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Understanding HTTPS

Understanding HTTPS

HTTPS, or hypertext transfer protocol secure, is the secure version of HTTP, the primary protocol for sending data between a web browser and a website. It adds an additional layer of security by encrypting the transmitted data, ensuring that sensitive information remains confidential. This is especially important when users send data such as login credentials, financial information, or personal details on websites.

 

How does HTTPS work?

HTTPS uses an encryption protocol called transport layer security (TLS), formerly known as secure sockets layer (SSL). This protocol utilizes an asymmetric public key infrastructure to secure communications between two parties.

  • Private key: The owner of a website controls the private key, which is kept confidential. This key resides on the web server and is responsible for decrypting information encrypted by the public key.
  • Public key: The public key is available to anyone who wants to interact securely with the server. The private key can only decrypt information encrypted by the public key.

When a user connects to a website, the website sends its SSL certificate containing the public key necessary to initiate a secure session. The client and the server then undergo an SSL/TLS handshake, a series of back-and-forth communications that establish a secure connection. This handshake ensures that both parties can trust each other's identity and encrypt the data being transmitted.

 

How to know if HTTPS is active

To identify whether a website is secure, modern web browsers like Google Chrome display a padlock icon in the URL bar for websites that use HTTPS. On the other hand, websites that do not use HTTPS are marked as non-secure, urging users to exercise caution before sharing any sensitive information.

 

The importance of HTTPS

HTTPS enhances the security of data transmission on the internet, and there are potential consequences for not using it.

 

Securing user data

HTTPS encrypts the traffic, rendering it unintelligible to eavesdroppers. Even if the encrypted packets are intercepted, they appear as nonsensical characters without the corresponding decryption key. This encryption ensures that sensitive information, such as passwords, credit card details, or personal messages, remains confidential and protected from prying eyes.

 

Preventing unauthorized content injection

Websites without HTTPS are vulnerable to content injection, where third parties can inject unauthorized content into web pages. Internet service providers (ISPs) or intermediaries can exploit this vulnerability to inject unwanted advertising or malicious scripts into web pages without the consent of the website owner.

Read more: What are injection attacks? 

 

HTTPS vs. HTTP

HTTPS is not a separate protocol from HTTP but rather an extension that adds encryption. While HTTP transmits data in plain text, HTTPS encrypts the data using TLS/SSL encryption. This encryption provides an additional layer of security, making it harder for attackers to intercept and decipher the transmitted information.

 

Benefits of using HTTPS

Implementing HTTPS offers numerous benefits to both website owners and their users. Here are some advantages of using HTTPS:

  • Data confidentiality: HTTPS encrypts data transmission, ensuring that sensitive information remains confidential.
  • Data integrity: HTTPS verifies the integrity of transmitted data, preventing tampering or modification during transmission.
  • User trust: HTTPS builds trust between website owners and their users by providing a secure browsing experience.
  • SEO advantage: Search engines prioritize secure websites, potentially boosting the website's ranking in SERPs.
  • Compliance: Many regulations and industry standards require websites to use HTTPS to protect user data and maintain compliance.

 

FAQs

What is HTTPS and why is it used?

Hypertext transfer protocol secure (HTTPS) is the secure version of HTTP, which is the primary protocol used to send data between a web browser and a website. HTTPS is encrypted to increase the security of data transfer.

 

What is the difference between HTTP and HTTPS?

HTTP messages are plaintext, which means unauthorized parties can easily access and read them over the internet. In contrast, HTTPS transmits all data in encrypted form. 

 

Does HTTPS mean a website is safe?

A secure URL should begin with “https” rather than “http.” The “s” in “https” stands for secure, which indicates that the site is using a Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) Certificate. This lets you know that all your communication and data is encrypted as it passes from your browser to the website's server.

See also: HIPAA Compliant Email: The Definitive Guide

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