With the internet becoming more important and useful we end up giving away some of our personal information to various companies, most of which is due to the use of advertising and analytics services.

At TechNutty we recently decided that we needed to do more about this, and so we have been changing the way our site works over the last few weeks. The first thing you might have noticed is that we have decided to use secure connections across our site. This is something that we promised we would do by the end of year, but decided that it was too important to put off so we simply went and did it.

So why did we switch to HTTPS?

There are a lot of reasons why we decided to switch all of our connections to HTTPS, and why we think that every blog, service and application that is usually consumed over the internet should do the same.

When surfing around the internet security might not be the first thing that comes to your mind, and the average person might think that because they are surfing with their own device their data cannot escape, well that’s not the case, and there are a number of things a hacker can do to your data through a simple web connection.

Screenshot 2014-08-18 01.04.35The first and most used is a technique called phishing, this is when a hacker would use a spoofed site to deliver malware to your computer, all from under you nose.

The reason this is so effective is because it can be done in a way where the user will not even notice that they are on a spoofed website.

A HTTPS connection defeats this by adding a lock icon to your browser, reassuring the user that the website they are using is safe, and is the one they were actually looking for.

Another way a hacker might attack your computer or privacy is by using a technique called sniffing, this is where a hacker would watch traffic to and from their victim’s web browser using an unsecured communication channel, which are normally accessible on open network locations like cafes, libraries or airports.

This is where HTTPS comes in handy for a second time, concealing the traffic’s meaning from all except those who know the secret to decrypting the communication.

But surely HTTPS downgrades performance?

Screenshot 2014-08-18 00.36.10

That is true, in the old days using a HTTPS connection would normally mean that the site you were accessing would have a degraded performance, and would generally take an incredibly long time to load on the user’s computer. Thankfully there has been one major development in the web community that means that HTTPS connections can now be much faster.

[UPDATE] SPDY is slowly being phased out and we will soon be moving towards HTTP 2.0, however the technology explained below is still similar to what HTTP 2.0 will offer.

That development is called SPDY, developed by Google as a sort of stepping stone to HTTP 2.0, SPDY is an open networking protocol that means that web content can be transported securely and with reduced web latency. It does this through compression, multiplexing and prioritization, all of the major things that the current version of HTTP (HTTP 1.1) is missing.

Now that might all sound a bit like jargon to you, so the simple way to explain it would be to say that it allows us to send web content to the user in one connection rather than opening multiple connections per file. It also means that content is sent at the point at which it is needed, and is compressed.

If you are interested in SPDY and what it does, you can find out more by reading Google’s whitepaper here.

So what about everyone else?

It would be impossible not to use a single third-party program or piece of software on a website, and at TechNutty we do use a few, but when we do we make sure that we always consider your privacy first.

However there was still room to improve this, so as of today we have decided to change how we track users on our site, reducing the tracking services we use to ones that we can manage more easily to make sure your privacy is always our first priority.

To do this we have decided that we will no longer be using Google’s Analytics software, switching to our own hosting solution that allows us to still track how well our site is performing, but keep the data that is recorded under our own control.

(I will however note that we still use various advertising services like Google Adsense, which means that sometimes you may still be tracked by Google or other third-party services.)

We also use Cloudflare to increase the security on our site, make sure it always performs well, and track some statistics, however Cloudflare will only track pageviews, visits, bots and threats, which does mean that it will track your IP address but not much more, and is only used in order to make sure that we keep TechNutty safe at all times.

Everything else, like referrers, links clicked, time spent and more is tracked on our self-hosted analytics solution, this data is then removed at periodic periods in order to make sure that we can keep the data as secure as possible.

A final few paragraphs

I hope that this will clear up anything that you may need to know about how we keep your data private, however if you have any questions be sure to drop us a message via the contact us form. You can also find more details on our privacy techniques and cookies on these pages:

TechNutty privacy policy.

TechNutty’s cookie use and policies.

If you go to the cookie use page you will also find links that will allow you to opt out of tracking, including our own new solution.

You can also let us know what you think in the comments below.

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