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Orbital loves APIs, to the extent that the entire project hangs off them working as expected. One thing that Orbital must also do is ensure that it keeps potentially sensitive or confidential data secure during the process of slinging it over the ether. Fortunately, the fact we’re using HTTP as our transport mechanism of choice means that we can leverage something which has proven to be pretty darned reliable thus far: HTTPS!

The pretty green HTTPS icon in Chrome means that your communication with Orbital is secured.

HTTPS is the secure version of the HTTP standard which drives browsing the web — the ‘green padlock’ which appears on secured websites when you’re browsing. Behind the scenes it’s full of plenty of technological awesomeness including various protocols (SSL and TLS if you’re curious) and complex encryption and certification policies which aim to ensure three things:

  1. Traffic between the client (in most cases your browser) and the server is encrypted, ie it’s useless to anybody who may be able to intercept it.
  2. The connection between the client and the server is secure, ie the only parties who can communicate over that channel are the client and server who initiated it.
  3. The server you’re talking to is verifiably the right one, and not simply pretending in order to intercept data.

Orbital makes use of HTTPS throughout, and offers no option at all for unsecured access. Simply put, this means that all your communication with Orbital is guaranteed to be secure whilst it’s in transit. In fact, we decided to find a tool which can quantifiably express just how secure it is, so we had a look at Qualys. You can view our SSL reports below:

Whilst we always made sure that both aspects of Orbital offered a standard level of security, our initial reports highlighted a few flaws. Our servers were vulnerable to the BEAST attack, and offered some low security ciphers in their list of supported ones. Based on these reports we were able to plug those holes, improving our overall security. We also decided to implement the HSTS draft specification, providing an explicit instruction to browsers that communication with Orbital must always take place over HTTPS with a valid certificate, and any attempts to do otherwise should be blocked as a security risk.

Just a few of the ways we’re making sure that Orbital can be trusted with your sensitive or commercial data.