Insecure passwords

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Serving login forms over HTTP is especially dangerous because of the wide variety of attacks that can be used against them to extract a user’s password. Network eavesdroppers could steal a user's password by sniffing the network, or by modifying the served page in transit. This page details the security mechanisms Firefox has put in place to warn users and developers of risks surrounding insecure passwords and password theft.

The HTTPS protocol is designed to protect user data from eavesdropping (confidentiality) and from modification (integrity) on the network. Websites that handle user data should use HTTPS to protect their users from attackers. If a website uses HTTP instead of HTTPS, it is trivial to steal user information (such as their login credentials). This was famously demonstrated by Firesheep.

To fix this issue, install and configure an SSL/TLS certificate onto your server. There are various vendors offering free and paid certificates. If you are using a cloud platform, they may have their own ways of enabling HTTPS.

Firefox password security indicators

To inform you of the threat described above, Firefox implements many warning mechanisms:

  1. Firefox 51+ will display a lock icon with a red strike-through in the address bar when a login page does not have a secure connection, as seen below.

    Lock Icon

  2. Firefox 52+ will display a clear warning in the URL bar and below a focused password field in any insecure form:


  3. Firefox 52+ has also disabled autofill for insecure login forms. Users can still manually autocomplete saved logins from the drop-down.

  4. Warnings about insecure login forms can also be found in the security pane of the developer console in all Firefox releases, as described in the next section.

Web Console Messages

This section describes the security messages displayed in the developer console of the Firefox DevTools, in response to insecure passwords.

Serving the login form over HTTP

Even if the form action is an HTTPS URL, the user's login form is not protected because an attacker can modify the page received by the user (for example, attackers can change the form destination to post the sensitive data to a server that they control, or they can insert a keylogging script that swipes their password as they type it). The security tab of the Web Console will warn developers and users about the security issue:

Insecure login form shown with the Web Console and contextual warning on the password field.

Note: It's also not secure to embed an HTTPS login page in an HTTP document — an attacker could change the frame URL to point to a malicious site.

Using an HTTP URL in the form action

In this case, any data the user enters is sent through the network as plain text. The user's password is clearly visible to anyone sniffing the network from the time the password leaves the user's computer to the time it reaches your website's servers.

Insecure login form action shown with the Web Console and contextual warning on the password field.

Note on password reuse

Sometimes websites require username and passwords but don't actually store data that is very sensitive. For example, a news site may save which news articles a user wants to go back to and read, but not save any other data about a user. Web developers of the news site may be less motivated to secure their site and their user credentials.

Unfortunately, password reuse is a big problem. Users use the same password across multiple sites (news websites, social networks, email providers, banks). Hence, even if access to the username and password to your site doesn't seem like a huge risk to you, it is a great risk to users who have used the same username and password to log in to their bank accounts. Attackers are getting smarter; they steal username/password pairs from one site and then try reusing them on more lucrative sites.

See also