What is HTTP vs HTTPS?

The difference between HTTP and HTTPS may sound imbecile to technology nerds but still there are lots of people out there who are not aware of the fact as to how secure sites work and this post is to help them understand about what is HTTP vs HTTPS?

I remember when back in my college days, I was always so apprehensive while shopping online as I didn’t know whether my bank details would go over a secure channel till I got into the IT field myself and learnt about trusted third party encryption! So, without wasting any further time, let us get started on what is HTTP vs HTTPS?

HTTP Overview:

First of all, I would like to give you a brief introduction about HTTP. HTTP is the abbreviation for HyperText Transfer Protocol​. It is called “HyperText” because of its ability to have images along with simple text. HTTP resides at the application layer of TCP/IP model of networking. In simple words, it is responsible for how the information is presented to a user on his computer and is not bothered about the transport of data from one point to the other.

HTTP works in a client-server model, that is, a web browser that sends the request acts as a client whereas the machine on which the website is hosted acts as the server. HTTP operates on TCP (Transmission and Control Protocol) port 80 by default.

HTTPS Overview:​

HTTPS is Secure HyperText Transfer Protocol​. It is a protocol for secure communication over a computer network that is widely used on the Internet now. The main purpose of HTTPS is to authenticate the visited website and protection of privacy and integrity of the data that is exchanged.

To perform secure communication, HTTPS works hand-in-hand with another protocol called SSL (Secure Socket Layer) or TLS (Transport Layer Security). Both SSL/TLS use an assymetric Public Key Infrastructure (PKI) system which actually uses two keys to encrypt communications – a public key and a private key. Anything that is encrypted with the public key can only be decrypted with the private key and vice versa.

Hence, all communications between your browser and the website are encrypted. HTTPS is also used to protect highly confidential online transactions such as bank transfers or credit card shopping on e-commerce sites. If you are using your debit card or doing any other form of money transfer online, do have a look at your browser’s address bar as Internet browsers show a padlock alongside the URL (website address) to indicate if an HTTPS connection is active.

HTTPS uses TCP port 443 by default. So, HTTP and HTTPS are two separate communication channels.​

What is HTTP vs HTTPS?

Difference between HTTP vs HTTPS:

The difference between HTTP vs HTTPs is that normal HTTP connections are in plain text and can be easily read by an intruder who breaks into the connection established between your browser and the web server whereas with HTTPS, all communication is securely encrypted and if someone tries to break into the communication, he would not be able do so unless until he finds the correct key to decrypt the data.

Why HTTPS?

​As described above, HTTPS is much better than HTTP because it offers following benefits:

– HTTPS protects integrity of your website.
– HTTPS maintains privacy of your users.
– Important information such as debit/credit card details are encrypted.
– Users are more likely to trust you and your website if it is enabled for HTTPS.
– Internet’s standards bodies have come to the conclusion that HTTPS should be the baseline for all web traf​fic. So, HTTPS is the future of the Internet.

Challenges with HTTPS:

If HTTPS has advantages, it has its challenges too. Let us have a look at some of the challenges that are faced with HTTPS:

1. Website Speed: HTTPS slows down your website as it requires extra communication handshakes between the client and the server.

However, if you follow best practices your site should be more than fast enough to handle HTTPS​.

2. Trouble with HTTPS: Everything is not ready for HTTPS yet as there are some older web applications that can have trouble with HTTPS URLs.

3. National Security Issues: As intelligence agencies are always intercepting communications for national security purposes, it has become quite difficult for them to do with HTTPS in effect.

​How to know if HTTPS is working?

To check if HTTPS is in operation and the site is encrypted with SSL, you could do:

When you request a HTTPS connection to a webpage, you may see the entire web address bar green at times. If that is the case, it means the site is using “Extended Validation” SSL certificates that encrypt data and prove and verify ownership of the site.

What is HTTP vs HTTPS?

It is important to highlight that Extended Validation SSL don’t provide any advanced encryption as compared to a standard SSL. However, EV SSLs ​are mostly used by big IT giants and require additional vetting and are more expensive than standard SSLs.​

So to sum it up, when a trusted SSL Digital Certificate is used for the HTTPS connection, you will see a padlock icon in the browser’s address bar. On the other hand, when an Extended Validation Certificate is installed for a site, the whole address bar will appear green.

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Haider Khalid

IP Network Engineer, CCIE# 52939
Haider Khalid is a Cisco Certified Network Engineer (CCIE# 52939) who has worked with several ISPs & Telecom vendors in Pakistan, Middle East and the UK. He is always keen to learn new technologies and likes to share them with his peers and other people. In case of any questions or feedback, please feel free to drop a comment below or connect with him on LinkedIn.

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2 thoughts on “What is HTTP vs HTTPS?”

  1. Haider, I converted my site to SSL sometime ago and I sure know it gives that extra sense of rightness. I did this using a step by step method presented by my mentor so having a read of this post certainly clarified the process.

    I hadn’t known about the full green bar occurrence and probably never will unless the higher cost you mentioned, reduces quite a bit.

    Nice article.

    Ciao
    Helen

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