The Internet provides us with plenty of opportunities. We can play online games, buy different things, and communicate with people from all over the world. Sometimes, you need to send your sensitive information to a distant server for making financial transactions, registering, or something else. When traveling over the Internet, your data may be stolen by cyberthieves.
This hazard can be eliminated by implementing special security technologies. If you want to find out more about them and learn other vital information on the protection of your data when using various websites, then just keep reading this article.
Why Is HTTPS Needed?
First of all, find out what “HTTP” and “HTTPS” abbreviations mean. The first one means HyperText Transfer Protocol, and the latter is the same but only with “secure” at the end.
When the Internet was launched, only HTTP was used for transferring information. As you might have noticed, web addresses begin with HTTP, such as http://website.com. It was not a secure way to transfer information because it was sent over the Web as plain text. This means that every person who captured such data could read it without any problems. The information could be easily extracted by cyber thieves and internet service providers (ISPs). In essence, it is very similar to the situation when someone connects to your phone line and follows all your conversations.
Eventually, people figured out to use the Internet for making payments. That required providing secret financial data, such as numbers of credit cards. HTTP was not secure for sending it, so it was necessary to come up with technology that would allow delivering data from user browsers to web servers safely.
The first encryption saw the light in 1994. It was a product developed by Netscape Communications. The new security protocol was named Secure Socket Layer or SSL. In simple words, HTTP morphs into default HTTPS when combined with SSL.
Currently, over half of all websites are HTTPS, and the number of secure websites keeps growing day by day. Eventually, the idea of making the entire Internet safe has arisen. Maybe, someday we will not have to check whether websites are secure and will be able to send information across the Web without any worries.
HTTPS is suitable for protecting not only your sensitive data but also privacy. This implies that you can safely send any content via email or other digital means.
Third parties that may hunt for data delivered online include:
- ISPs. They often collect data for different purposes, such as selling to other companies.
- Government agencies of the United States and other countries. There is a range of citizen surveillance programs, some of which are kept secret.
- Companies collecting big data. Some companies need to collect lots of information for various purposes, such as creating effective marketing and advertising campaigns.
That is why lots of websites prefer to use this encryption technology for ensuring that your information will not be stolen, be it sensitive or not. As you can see, using HTTPS changes the game drastically.
You should also get a clear idea of what this protocol cannot do:
- Hide websites’ names
The domain name of a site is transferred via the domain name service (DNS), which is outside of the HTTPS area. This piece of data is sent before the secure connection is established. Someone monitoring your online activity will be able to see which website you are about to visit.
- Protect users from visiting dangerous sites
HTTPS does not guarantee that a website you find doing a Google search is not dangerous. Remember that this protocol ensures only a secure connection but not the safety of the final destination. This means that you can stumble across a website launched by bad people.
- Ensure anonymity
Such a protocol cannot hide your location or identity. The thing is that your IP address is not included in the data protected with this encryption technology. Otherwise, it would be unclear where to send the requested data. Your identity is not hidden as well.
- Protect from malware
Even if you use a secure connection, you can still catch malware, such as viruses. Some pieces of dangerous software can be sent inside the encrypted data along with everything else.
All in all, HTTPS is only suitable for ensuring safe data transmission over the Internet. It will not help in protecting your physical location or identity. Also, it is useless against a virus and another type of malware. You will need to use something else to ensure full protection. For instance, if you want to hide your location, pass geo-restrictions, and hide your identity, you can use a VPN. As for the protection from malware, you can avail of different antivirus software programs.
What Is the Importance of HTTP?
You have already gained some basic understanding of what it is, but why is using HTTP important? Being a protocol used for sending information, it has been around since the inception of the World Wide Web. It allows users to tap into Internet resources and also defines how information is transmitted on the Web.
In simple words, it is a set of rules determining how data is sent back and forward. All computers use the binary language, which consists of various combinations of “1” and “0”, for communication within a computer network. Once a text is created with the help of those numbers, a browser converts it into hypertext, which is the text displayed on your mobile or desktop device. The protocol responsible for transferring such texts is called hypertext transfer protocol – HTTP. Thanks to it, you can communicate with websites via any browser, such as Chrome, Firefox Mozilla, and others.
Why Is SSL Important?
An SSL certificate consists of data files that can be added to a server to provide a safe connection between a browser (a client) and the server (the final destination). Its main purpose is to protect your sensitive data, such as bank card details, and your privacy.
Before reaching the final destination, information may need to travel between different computers. On its way, it can be stolen by bad guys. SSL ensures that only the intended recipient will access and view it. While it is still possible to steal it, a thief will not be able to read it. This happens because your information sent over the Internet becomes impossible to read.
Authentication is another purpose of an SSL certificate. This procedure aims at making sure that data is sent to an intended server. Some websites are just imposters of original destinations, and they are designed to steal your data. Thanks to a reliable SSL certificate, you can send it in a risk-free way.
Do You Need to Install SSL?
Making a website secure is particularly important for online merchants. Whatever it is — a dating website, online casino, Internet-based pharmacy, or something else — a website with a secure Internet connection will increase your conversion rate. Moreover, considering the number of secure websites, customers simply avoid visiting unsafe ones.
Even if some users have no idea of how to determine whether a web-platform is secure or not, they can be notified about entering an unsafe website. So, today, it is not simply recommended – it is essential to provide your visitors with a secure internet connection if you wish to attract them to your website.
What is more, you will not be able to offer payments via credit cards without PCI (Payment Card Industry) compliance. If you wish to offer this payment option for your customers, you will have to go through a range of audits. One of the requirements that your website must match is the use of a proper SSL certificate.
Now, you need to understand that not all SSL providers are trusted. The reliable ones provide their products to verified companies only. To get the certificates, such companies must undergo special checks. You can check out the providers’ rankings to pick the best one.
It is very easy to determine whether a website uses a secure and non-secure connection. A secure website comes with a lock icon at the beginning. If there is no icon, the website uses standard HTTP. Also, you can check if there is HTTP or HTTPS specified at the beginning of a website address, which also indicates what type of protocol it uses. Also, secured websites may be highlighted by a green bar. While it is possible to enable SSL on a single page, it is recommended to do that on all pages of your website.
Are There Any Problems with SSL?
It seems that you need to install SSL without any doubts right away. It has all the benefits, and it is an essential condition to gain your customers’ trust and be able to access payments with credit cards. At the same time, using such a certificate has certain disadvantages you should know about.
They include the following:
- Cost. Such a certificate is available at a certain price, so you will have to pay something to have it installed. Sometimes, you can get SSL along with other services, for instance, if it is included in your hosting plan.
- Slower performance. Transferring data via HTTP is faster. However, the difference in performance will become obvious only on large websites that have lots of users. Also, such a problem can be eliminated by the deployment of more advanced hardware.
Some people believe that their SEO efforts will be affected by SSL, but they will be able to attract higher traffic.
As you can see, there are just a couple of disadvantages to using SSL, and they are surely insignificant compared to the reasons to use it. So, when it comes to the question of whether you should install SSL or not, it is recommended to switch to the safe version.
How Does HTTPS Work?
The following are three things required for data encryption:
- Information that you want to encrypt;
- An encryption key. It is a unique string of random characters;
- An encryption algorithm. It is a function that makes data encrypted.
By entering information and the key to the algorithm, you will get an unreadable text. In order to decrypt it once it reaches the final destination, you will need to use the same key. This is how your original information will be restored. Basically, the entire security of the system is based on the secrecy of the key.
What Is HTTPS Protocol?
In essence, it is just the safe version of HTTP. When it comes to communication protocols, they determine a way for some parties to communicate with each other. For instance, a person speaks Spanish, which another person can understand thanks to his or her fluency in this language. In this case, Spanish is a protocol.
Protocols on the Web are all about sending a request and getting a response. The former indicates what should be done, such as GET, POST, DELETE, or PUT, and the address of a final destination where the actions to be performed. For instance, when clicking on links, a user generates the GET request. After getting it, a server sends the relevant response to the user. Thus, the HTTPS protocol allows for secure data exchange between the client and the server.
What Are Secure Websites?
Those are all websites that use HTTPS for sending data. Such websites are indicated in a special way, such as lock icons and other methods described above in this article. They can be used with no risk of losing data. For instance, you can register as a new user, subscribe for services, make payments, send private messages, and more. Whenever you use the Internet, you should make sure to do this in a secure way.
The Internet surely gives us plenty of opportunities, but it is important to be aware of threats that you can encounter when using it. SSL allows protecting your data or data of your users from being stolen. While HTTP was a revolutionary development many years ago, it is virtually irrelevant today due to poor security for internet connections. However, it is still used on many websites, including public networks, so it is up to you whether you wish to risk your information or not. If you are a merchant, then losing your customers because of poor security is the last thing you want.