HTTP vs. HTTPS: What Is the Difference?

When you go to any safe website on the internet, you’ll notice that it either has HTTP or HTTPS at the beginning of the URL. They’re both similar, but in the debate of HTTP vs HTTPS, there are some clear differences. When it comes to safety and security, you’ll want to know just how much protection each site provides. Here’s what you need to know.

What Is HTTP?

HTTP stands for Hypertext Transfer Protocol and refers to the transfer of data and information online. When you click on a link to a website that uses HTTP, the protocol carries the request from your click to a server. The server then responds to the request by opening up the webpage.

HTTP operates on the application layer which facilitates the transfer of data between various hosts in a network. It’s the layer of the internet where you interact with people and sites in an instant. The faster your connection is, the faster the layer will be able to bring you to your HTTP page.

During these transfers and requests, HTTP sites use Transmission Control Protocol (TCP) to establish and uphold the network dynamic so that the exchange of data can continue seamlessly. When you use HTTP sites, everything happens in an instant. Behind the scenes, though, these protocols and layers are all working together to provide you with your desired result. 

HTTP was the norm for sites for several years after its creation in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s. Now HTTPS has become the norm.

What Is HTTPS?

HTTPS, or Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure, builds upon the existing networks and applications of HTTP to bring you more advanced and secure website interactions. Using HTTPS connections is an overall safer way to use the internet, so what makes this dynamic so secure?

The extra S at the end for Secure means that these sites have more encryption between the webpage and the server. During that request and response period, an HTTP site is theoretically open to cyber attacks since it doesn’t have the same strength of protection that an HTTPS would. HTTPS then covers more security bases during this interaction.

HTTPS operates on Transport Layer Security (TLS) and uses public and private encryption keys to ensure you receive the best privacy and protection possible while browsing. If you’re using a site to input private information like bank account numbers or passwords, then you’re going to want to be on HTTPS. If not, you run the risk of theft or breaches.

Should You Switch to HTTPS?

In general, secure sites are moving away from HTTP and to HTTPS. This shift is because HTTPS provides better security and encryption during the access, request and response dynamics when you enter and navigate webpages. HTTPS sites are especially critical for anywhere you need to enter private information, like online shopping sites or social media pages. 

However, for sites that don’t require any personal information, HTTP is still okay to use — for now, at least. Of course, you’ll want to look for other areas of concern, like popups or a lack of any security at all. 

Still, for any site owners looking to guarantee more security for visitors and customers, you’ll want to make the switch to HTTPS. You’ll need to obtain a Security Sockets Layer (SSL) certificate from a Certificate Authority, first. This certificate proves your site authenticates and encrypts all its connections, warranting the HTTPS prefix in the URL.

With an HTTPS site heading off the URL, domain owners ensure users that they have the top security and privacy protocols in place.

HTTPS Helps Make the Internet Safer

One other element to consider is the question of regulations and legal compliance. Public sentiment surrounding online security and identity protection has seen territories like California pass sweeping consumer privacy protection laws.

The California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) was one of these, with other states, like Virginia, already following suit with their own similar measures. What this means for consumers echoes earlier points about HTTPS. Namely: websites that use modern security technologies are safer for end-users to trust with their banking information and online purchases.

The situation is more complex for small and large businesses. There’s not a day that goes by without some kind of data breach, either attempted or successful. Under CCPA and other emerging laws, the breached business, no matter its size, must take responsibility. This includes delivering notices to affected customers, accounting for the company’s response time, and proving that both restorative and preventive measures have been taken.

The best path is to ensure such compromising activities, and their impact to the company’s reputation, don’t happen at all. The next best thing is ensuring they don’t happen again.

The pivot from HTTP to HTTPS is just one part of taking cybersecurity seriously. Nevertheless, with rising expectations for data handling for even the smallest businesses using data to operate, anyplace is a good place to start.

HTTP vs. HTTPS: Which Is Better?

In the bigger picture, HTTPS is the best option to use when creating a website or when browsing on the internet. It provides more security and encryption than HTTP. However, it’s important to note that HTTPS wouldn’t be possible without the efforts of HTTP. With both working together, safe browsing is now the norm.

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