HTTPS is the encrypted version of HTTP, a popular web protocol used to access data. The difference between HTTP and HTTPS is that the latter uses secured methods to encrypt any normal HTTP response or request. By using HTTPS, you ensure the security of your site’s data. Let’s find out more about these two web protocols and how they help your website.
After reading this post you’ll be able to understand:
- The difference between HTTP and HTTPS
- Why HTTP is not secure & why you need to switch to HTTPs
- How HTTPS helps SEO
- How eWay Corp can help?
1. Difference between HTTP and HTTPS
HTTP stands for Hypertext Transfer Protocol. This protocol is used to transfer data via a network. The HTTP protocol is most commonly used to send information such as API calls or website content. There are 2 types of HTTP messages: requests and responses.
The ‘S’ in HTTPS stands for secure. By using an SSL or TLS certificate to encrypt the plain text in HTTP responses and requests, HTTPS ensures that your data is secured properly. HTTPS basically translates the data into a code and adds an extra layer of security with a TLS certificate.
To understand the difference let’s take an example:
A typical HTTP request will look like:
User-Agent: curl/7.64.1 libcurl/7.64.1 OpenSSL/1.1.1 zlib/1.2.11
In a HTTPS version, the request will look like
Image courtesy: Cloudflare.com
2. Why HTTP is not secure & why you need to switch to HTTPS.
HTTP is a 15-year old protocol used for transmitting the data across the internet. The World Wide Web was built on this protocol and follows a client-server model. The web browser that initiates the HTTP request is known as the client. The server that responds to the request is known as the server.
As HTTP allows communication between various systems and data transfer from a browser to a server, this allows the users to view web pages. However, the flow of information is not encrypted, making data vulnerable. It becomes difficult to protect your sensitive information from being stolen in an HTTP protocol.
Now let’s say that you are accessing your Facebook account via a public Wi-Fi network. Potential network attacks are common with an unsecured ISP or a router. Public Wi-Fi connections are prone to such attacks.
Assuming that Facebook is using an HTTP protocol, the data is sent in an ‘un-encrypted’ format. Your personal data on Facebook is open and can be manipulated or intercepted by anyone.
This act of interception is called a network sniffing attack, where a hacker takes advantage of the unsecured HTTP protocol and steals your sensitive information. This could be your login information such as passwords, credit card numbers, bank account information, user IDs, and so on.
The responsibility of making everyone’s browsing experience secure is on the webmasters. So, if Facebook is not using a secured protocol it’s actually exposing your personal information to everyone.
Now that’s when HTTPS comes into the picture. By encrypting the responses and requests, HTTPs ensures that your data remains secured. Even if the hacker intercepts your data, he’ll only see an encrypted version or random characters. (explained in the first section, difference between HTTP and HTTPS)
To understand the advantage of HTTPS security, try imagining a box full of valuables with an indestructible combination lock. Only the sender and the receiver know the combination and even if the hacker gets a hold of the box, he wouldn’t be able to open it.
What is an SSL/TLS certificate and how does it work to encrypt HTTP requests/responses?
To keep your data confidential, HTTPS uses Transport Layer Security Protocol (TSL) which is also known as SSL or Security Sockets Layer.
SSL is a secure certificate which offers data protection in three levels.
- Encryption: All data sent between the client (browser) and server (website) is encrypted. If the data is stolen or intercepted in between by a hacker, he won’t be able to decode it.
- Data integrity: This functionality ensures that if someone wants to modify, manipulate or corrupt the data in transit, the act will be easily detected/caught.
- Authentication: This is a verification process that validates the user’s request of accessing data to communicate with the intended website.
TLS uses a technology known as public key encryption for encrypting the responses/requests. There are 2 types of keys: public and private.
When the client and server are connected, both the devices use the public and private key to encrypt the data. A session key unique to that particular session of data transfer is initiated. The session key adds another layer of security further encrypting the information. As a result, you see a string of characters, not plain text when you look at the information.
Now, let’s use the same Facebook example we discussed earlier to understand the encryption process better. This time, we’ll assume that we are using a HTTPS secured connection.
- Step 1: A secure connection between a client (browser) and a server (website) is established via handshake. The handshake is initiated when the browser makes a URL request, like requesting to access https://www.facebook.com. With this request, the client initiates an SSL connection technically known as client hello.
- Step 2: Having received the client’s request, the server responds by sending a copy of the SSL certificate with a public key. This step is known as server hello.
- Step 3: After receiving the data from the server, the client verifies the certificate. The certificate can be validated by different Certificate Authorities (CA) that is trusted by the client. At this point, data is being encrypted.
- Step 4: The server now sends back a signed acknowledgement of the same. After receiving the acknowledgement, both client and server initiate an SSL encrypted session.
- Step 5: With an established SSL session it’s now possible to share the encrypted data. The session key is unique to this particular SSL session, and can be used to encrypt/decrypt the data exchanged between the server and client.
3. How HTTPS helps SEO
If the security reasons for HTTPS are not enticing enough to switch over to HTTPS, let’s talk about the SEO advantages.
Think about ranking
Google Chrome is one of the most popular browsers, and if the site does not have HTTPS, it labels it as ‘not secure’. Consider this is a red flag especially if you’re involved in e-commerce.
Google also gives preference to sites that use HTTPS. So, if you’re using a secured site, and your competitors are not, you’re sure to get a competitive edge in Google ranking.
HTTPS is required to implement AMP
You can’t leverage the power of AMP (Accelerated Mobile Pages) without switching to HTTPS. Google launched AMP to upload content into mobile sites at a much faster rate. AMP content has a prominent presence in Google’s SERPs.
With Google prioritizing mobile-first sites and more searches coming from mobile, it’s important to switch to HTTPS to create a mobile-friendly site.
Ensuring the effectiveness of Google Analytics
The difference between HTTP and HTTPS ensures a big security advantage. With a secured site which is readily accepted by a popular browser like Google Chrome, you ensure more visits. The security data of the site is saved in an HTTPS protocol. This means you can take advantage of referrer data making Google Analytics more effective.
Building effective PPC campaigns
In 2018, Google ads automatically redirected HTTP search ads to HTTPS. They’re no longer accepting HTTP addresses for landing pages. If users are visiting your site, but there are no conversions, advertisers will not pay for Google ads. Using HTTPS can help you with better conversions of ads.
4. How eWay Corp can help
HTTPS builds trust, and to build trust in business, you need to assure your customers/clients that you’re doing everything to make their websites secure. Making the switch to HTTPS is worth the investment to protect your users. What you need is a good web hosting company that has the technical support, know-how, and tools to add a distinctive edge to your business.