Tor,” Lane added.

The NSA snooping saga continues, with fresh claims the US agency has paid GCHQ £100 million for cooperation on surveillance measures, including the build of listening posts.GCHQ workers had been told to pull their weight and be seen to be doing so, according to the leaks handed to the Guardian.

Snowden, meanwhile, has been granted asylum in Russia for a year.

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Thomas Brewster

Tom Brewster is TechWeek Europe's Security Correspondent. He has also been named BT Information Security Journalist of the Year in 2012 and 2013.

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