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posted by NCommander on Monday August 08 2016, @12:00PM   Printer-friendly
from the now-with-a+-scores dept.

So after an extended period of inactivity, I've finally decided to jump back into working on SoylentNews and rehash (the code that powers the site). As such, I've decided to scratch some long-standing itches. The first (and easiest) to deploy was HSTS to SoylentNews. What is HSTS you may ask?

HSTS stands for HTTP Strict Transport Security and is a special HTTP header that signifies that a site should only be connected to over HTTPS and causes the browser to automatically load encrypted versions of a website should it see a regular URL. We've forbid non-SSL connections to SN for over a year, but without HSTS in place, a man-in-the-middle downgrade attack was possible by intercepting the initial insecure page load.

One of the big views I have towards SoylentNews is we should be representative of "best practices" on the internet. To that end, we deployed IPv6 publicly last year, and went HTTPS-by-default not long after that. Deploying HSTS continues this trend, and I'm working towards implementing other good ideas that rarely seem to see the light of day.

Check past the break for more technical details.


As part of prepping for HSTS deployment, I went through every site in our public DNS records, and made sure they all have valid SSL certificates, and are redirecting to HTTPS by default. Much to my embarrassment, I found that several of our public facing sites lacked SSL support at all, or had self-signed certificates and broken SSL configurations. This has been rectified.

Let this be a lesson to everyone. While protecting your "main site" is always a good idea, make sure when going through and securing your infrastructure that you check every public IP and public hostname to make sure something didn't slip through the gaps. If you're running SSLLabs against your website, I highly recommend you scan all the subjectAlternativeNames listed in your certificate. Apache and nginx can provide different SSL options for different VHosts, and its very important to make sure all of them have a sane and consistent configuration.

Right now, HSTS is deployed only on the main site, without "includeSubdomains". The reason for this is I wanted to make sure I didn't miss any non-SSL capable sites, and I'm still working on getting our CentOS 6.7 box up to best-practices (unfortunately, the version of Apache it ships with is rather dated and doesn't support OSCP stapling. I'll be fixing this, but just haven't gotten around to it yet).

Once I've fixed that, and am happy with the state of the site, SN, and her subdomains will be submitted for inclusion into browser preload lists. I'll run an article when that submission happens and when we're accepted. I hope to have another article this week on backend tinkering and proposed site updates.

Until then, happy hacking!
~ NCommander

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  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Monday August 08 2016, @12:23PM

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday August 08 2016, @12:23PM (#385258)


    All the security checking is great. However, when I clicked on this post (while logged in), to read your full text, it logged me out. And gave me the default red-bar color scheme.

    While the login box displays, it wouldn't log me in as long as I'm viewing this article, "SoylentNews Deploys HSTS and Mandates HTTPS Everywhere". Tried twice to make sure,

    As soon as I go back to the home page, I can log in again....

    Update, after I clicked Preview (only option when not logged in), I appear to be logged in again and my nice VT100 green screen re-appeared! Now I have the normal choices (including check box for posting AC).


  • (Score: 2) by NCommander on Monday August 08 2016, @12:30PM

    by NCommander (2) Subscriber Badge <> on Monday August 08 2016, @12:30PM (#385261) Homepage Journal

    That's extremely unusual esp. given your post popped up as AC. We haven't changed anything except the HSTS header. It's possible your login cookies are screwed up or you're getting kicked into the varnish cache.

    Can you try doing a full log out and log in to see if it clears it, and post your SN username so I can check the logtokens table.

    Still always moving
    • (Score: 2) by NCommander on Monday August 08 2016, @12:31PM

      by NCommander (2) Subscriber Badge <> on Monday August 08 2016, @12:31PM (#385262) Homepage Journal

      Update: did you intentionally post that as AC? I scanned your SUBID (hash of your IP address), and I see one account that has modded recently, and an AC that posted recently.

      Still always moving
      • (Score: 2) by carguy on Monday August 08 2016, @12:44PM

        by carguy (568) Subscriber Badge on Monday August 08 2016, @12:44PM (#385267)

        I did intentionally post "side effects?" as AC -- although during the weird behavior, it was looking at first like I would have to be AC (not logged in).

        Took your advice, logged out, cleared the Soylent cookies from Firefox (two of them...) and logged back in.

        Appears to be working normally now. Thanks for the quick reply!