When the internet was fairly new, users learned that all website URLs started with http:// followed by the website address. Today, browsers automatically add this part of the URL, so there’s no need to type it. Because of that, some people don’t even realize that many URLs now start with HTTPS instead of HTTP. What’s the difference, and does it matter? In many cases, it’s actually very important that the website URL shows HTTPS.
What are HTTP and HTTPS?
Hypertext Transfer Protocol, or HTTP, is a type of transmission control protocol that tells your computer and the web server how to talk to each other. This is how information is downloaded to your computer when you view a webpage. Over the years, this protocol has been updated as new technology has been introduced and the way we use the internet has changed.
In 1994, Netscape Communications introduced HTTPS, a new version of HTTP that was designed to address a number of security concerns. This acronym stands for Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure. It uses an encrypted protocol that keeps information more secure. Because of this, any type you’re sending information such as your address, bank account number, social security number, or anything else someone could use to steal your identity, you want to make certain the website is using an HTTPS protocol.
Differences Between the Two
While it’s easy to say that HTTPS is secure and HTTP is not, the differences between the two are actually a little more complex. For the average user, though, that’s really all that matters. For those who want to know more about the technical differences, here are a few key points:
- HTTP uses communications port 80, while HTTPS receives and sends data through port 443. This port makes use of a secure, encrypted connection through what’s called the Transport Layer Security (TLS).
- HTTPS requires websites to have a Secured Sockets Layer (SSL) certificate. This is a certificate that has been approved by the Certificate Authority and shows that the website is a trusted, secure site. Businesses that offer online shopping can have their site tested and approved for an SSL for free from a number of companies.
- All data sent to or received from an HTTPS site is encrypted and secured. This makes it much more difficult for hackers to use any data they intercept.
More and more websites are making the move to HTTPS, even if they aren’t eCommerce sites or ask you to submit information. Never submit any of your personal information to a website that doesn’t make use of HTTPS. One way to tell if a site is secure is to look for a small lock icon to the left of the name. If that icon is there, it indicates that the site uses HTTPS and has all of the required SSL certificates.
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