Web Traffic Encryption – The End Of An Era

Technology Research: Web Traffic Encryption

Technology Research: Network Services Providers, CDN and more generally web content analytics companies (including certain categories of cybersecurity companies) using DPI or content-level inspection based technologies to provide optimization, acceleration, content caching and analytics services entered into a “survival race” to develop alternative methods to keep providing the same services in the context of growing web traffic encryption.
The All-Encrypted Web shifted from an utopia trend of civil rights defenders to almost a concrete reality where all the concerned actors need to cope with the new situation. Telecommunication industry reports confirm this trend such as the Sandvine 2016 report (Global Internet Phenomena Spotlight – Encrypted Internet Traffic, available at: https://www.sandvine.com/trends/encryption.html) which forecasts that by end of 2016, 70% of global Internet traffic will be encrypted as well as 80% of all data on some mobile networks. Popular sites and applications like Facebook, Google (incl. YouTube) and Whatsapp are already massively encrypting their content. For instance, Google reported in August 2016 that 97% of connections to YouTube are now encrypted using HTTPS.

An example of transaction directly impacted by this context is the decision of Citrix in November 2015 to “de-invest” in the ByteMobile product line explaining that “The underlying premises for the acquisition of ByteMobile have now vanished. We acquired the company for its ability to optimize video traffic, but today a significant amount of the video traffic is encrypted and can no longer be optimized… (http://coreanalysis1.blogspot.co.il/2015/11/citrix-shuts-down-bytemobile.html)”. Originally, Citrix acquired Bytemobile in July 2012 for $435M.

The solutions envisaged today by the actors mentioned above can be divided in three categories:

1. New technologies/methods or merge of existing technologies (such as analytics of the HTTPS server certificate, analysis of the characteristics and behavior of the traffic flow, new transparent caching methods for encrypted content …)
2. Legal and commercial collaboration to be facilitated by new IETF initiatives currently under development.
3. “Grey zone” solution based on content massive decryption.

It’s however possible that an intelligent and strategic merge between the different types of solutions (at least the first two ones) would be interesting to consider since each region and service provider has its own working models and relations established with content providers for example. In the same time, since effective solutions may require different fields of expertise and roles, strategic collaboration between small, large key players, key research teams and probably also standardization organizations, research collaboration might be relevant to define winning solutions.

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