Security

Microsoft to Automatically Encrypt Bing Search Traffic

Microsoft to Automatically Encrypt Bing Search Traffic

Microsoft announced this week that it will encrypt all Bing search traffic by default starting “this summer.” Previously, the software giant allowed users to opt-in to this functionality manually, but with this shift, it will do so automatically for all users.

“We’re committed to helping users keep their data safe and secure,” Bing senior product manager Duane Forrester writes in a post to the Bing Blogs. “Beginning this summer, we will begin the process of encrypting search traffic by default.”

Forrester noes that the changes will impact marketers and webmasters for a variety of reasons, but says that providing a more secure search experience for users is more important.

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You can expect the following changes.

First, traffic originating from Bing will increasingly come from the encrypted URL https://www.bing.com instead of http://www.bing.com. This will help prevent snooping—malicious or otherwise—and lock down users’ search queries.

Second, in order to protect user’s privacy, marketers and webmasters will no longer be provided with the exact search string used. But Bing will continue to pass along a referrer string so that these entities will be able to identify when traffic comes from Bing.

Third, Microsoft will provide “some limited query term data” that doesn’t compromise user security. This includes a Search Query Terms Report that identifies which search queries triggered ads as well as associated performance metrics such as clicks, impressions and conversions; enhanced reporting of metrics such as bounce rates, duration per visit, pages per visit and total visits; and keyword and ranking data for those who sign-up for the Bing Webmaster Tools.

With this change, Bing finally rises to the standard set by its search competitors. But then it’s quite behind in doing so: Google turned on encryption by default in 2011, and Yahoo—which uses Bing under the covers—started encrypting search its traffic by default last year.

For users, this means that Bing is now much safer and private, and that Microsoft is actively working to thwart electronic eavesdropping, a practice by which marketers and hackers can piggyback on searches. And while Bing is in no danger of overtaking Google Search anytime soon, this is a solid development for the service, which controls about 20 percent of the search market in the US and is the search engine behind the Siri assistant on Apple’s iPhones.

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Paul Thurrott is an award-winning technology journalist and blogger with over 20 years of industry experience and the author of over 25 books. He is the News Director for the Petri IT Knowledgebase, the major domo at Thurrott.com, and the co-host of three tech podcasts: Windows Weekly with Leo Laporte and Mary Jo Foley, What the Tech with Andrew Zarian, and First Ring Daily with Brad Sams. He was formerly the senior technology analyst at Windows IT Pro and the creator of the SuperSite for Windows.
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