HTTPS Everywhere: ruleset updating without extension updates
A new version of the HTTPS Everywhere browser extension introduces a new feature that separates ruleset updates from extension updates.
HTTPS Everywhere is a security extension that is available for Firefox, Chrome, Opera and the Tor Browser. The extension enforces HTTPS connections on sites that support it to improve security and privacy.
We reviewed the first version of the extension released in 2010, and have followed it ever since.
Once installed, it checks whether any site the browser connects to is on the extension's ruleset file. If it is, HTTPS is enforced for the site.
The current version of HTTPS Everywhere includes a set of more than 23,000 rules for sites that support HTTPS.
Previously, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, makers of HTTPS Everywhere, had to release a new version of the extension whenever it wanted to distribute a new ruleset file. Even if the extension itself did not change at all, it had to be updated to distribute the new ruleset to all installations.
The process was impracticable for a number of reasons: a new version has to be created and uploaded to extension stores, extensions have to pass validation, and updates reach users only if they have not disabled extension updates.
The new system separates extension updates from ruleset updates similarly to how content blocker handle updating content blocking lists.
HTTPS Everywhere checks for ruleset updates periodically and downloads them if updates are available. Rulesets are signed by the EFF and verified using the Web Crypto API to make sure that they are legitimate before they are updated in the browser.
Users and administrators may disable the automatic updating of rulesets in the extension settings. Firefox users, for example, open about:addons in the browser, click on the options button next to HTTPS Everywhere, and remove the checkmark from "Auto-update rulesets" to do so.
The initial version of the feature transfers the entire ruleset file to the browser when updates happen. The EFF plans to improve the functionality so that only the changes between editions are transferred and not the entire ruleset file.
The new HTTPS Everywhere 2018.4.3 is available for download on all supported extension stores and as in-browser updates.
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