For many years, we’ve worked to increase the use of encryption between our users and Google. Today, the vast majority of these connections are encrypted, and our work continues on this effort.
To further protect users, we've taken another step to strengthen how we use encryption for data in transit by implementing HTTP Strict Transport Security—HSTS for short—on the www.google.com domain. HSTS prevents people from accidentally navigating to HTTP URLs by automatically converting insecure HTTP URLs into secure HTTPS URLs. Users might navigate to these HTTP URLs by manually typing a protocol-less or HTTP URL in the address bar, or by following HTTP links from other websites.
Preparing for launch
Ordinarily, implementing HSTS is a relatively basic process. However, due to Google's particular complexities, we needed to do some extra prep work that most other domains wouldn't have needed to do. For example, we had to address mixed content, bad HREFs, redirects to HTTP, and other issues like updating legacy services which could cause problems for users as they try to access our core domain.
This process wasn’t without its pitfalls. Perhaps most memorably, we accidentally broke Google’s Santa Tracker just before Christmas last year (don’t worry — we fixed it before Santa and his reindeer made their trip).
Deployment and next steps
We’ve turned on HSTS for www.google.com, but some work remains on our deployment checklist.
In the immediate term, we’re focused on increasing the duration that the header is active (‘max-age’). We've initially set the header’s max-age to one day; the short duration helps mitigate the risk of any potential problems with this roll-out. By increasing the max-age, however, we reduce the likelihood that an initial request to www.google.com happens over HTTP. Over the next few months, we will ramp up the max-age of the header to at least one year.
Encrypting data in transit helps keep our users and their data secure. We’re excited to be implementing HSTS and will continue to extend it to more domains and Google products in the coming months.