Last updateFri, 22 May 2020 12pm

Insecure Web site warnings: More Google fearmongering?

The subject of this column this week applies to the probably 60 percent of Guadalajara Reporter readers who use Google Chrome as their web browser.  Try to imagine this fictitious scenario:

The government suddenly mandates that all bicycle owners must install airbag systems.  There is probably some politician who owns stock in an airbag company.  So millions of unwilling bicycle owners are forced to pay billions of dollars to retrofit airbags onto their bicycles, because we all know that this will make riding a bicycle much safer.  Then on July 1 the government starts enforcing penalties on bicycle owners who do not comply, and the penalties escalate higher and higher in the months to come.

On July 1, 2018 the 60 percent of the world’s internet users using Google’s Chrome browser will start receiving a dire warning whenever they visit a web site that is judged “insecure” by Google.  According to Google, more than two thirds of the estimated 1.8 billion Web sites on the internet are now deemed insecure.  So what happened to make hundreds of millions of web sites insecure overnight?  The answer is nothing!  This warning message in the Chrome browser is nothing more than fear mongering on the part of Google throwing the weight of its market dominance around, trying to have its way with Web site owners.

A Web site is now considered to be insecure by Google if it does not have a SSL certificate.  SSL stands for Secure Sockets Layer and is used to ensure that all data sent between you and the Web site remains private and secure.  Obviously, this is a huge issue if you are passing sensitive information like credit card numbers, medical records, even your email and Facebook chats.  However, is elevated security really needed where no personal data of any kind is being exchanged?

Millions of Web sites have never been secured because the owners of those sites decided that having a SSL certificate is unnecessary.  Those sites do not collect personal information, such as not having any place to enter your address, credit card number, etc.  A site that does not deal with any private information has nothing that needs to be protected and nothing any computer hacker could steal anyway.

So starting on July 1 many millions of Chrome users, most of whom are non-technical people, will start seeing a warning on their screen that says most sites are insecure.  A lot of these users will be needlessly scared away from visiting perfectly legitimate sites because of this.

Google is actively trying to force millions of Web site owners to spend billions of dollars on redesigning their web sites to include security upgrades that the owners of those Web sites feel that they do not need.  In my mind this is like forcing millions of bicycle owners to install airbags.  It could make riding a bicycle safer for some, but is it really worth the cost?

Charles Miller is a freelance computer consultant with more than 20 years IT experience and a Texan with a lifetime love for Mexico.  The opinions expressed are his own.  He may be contacted through his web site at SMAguru.com.

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