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HTTP vs. HTTPS: What’s the Difference?




Sep 5, 2018

HTTP vs. HTTPS: What’s the Difference?

The internet can seem like an endless sea of data – an estimated 1,200 petabytes worth of data are stored on just Google, Amazon, Facebook and Microsoft servers.

With so much information shared between people, securing it is important for any business to stay afloat. Unsecured data can give hackers access to millions of users’ sensitive information. Leaks can sink even the best ship, so they must be prevented at all costs!

That means using HTTPS to communicate with customers and not regular HTTP. Hypertext Transfer Protocol, or HTTP, used to be what everyone used in the early days of the internet.

Now, after the technology industry standardized security protocols, HTTPS is the only way any business should interact with the online world. It can be difficult understanding the difference between the two, though. HTTPS is just the secure form of HTTP. And it didn’t earn the ‘S’ at the end of its acronym for no reason!

To learn about how HTTP and HTTPS are different, and why you should use HTTPS, keep reading!

Data Sent Over HTTP Is a Treasure Map to Personal Information

Imagine if pirates didn’t try to hide their treasure. They wouldn’t ever hide their treasure maps, and anyone would be able to steal their loot. In security terms, this unhidden treasure map would be written in something called plaintext.

The text you are reading right now is something called plaintext. This is exactly what it sounds like – text that hasn’t had anything done to it.

The data that is sent over HTTP is the same way. Anyone who can get their hands on it will be able to read it. This is why most financial transactions over the internet are not sent through HTTP.

So, if a hacker decided to set up a man-in-the-middle attack between your computer and Amazon’s server, they would be able to see your debit card numbers if you made a purchase.

HTTPS tries to make sure this can’t happen.

HTTPS Buries the Treasure and Hides the Map

Rather than hold the map up for everyone to see, pirates hid the path to their treasure. HTTPS does the same thing.

Data sent through HTTPS is encoded before your browser sends it off. It uses a type of security method called Secure Sockets Layer (SSL).

SSL takes the data you type in, and everything else that is sent off, and encrypts it. This means that if you tried to look at the data, you would just see gibberish.

So, if a hacker obtains your data as it is sent through HTTPS, they will not be able to read it or really do anything with it.

By encrypting data this way, HTTPS secures a person’s personal information as it navigates the internet. Even if that information doesn’t reach its destination and someone else opens that message in a bottle, they won’t be able to read it.

Computers Can’t Trust Each Other With an Ocean of Data Between Them

When you log into a website like Facebook or Amazon, you are actually just connecting to another computer. The servers websites use for their websites are really just big, expensive computers like the one you’re using to read this, with the only difference being many people can use them at once.

Think of them like ports, with many people coming and going all the time. Only sometimes, you may think you’re at one port when you’re really at another.

Hackers will sometimes make a website that looks a lot similar to a Facebook or Amazon login page. When people log in to these fake pages, they can be fooled into giving a random person their login details.

HTTP connections have no way of telling if the computer it is connecting to genuinely belongs to Amazon, Facebook, or anyone else. There is no way to tell if you’re at the right port.

Without a way to tell the difference between a true server and an imposter, users could hand over sensitive information without even knowing it.

Land-ho! HTTPS Will Make Sure You Get Where You’re Going

HTTPS is like having a navigator on board who knows the seas like the back of their hand. They will be able to tell if you end up in the right port.

Because HTTPS uses SSL, it can verify that the computer a user connects to is actually who they claim to be. The verification is done through a thing called an HTTPS certificate.

These certificates act like keys to decrypt the encrypted information sent over HTTPS. When data is sent from a user to a server, the information is turned to gibberish to protect it.

When it reaches the server a user intended to send it to, it needs to be decrypted. This is done through a private key.

SSL essentially puts a padlock over information by encrypting it, which can only be unlocked with the right key, which only a genuine server will have. These keys are actually long strings of random letters and numbers but are essential to proving that a server is real.

Basically, it’s like your navigator will only let you dock somewhere if they recognize the area.

Certificates are issued through third-parties responsible for making sure they are going to the right people. Operating systems come with a list of known third-party issuers and automatically trust them.

Getting an SSL certificate also does more than just secure information. With an SSL certificate, a company’s brand will be boosted as it develops customer trust and loyalty.

Without a certificate, customers will receive a warning message whenever they connect to a company’s website. This can make potential customers nervous, and cost the company valuable business.

There is More to it than Just HTTPS

Even though it is the standard for online communication, HTTPS is not entirely secure. Malicious users can obtain self-signed SSL certificates, which can be used to better impersonate trusted brands.

These certificates are generated through free software and enable HTTPS connections between a malicious server and users. They trick browsers into thinking a server is genuinely from a particular website when it can actually be malicious.

Everyone Needs a Crew to Navigate the Digital Seas

People are less likely to purchase from a business that is not secured in some way since it puts their personal information at risk. A truly secure business does more than just build an online presence and go where the customers are. It also develops security protocols that protect themselves and their customers.

This involves building a website with servers that have been tested against penetration or injection attacks. The servers for any reputable online business must reliably hold massive amounts of customer information, without any leaks.

Building such a network of servers can be impossible for the business itself. Instead, most businesses opt to use third-party developers. They usually understand the technical nuances of building an online business beyond just implementing HTTPS.

To recruit your next crew to help you on these treacherous digital waves, just contact us!

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