With technology integrated into almost all your day-to-day activities, keeping your online data is significant now more than ever before. HTTPS is a more secure hypertext transfer protocol that's an improvement of HTTP. Some call it an encrypted website connection or the lock icon in the web address bar. Whatever name you give it, HTTPS safeguards your browsing data and keeps you secure during online shopping, banking, filing of tax returns, and any other activity that involves sharing critical credentials.
The S, as you must have guessed, stands for secure. HTTPS is, therefore, a version of HTTP that your browser uses to index websites more safely. Initially, developers preserved it for passwords, bank account credentials, pins, personally identifiable information, and other sensitive data. However, thanks to its cybersecurity benefits, the entire web is gradually adopting it and migrating from the standard “hypertext transfer protocol” (HTTP). In this article, we discuss the security benefits of using an encrypted HTTPS connection, how HTTP sites can expose you to risks, and why HTTPS alone is a good start but is not enough.
How Does an HTTP Site Expose You to Cybersecurity Risks?
To understand the cybersecurity benefits of using an encrypted HTTPS connection, learn how the standard hypertext transfer protocol works.
When you browse or visit a website with a standard HTTP, your browser indexes an IP (Internet Protocol) address corresponding to the site. It then directly connects to that IP address without verifying whether it's the correct server. The browser transfers data to the IP address as clear text without encryption. Therefore, any bad cyber actor, internet service provider, or eavesdropper on the Wi-Fi network you're using may access whatever credentials (user names, passcodes, pins, browsing histories, visited sites) you share to the website.
So, how does this expose you to data security breaches?
- Connections are unverified: You cannot verify that you're connecting to the correct server. You might think that you're on your favorite retailer's website doing your shopping as usual when you're browsing through a compromised network. You may not realize the malice until the masqueraders have mined and used your credit card numbers and passwords.
- Data sent to websites with HTTP addresses is unencrypted: Any data you share goes as clear text when you access an HTTP address. Therefore, any malicious character in the shadows can see your credentials in unencrypted letters and numbers, making it easy for them to steal and use the data.
Does HTTPS Encryption Safeguard Your Data?
YES. HTTPS is safer than HTTP. When your browser connects to an HTTPS website, it automatically cross-checks the site's IP address and ascertains its legitimacy. It's a no-brainer, therefore, that corporate websites will automatically redirect you to HTTP. Although this is also subject to error—certificate authorities may sometimes give faulty certificates—it's safer knowing that you're visiting a website that a legitimate certificate authority has verified.
The other security benefit is that any data that you share with HTTPS-secured websites is encrypted. Therefore, no one can intercept and steal it while on transit. This feature makes online shopping and banking safe. HTTPS-secured websites also provide an extra layer of privacy. Reputable search engines like Google and Bing Search automatically default to HTTPS connections. Unlike HTTP, HTTPS websites block eavesdroppers on your Wi-Fi network or your internet provider from seeing your searches and user credentials.
Why the World Is Moving Towards HTTPS
Initially, HTTPS developers reserved it for online payments, passcodes, and similar, sensitive data and transactions. However, the entire web has been edging away from HTTP towards HTTPS over the last couple of years.
Why is that so, and why should you care?
HTTPS Guarantees You More Privacy
In the U.S., it's legal for internet service providers to record your online browsing activities and histories and sell them to advertising companies. When you connect to an HTTP website, they can see and snoop every detail—including the searches you make, pages you visit, the frequency, what you bought, the carts you abandoned, and how you interact with different websites (likes and shares). However, when you connect to HTTPS-secured websites, the internet provider may only see that you visited a specific site and nothing more. An encrypted HTTPS connection, therefore, guarantees you better browsing privacy.
HTTPS Prevents ISPs and Network Operators from Tampering With Web Pages
Internet service providers and network operators can interfere with the HTTP web pages you visit. They can change them, remove content, add adverts, inject cookies, and do many tamperings that may affect your user experience. HTTPS-secured websites prevent network operators and internet service providers from interfering with web pages like this. Therefore, you can complete your online shopping without worrying about too many unsolicited ads and content.
HTTPS Is Not a Replacement of Your Standard Cybersecurity Measures
While HTTPS adds an extra layer of protection, it doesn't mean that you should throw caution to the wind while browsing. As we said, sometimes even the bad guys get HTTPS accreditation. Therefore, you should still be vigilant before visiting pages or clicking any unknown links.
That said, whenever you're browsing or shopping online, do not share your sensitive data unless it's on an HTTPS-secured website. Look out for a web browser beginning with “HTTPS://” or having a lock icon at its beginning. You can click on the lock to verify the website and view its security features.
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