Do you pay attention to whether the URL of the website you visit in your browser’s address bar begins with HTTP or HTTPS? If not, then you should do so without a doubt moving forwards, especially whenever you submit personal data or use your credit card to pay for things online.

Whether HTTPS is better than HTTP is a topic of continuous debate in the field of online security. Both have advantages, but there are also some key differences between them that you need to be aware of.

We’ll examine how HTTP and HTTPS differ in this article and how all of this relates to your website. But first, let’s try to understand what protocol is to understand the HTTP and HTTPS protocols better.

Let’s get started!

What Is a Protocol?

A Protocol is a set of guidelines we use for particular objectives. Currently, when we discuss protocols, we are referring to communication, the manner in which we interact with one another. For instance, you can understand when someone speaks in English since you are familiar with the language. The protocol in this scenario is English.

The protocol loses effectiveness the moment someone begins speaking in a language you don’t understand. Therefore, for communication to occur, both parties must consent to a set of rules. In this instance, the protocol is for communication.

When concerning the web, communication takes place through a variety of protocols. The most important and recognisable protocols, primarily for end users, are HTTP and HTTPS. Although there are many other protocols, most people use the HTTP and HTTPS protocols.

Now, let’s go ahead to dig deeper to understand the difference between the two of them. 

What is HTTP?

HTTP stands for Hypertext Transfer Protocol.  It is a protocol that a client and server use to communicate with other websites. It is a commonly used application-level protocol on the Internet, and web browsers often serve as clients. A browser communicates with the web server via an HTTP Request message whenever a user wants to access a web page.

For instance, telling your browser to connect through HTTP is accomplished by typing http:// in front of the domain name in the address bar. TCP (Transmission Control Protocol) is used by HTTP to send and receive data packets over the internet, often via port 80. After the TCP handshake, the client sends an HTTP request message to an HTTP server hosting a website; the server then responds with an HTTP response message. Information about the completion status is included in the response message, such as HTTP/1.1 200 OK.

What is an HTTP Request and Response?

As a user interacts with web properties, their browser sends HTTP requests. The browser will perform a sequence of “HTTP GET” requests, for instance, if a user clicks on a hyperlink to access the content on that page. When a user searches for “What is HTTP?” and this article appears in the search results, their browser will create and send a sequence of HTTP requests to obtain the data required to render the page.

These HTTP requests are sent to an origin server or a proxy caching server, producing an HTTP response. Answers to HTTP requests are known as HTTP responses.

What is HTTPS?

A secure version of HTTP is known as Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure or HTTPS. This protocol uses encryption to enable safe communication between a client (like a web browser) and a server (like a web server). HTTPS encrypts data using the Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) or Transport Layer Security (TLS) protocols.

A secure channel over an unsafe network, such as the internet, is frequently created using HTTPS.  The majority of Internet traffic is unencrypted and vulnerable to sniffing attacks. Secure connections are made possible through HTTPS, which encrypts sensitive data. Instead of using http, HTTPS URLs start with https.

What is the Difference Between HTTP and HTTPS?

HTTPS is HTTP, but with encryption and authentication. The difference between the two protocols is that HTTPS uses TLS (SSL) to encrypt regular HTTP requests and responses and digitally sign those requests and responses. So, compared to HTTP, HTTPS is far more secure. Another difference is that an HTTP website’s URL begins with http://, while an HTTPS website’s URL begins with https://.

How Does TLS/SSL Encrypt HTTP Requests and Responses?

Public key cryptography is a technique used by TLS; it consists of two keys—a public key and a private key. The public key is distributed to client devices via the server’s SSL certificate. When a client establishes a connection with a server, the two devices use the public and private keys to agree on new keys, known as session keys, to encrypt further communications between them.

Then, using these session keys, all HTTP requests and responses are encrypted so that anyone intercepting communications can only see a random string of characters rather than the plaintext itself.

How Does HTTPS Help Authenticate Web Servers?

Verifying someone or something’s identity is known as authentication. HTTP is founded on the idea of trust rather than identity verification. The creators of HTTP simply had concerns other than security at the time and did not necessarily decide to trust all web servers implicitly. However, authentication is vital on the current Internet.

A private key certifies server identity the same way an ID card does for an individual. Possession of the private key that matches the public key in an SSL certificate for a website demonstrates that the server is indeed the authorised host of the website when a client creates a channel with an origin server (for example, when a user navigates to a website). This avoids or assists in preventing many attacks that may be launched in the absence of authentication, including:

  • On-path attacks
  • DNS hijacking
  • BGP hijacking
  • Domain spoofing

The certificate authority that issued the SSL certificate also digitally signs it. This demonstrates that the server is indeed who it claims to be.

Why Do You Need to Use HTTPS for Your Website?

The internet is a fairly incredible tool. We use it to interact with people around the globe, exchange information, work together on projects, watch videos, listen to music, and conduct banking transactions. The internet wasn’t created with robust security in mind, even though it was initially intended to be a means of information sharing across computers on various networks between research institutes, universities, and government organisations. The following are the reasons for using HTTPS on your websites:

It Encourages Users to Trust Your Website

HTTPS uses SSL/TLS encryption to safeguard user-website communications and stop hackers from stealing data. Additionally, it verifies that the server is who it claims to be, preventing impersonations and putting an end to many types of cyberattacks.

It Will Protect Both the User and the Owner

Data is encrypted in transit through HTTPS, and the server can confirm its origin. In order to prevent malicious parties from viewing the data being transferred, the protocol ensures that communications are maintained safely. As a result, when users enter sensitive information like passwords onto a form, it cannot be stolen in transit. Encryption protects sensitive or private data sent from a website to its users (such as credit card details).

It Offers Your Website Authenticity and Credibility

By using HTTPS, it stops a hostile user from spoofing or misrepresenting your website’s identity. Luring readers into believing they are on the website they were looking for when they are actually on a fake one.  Additionally, HTTPS authentication significantly improves the legitimacy of a company website, which affects users’ perceptions of the business as a whole.

HTTPS Is Considered an SEO Ranking Factor

In order to detect and fix security breaches on their website, Google declared HTTPS as a ranking signal in 2014. It also gives users the sense that a website is legitimate and trustworthy.

How Do I Migrate My Site to HTTPS?

Your best option is to utilise a 301 redirect if switching to HTTPS. When you do this, when someone visits your website, their browser automatically switches from HTTP to HTTPS. This makes it simple for them because they don’t need to take any more steps to view the stuff they came for.

This process should go smoothly if your SSL certificate is installed and functioning properly. However, there can be some delay while waiting for a remedy or patching process before beginning with the migration again if something goes wrong during the migration process. For instance, a security vulnerability is detected. 

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