Securing Web Sites Often Requires Finding Insecure References

November 23, 2015

Loyal readers may remember that we added SSL certificates to three of our sites a few months back. Those sites: CorelDRAW Unleashed, Seamless Textures Unleashed and Vehicle Templates Unleashed. After installing the certificates, the next step was to find reference to any element on any page of those sites that was insecure.

An insecure reference does not necessarily mean the site won’t be secure, but it can prevent the browser from loading the insecure content or giving the indication to the visitor that the site site is fully secure.

One of the most common issues we found were iframes on our pages where the content linked inside the iframe used http instead of https. Changing the reference was simple, but sometimes this broke the content inside of the iframe and we had to work with the provider of that content to get it working correctly.

There was also an element deep inside of a form that took a while to uncover and repair. That left just one remaining issue and it was a frustrating one. Most of our sites use Google Fonts to customize the look of the site. On Seamless Textures Unleashed, the fonts weren’t working correctly on all browsers after installing the SSL certificate. This made the site look funny on browsers that refused to load the fonts and/or flew up warnings that some elements of the site weren’t secure.

It took quite a bit of research to discover the fonts were the problem. The next step was trying to figure out how to fix them. This meant digging deep into the code of the theme used on that site. Eureka, the problem and the solution is described in detail at WordPress Tip: How to Load Google Fonts Over SLL and Non-SSL.

Now that the problem and solution were known, it was a matter of notifying the theme developer. While I could fix the errors in the current code, an update of the theme could overwrite my fix and bring back the problem. I was thrilled when the developer wrote back with the following response.

Thank you for the reporting the issue, I’ve already updated the code in my local version. It’ll be included in next update.

Great. I got it fixed in my local copy and I knew the developer would have it corrected in any updates. When the site is loaded in browsers, the “green bar” lights up as shown below. Firefox is on the top and Chrome is on the bottom.

secure-title-bars

Even better, the fonts now work properly again so that the site looks as desired. I’m also guessing the mixed levels of security caused some issues with how well the site ranked in Google and other search engines. I’ll be watching search results to see if it moves higher in the rankings in the next few days.

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Foster D. Coburn III

Foster D. Coburn III is author of 13 best-selling books on CorelDRAW and has been a contributor to numerous technology and graphics-related magazines. Foster has taken many projects, including this Web site, from the early design stage through to a finished piece. He has been a featured speaker at many graphics conferences. His first Web site was built in 1995 and he has been working exclusively in WordPress since 2013.

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