Cybersecurity Insight

HTTPS vs. HTTP: Ensure Your Online Security

9 Sep

As technology becomes a necessity in day-to-day life and business, more users are becoming adept at utilizing it. We can easily design and build our own websites from a template, download and listen to music, alter pictures taken with our cameras, etc., but while most of us can do these basic things, we often have no idea what actually goes into the technical process needed to compute such tasks and run the applications properly.

It’s probably fair to say that almost anyone with access to the Internet knows how to run a simple search query through a search engine like Google. However, what they often don’t know is how those results are calculated and presented, or what websites they can actually trust.

Sometimes your search results that pop up are simply the result of the written content and it’s relevancy to your query, but if you dig deeper you will find out that some websites are considered more secure than others. This is where HTTPS vs. HTTP comes in.

You probably recognize these acronyms as the letters before a web address in your address bar in the browser. But do you know what they mean? What is the difference between HTTP vs. HTTPS?

  • HTTP – Hypertext Transfer Protocol. HTTP is how the Internet determines the transfer of data and its locations (hyperlinks).
  • HTTPS – Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure. HTTPS is communication over HTTP, with a layer or encryption.

A good way to understand HTTP vs. HTTPS is how top-secret messages are carried out in times of war. Instead of an officer simply writing a letter in plain English that can easily be stolen and understood (HTTP), they write letters in code to be deciphered on the other end by someone who knows how to break the encryption code (HTTPS).

A graphic showing what it looks like when you use a password with an encrypted system versus a non-encrypted system.
A simple example of what computer encryption looks like.

This is a simple description, but one that resonates. Of course, if you were sending personal or private data across the Internet, you would want to make sure that data is secure, wouldn’t you? This is something many people do not realize when they browse the Internet or make online purchases.

How do you know if a website you are browsing, or more importantly purchasing from, is using HTTPS?

Just take a look at your address bar in your web browser. Any web address that begins with HTTP is using the standard protocol. This is what most people see. However, if you see a green “lock” icon, or a green bar or some kind, or the letter HTTPS, you can often be assured that the site you are browsing uses some form of encryption and can be considered secure.

So, how does this help the average user?

When you enter your credit card on a website that isn’t secure, the transfer or your information over the Internet to its end source is not encrypted, and can easily be stolen by cyber criminals. Sites that use HTTPS are most trustworthy, and many online stores may even have additional safeguards that will protect you if something should happen.

You can’t simply rely on businesses or others to keep your data secure though, so it’s important to take your own steps when you can, especially something as simple as looking at a web address and seeing whether it’s HTTPS or HTTP.