To answer what HTTPS is, first, we need to get rid of the question “What does HTTP stand for and how does it work?”. HTTP is one of the basic principles behind the World Wide Web. HyperText Transfer Protocol is responsible for the user’s connection with the web pages. It works in a very simple way:
- The client sends a request. This happens automatically when you enter a website’s domain, click the link, or access it through a search engine.
- The server, on which the page is stored, analyzes the request and details stored in it (for example, language). Then, it responds with the data package, which basically is a page itself.
- Every next interaction with the same page or a different one works the same way – it’s just a data exchange between the client and the server.
As you can see, it’s a pretty uncomplicated process, if not taking all the details into consideration.
Now, we’re ready to proceed to HTTPS. The S at the end stands for Security, with HTTPS meaning HyperText Transfer Protocol Secure. It’s the same basic protocol, but the one where your data is encrypted, thus greatly increasing security and minimizing the risk of your information being stolen.
That means the difference between HTTP and HTTPS is almost nonexistent, as the latter is exactly the same, with the exception of added Secure Socket Layers (SSL) or Transport Layer Security (TSL). However, SSL and TSL bring many changes. By encrypting the data, they change the algorithms of a web page’s interaction with a user, impacting not only security but also the work of search engines.
Back in the days, when the Internet was only getting popular, everyone used HTTP. Search engines were very basic and didn’t consider SSL or TSL protection as a big factor. That’s because this kind of protection used to cost money, which not everybody could afford. But today, all professional SEO Services know that search engines, Google namely, always check if a page has security protocols. There are so many free and cheap security options, that it’s almost impossible not to use one.
Getting back to SSL/TSL, here’s a very simplified example of how it works.
Data without encryption:
This is just a demonstration text and it doesn’t have any personal information. Please don’t steal this data.
Data with encryption:
The passage above looks like just a pile of symbols, right? Because it is. Only a client and server can understand the request behind it, making the interventions almost impossible.
But why and where would you want my data to be protected? The truth is – everywhere. Today, most websites have security layers. And those who do not are highlighted by the browser as “not safe”, and the users are notified immediately upon entering such pages.
For instance, if you’re buying something online and the online store doesn’t have SSL/TSL protection, all your payment information (credit card) can be stolen easily. There is plenty of free software that can intervene in someone else’s non-encrypted data without any problems.
But why would we give such a hint to everyone reading this article? Because as mentioned earlier, every website today has a security layer. If a page doesn’t, it’s either fishy and you should be very careful, or it’s really old, has been hacked thousand times, and the chances of you sending any important data are low.
Yet, always remember to pay attention to where you click, especially when visiting these old pages. It’s still possible to get viruses through these old-school “Click me and get 100$” scam links. No encryption can protect a user who “willingly” sends a request for the server to automatically send a virus. And that’s exactly how such virus-spreading links work.
Getting back to our matter, you really don’t want to visit a site with no protective layers. It may seem “innocent” at first. But remember about all of your personal information stored online, the auto-fills, and other convenient modern features.
All of them are very useful, but once the third party gets access even to the tiniest bit of data through the non-HTTPS website, the rest is just a matter of time. For instance, if you log in or sign up on a website with no security, most of your accounts will probably be hacked into.
You may ask now: but who would want my information? I’m not a public figure, so why would anyone need it? The answer is – most of such data and random people’s accounts are sold on the dark web, to be later used in half-legal, illegal, and even criminal activities. That’s why one should always pay attention to a site’s protection.
How does a website migrate from HTTP to HTTPS?
The first thing you need to do is to acquire an SSL/TSL certificate. There are countless options online, from free ones that will cover all your basic security needs, to the ones that provide top-notch protection. Also, check if your provider or hosting service offers their partners’ SSL/TSL certificates. They’re usually a great deal for non-complex websites.
If the certificate is acquired successfully, you’ll be notified with a “Certificate: valid” message on the page’s information tab. In Google Chrome it’s the (i) or “lock” icon on the very left of an address bar. If the page doesn’t have encryption or there are some important details about it, the “lock’ icon will be highlighted in red or orange respectively.
As you can see, there’s nothing complicated about HTTPS. Well, at least from the user’s perspective. Just like everything nowadays, complex engineering and programming have already been done for you by professionals. You only need to utilize the results of their work. Just remember the importance of using protection layers on your website. And, as a visitor, keep an eye on the presence of those and be careful.