What Is HTTPS and Why You Should Care

What Is HTTPS and Why You Should Care

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The web is not secure. Or at least not as secure as it would be if all websites used HTTPS.

If this five-letter acronym seems familiar to you, that’s because the company behind the most popular search engine in the world, Google, has been putting pressure on website owners for the last three+ years to familiarize themselves with it.

In this article, we explain how HTTPS works to protect web traffic against malicious third parties and provide additional reasons why the right time to implement it is now.

What Does HTTPS Stand for?

HTTPS stands for Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure. According to Google’s HTTPS definition, it’s an internet communication protocol that protects the integrity and confidentiality of data between the user’s computer and the site.

In other words, HTTPS ensures that an unauthorized third-party can’t see the passwords users use to log in to websites or the information the websites they visit display, such as their bank account statements or private conversations.

HTTP vs HTTPS

Wait?! Does this mean that all information transmitted using the Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP) can be easily stolen? Yes, it does, especially if the information is transmitted over an unsecured public Wi-Fi network.

That’s because regular HTTP, which has been around since the 90s, doesn’t encrypt transferred data at all. Any person who knows how to capture Wi-Fi traffic using a readily available packet sniffer can see all HTTP communication as plain text and use the gathered data for nefarious purposes.

HTTPS, on the other hand, uses Transport Layer Security (TLS), formerly known as Secure Socket Layer (SSL), to provide privacy and data integrity by encrypting the communication between web browsers and servers.

Should an attacker capture data transferred over HTTPS, they would see nothing but a meaningless jumble of letters, numbers, and special characters. To make the captured data readable, the attacker would have to defeat the encryption algorithm, which is virtually impossible.

In summary, HTTP stands for Hypertext Transfer Protocol, and its purpose is to transfer data between web browsers and servers in plain text. HTTPS stands for Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure, and it provides security through encryption.

Why Should You Care About HTTPS?

For web users, the reason to use HTTPS websites and avoid those that haven’t yet implemented it is obvious: enhanced security. But what about web owners? Here are three reasons why all web owners should use HTTPS to secure website data.

Reason 1: Trust

In 2016, Google announced that its web browser, Google Chrome, would start marking all websites that didn’t use HTTPS as “Not Secure.” It didn’t take a long time for most other major web browsers to follow suit, with some displaying the same message, and others showing a broken padlock icon.

When visitors see that a website is marked as “Not Secure,” they are naturally more reluctant to share their personal information, which is necessary to complete a purchase, create a user account, or subscribe to a newsletter.

Reason 2: SEO

Even before Google decided to start warning Google Chrome users about websites that use plain old HTTP, the company had been trying to make the web a safer place by using HTTPS encryption as one of its many ranking signals.

This means that websites that use HTTPS can enjoy a small boost in Google’s search results, while websites that don’t actively protect their users are penalized. Since other search engines typically follow Google’s lead, it’s likely that all unencrypted websites will gradually become harder and harder to find.

Reason 3: Speed

One less often-discussed benefit of HTTPS is that it offers a massive speed advantage over classic HTTP. Anyone can compare load times of the plain HTTP and encrypted HTTPS using the HTTP vs HTTPS Test, a simple web application that loads 360 unique, non-cached images. In most cases, HTTP is approximately 100% slower than HTTPS.

The speed boost delivered by HTTPS has everything to do with its support for HTTP/2, a major revision of the HTTP network protocol over which the HTTPS operates. HTTP/2 is currently supported by all major web browsers and enabled by 48% of the top 10 million websites. Since website loading speed is also a search engine ranking factor, taking advantage of this technology is a no-brainer.

Conclusion

To protect the personal information of their visitors, website owners must proactively enable HTTPS (meaning Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure) to encrypt all data in transit. As a reward, they get to enjoy an improved position in search results and, consequently, more traffic. Enabling HTTPS for the first time may be daunting, but we at BCA are here to answer all your questions and help you make your website more secure.