Monday, April 13, 2015

Plain web text offenders: sending my location over HTTP when HTTPS was possible

The BBC Weather App sends the location of the user via HTTP to the BBC in order to determine the best location for weather information. It does this with roughly 100m accuracy, in the parameters of an unencrypted GET and even though the same API endpoint is available using HTTPS.

I discovered this accidentally using Charles Proxy to snoop on traffic from my iPhone at home. Here's the Charles Proxy view of that app interacting with the BBC's APIs:


It's hitting the endpoint http://open.live.bbc.co.uk/locator/locations with parameters la and lo containing the three decimal digit latitude and longitude (which give roughly 100m precision) over HTTP as a GET request.

The API then returns a JSON object containing nearby locations that the app can get weather information about.

Sadly, this API could have been accessed over HTTPS. Just switching the protocol from HTTP to HTTPS works fine. A legitimate wildcard certificate for *.bbc.co.uk is used.


So, the app could have used HTTPS.

Perhaps "This app would like to use HTTP for its API" should be a permission that the user has to explicitly give.

If you enjoyed this blog post, you might enjoy my travel book for people interested in science and technology: The Geek Atlas. Signed copies of The Geek Atlas are available.

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