Tuesday 26 November 2013

HTTPS Everywhere

This has been a long time coming.

Errorception is now proudly 100% HTTPS. (Well, nearly 100% – read on.)

It turns out, migrating a site to HTTPS isn't as simple as it seems, especially if you have to do it right. I had a huge checklist to look at and verify for this launch. Here's what else has changed with this update:

  • Save for this blog and one route that currently needs to be HTTP, all URLs are now strictly only accessible over HTTPS. HTTP access has been disabled. As for that one route and this blog, they are over cookie-less subdomains, and don't carry any sensitive information.
  • Cookies are only set when using HTTPS, and have been marked as secure cookies. HTTP cookies that were set in the past are now meaningless. In fact, I've deleted the entire old session-store to ensure that there can be no session hijacking.
  • The encryption is end-to-end. In this case, it means that SSL doesn't just terminate at the load-balancer. The connections between the load-balancer and the app servers are also all SSL. Everything is encrypted. Take that, NSA!
  • Cookies will henceforth be inaccessible to client-side code to prevent a large class of XSS attacks.
  • There are several other security measures implemented. For example, Errorception now implements HTTP Strict Transport Security, prevents clickjacking where possible, reduces MIME-type security risks where possible, and has force-turned on XSS-filters to prevent reflected XSS attacks.
  • All external assets included in the site are now loaded over HTTPS as well, to prevent mixed-content scenarios. All links from communications like emails have been updated to use HTTPS URLs. Links that have been forged in the past will still work, but will be redirected to HTTPS.

Unfortunately, because cookies will have to be recreated over HTTPS and since the session store has been cleared to ensure that old cookies are invalid, it means that you will have to log in again to your Errorception account. It's a minor inconvenience, but it's a small price to pay for the vastly improved security.

I'm by no means a security expert, so if you find any lapses, please feel free to let me know. (I'm rakeshpai at errorception dot com.) Also, security is never really done, so I consider this as only the first step in getting to better security.

Wednesday 20 November 2013

Why Throw When You Can Just Push?

I had previously launched a feature to .push your errors to Errorception if you liked. It also required you to throw your errors immediately after the push.

Turns out, many people don't like to throw their errors. There could be several reasons for not throwing your errors – for example, if you want to handle it gracefully, but still want it logged. Also, some frameworks such an Angular and Ember provide you with Error objects, but throwing them might not be what you want to do.

Now with Errorception, you don't need to throw error objects anymore. Simply .push them, and you are done!

I must hasten to add that I would consider this usage advanced. A throw, despite all its weirdness, is the best way to halt a problem immediately. If there's an error that you haven't anticipated, chances are you will want to stop your program's execution. If you are going to deal with errors properly, you don't need to throw them, but then you wouldn't have an error in the first place. This makes the feature only useful for a small set of cases. If you are not throwing your error, I hope you know what you are doing.

If your code was already throwing errors after pushing them, you won't have to change a thing. Don't worry – you won't get duplicate errors. In fact, this behaviour (push, with or without throw, without duplicates) will be supported forever, because of the reasons in the paragraph above.