HTTP vs HTTPS: The difference in security protocol
Websites transfer data from the internet to your computer through two protocols: HTTP and HTTPS. HTTP stands for Hypertext Transfer Protocol, while HTTPS is the same technology that uses more secure channels and requires an SSL security certificate to transfer information.
Data sent through HTTPS protocols is secure and encrypted, meaning data cannot be compromised while being transmitted. If your website processes online payments it has becoming increasingly important to utilise the HTTPS protocol, as security becomes an increasingly important aspect of network providers’ priorities.
The benefits of using an SSL certificate with data to and from your website is that search engines like google are increasingly benefitting sites with security certificates over those without. SSL certificates protect personal data, credit card info, and all other types of internet data submitted to and transferred from your site and demonstrates to users that your organisation takes information security seriously. Moreover, web browsers such as Google Chrome are blocking websites without valid SSL certificates. This means that ultimately people won’t be able to access or browse your site until a certificate has been purchased and activated.
The reason HTTPS is so important is the encryption service it adds to HTTP transmission. Using HTTP protocol, data is transmitted in plain, unencrypted text, just as you are reading here. This means that if a hacker intercepts the data transmission, its very easy for them to read and use the data. HTTPS, on the other hand, encrypts any communications during transmission, so that even if a hacker were to get their hands on your data, it would be very difficult for them to gain any actionable information from it.
The way SSL encryption works is using an asymmetric Public Key Infrastructure (PKI) system. It utilises two keys in its encryption of data. The public key and the private key, and the data can only be unscrambled if each key is used to unencrypt the other. The public key is accessible by anybody, but the private key is only owned by the website owner, and so anyone trying to access the website’s secure data only has half of the tools it needs to decrypt and read the information.
When you try to request information from a HTTPS site, the website sends its SSL certificate to your browser, in order to verify that your data will be protected. The website then creates a secure connection between your computer and the site.
Switching from HTTP to HTTPS can be done by talking to the company that hosts your site. They should be able to issue and install SSL certificates on all your webpages. If not, third-party companies sell the certificates, and setting them up manually is a small task.
To find out more about internet security, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 0115 940 8040