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HTTP vs HTTPS Security: The Difference Between These Protocols

http vs https

In 2014, when Google announced that it would provide a minor boost in the search rankings of HTTPS encrypted websites, the HTTP vs HTTPS debate took off. 

The debate continues to this day and revolves around one question “Is moving your website to HTTPS feasible for small business websites or not?” 

It seems like it does because Google’s latest page experience update has ignited the debate even further. 

Google now wants every website (big or small) to get HTTPS encrypted to qualify for page experience parameters, which means that websites will not rank unless they are HTTPS encrypted.  

So, here are the questions that need answering in detail:

HTTP vs HTTPS Security

HTTP is an un-secure way of transferring data, while HTTPS is a secure way of communication between a web server and a client. 

Search engines like Mozilla and Google are forcing you to move to HTTPS encryption because of the security it provides. 

HTTPS is an extended and advanced version of HTTP. 

Where HTTP transfer is done in plain text form, HTTPS uses public, private, and session keys to encrypt their communication so that no man-in-the-middle can see and intercept it. 

To understand the concepts in detail, let us delve into them.

What is HTTP?

HTTP or Hypertext Transfer Protocol is a set of rules that govern the hypertext file transfer over the world wide web. 

It is an application layer protocol used to establish and improve the communication between a server and a client. 

It works as a request-response protocol between the two communicating entities. 

How does HTTP work?

To establish communication, a web browser sends a request to the web server, which receives it and processes it by executing an application request. 

The application output is then returned to the web browser, which then receives it, and the communication is established. 

The process of receiving and responding is done using HTTP within no time, so users never see it happen in the front end. 

Is HTTP an Unsecure Way to Communicate Data?

Yes, security issues have always kept HTTP on the backfoot. The issue with HTTP is that it transfers data in an unencrypted form. 

HTTP data transfer is done in plain text, which is why any man-in-the-middle can add malicious codes, steal data, inject codes, and eavesdrop. 

Even worse, HTTP does not comply with PCI/DSS payment guidelines, which means that details of payment transactions happening on an HTTP website are vulnerable to deception and theft, leading to bank fraud. 

What does an HTTP website look like?

Well, the truth be told. It does not look charming at all. Search engines like Google issue warning signs to visitors and mark it “Not Secure” ahead of its URL. 

Customers are often discouraged from visiting HTTP websites by the search engine themselves. Even if a customer manages to sneak in, the warning signs are enough to scare him/her away. 

Put yourself in a customer’s boots and ask yourself, would you like to enter your address, phone number, credit/debit card, and bank details on a website that is already marked unsecure?

No, right? So. No, an HTTP website does not look good on cards at all. 

What is HTTPS?

HTTPS or Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure is also a set of rules that governs the communication between a server and a client but in a secure way. 

The “S” in HTTPS represents security which ensures an extra layer of protection gets added to the HTTP with the help of TLS (Transport Layer Security) or SSL (Secure Socket Layer) to secure the communication. 

How does it work?

To secure the communication between the two parties HTTPS essentially needs three things a) data, b) encryption keys, and c) encryption algorithm.

Let us understand it in the context of an SSL certificate:

  • To establish a connection, the web browser sends a request to the webserver for its identification.
  • The web browser receives a copy of the web server’s SSL certificate. In other words, the web servers share the copy of its public key, and the web browser creates a session key that gets encrypted using the public key shared by the webserver.
  • The web browser, after analyzing its authenticity, sends a message to the webserver. Here the web browser shares the session key with the webserver.
  • After receiving the web server, it digitally signs an acknowledgment and sends it to the web browser. Here the web server receives the session key, acknowledges it, and decrypts it.
  • After the SSL encrypted session starts, the data is shared between them freely. Here the asymmetric encryption is replaced by symmetric encryption, and the sessions stay active.

HTTPS requires SSL/TLS Certificates

When a customer visits your website, he/she wants to ensure that you are a genuine and credible entity. 

An SSL certificate helps prove your credibility by authenticating and verifying all the information about you and your company. 

To enable HTTPS encryption, you need to have an SSL certificate. There are three types of SSL certificates: 

a) Domain Validation (DV)

b) Organization Validation (OV) and,

c) Extended Validation (EV).

What is Domain Validation?

DV SSL Certificate only requires you to prove that the domain is yours. It is the lowest level of security which is appropriate for static website owners who are only providing information. 

If you don’t want to hold data on your website, such as credit card details, DV will work well. 

What is Organization Validation?

Organization Validation requires you to undergo an advanced verification test where organizations’ registration details need to be verified with a third-party database. If you want to establish your company’s reputation over the web, you need an Organization Validation certificate.

What is Extended Validation? 

Extended Validation requires you to undergo a robust verification process. 

Certificate Authorities do not issue these certificates to websites that cannot verify their credibility. 

Everything from the organization’s name, address, Government proofs are matched to certify a website under EV SSL certificate

Websites that collect sensitive information like bank details, credit/debit card numbers, phone numbers, addresses, and passwords must have an EV SSL certificate. 

Note:

Only Regular SSL certificates are eligible for EV certificates by Certificate Authorities. Wildcard SSL certificates are not eligible for EV certificates because they share their public key across various servers. EV requires each domain and subdomain validation, which is not possible in the wildcard certificate. 

What does an HTTPS website look like? 

Unlike HTTP, an HTTPS encrypted website looks safe from the outset. 

In front of the URL, the grey padlock testifies that the website has an SSL/TLS certificate installed and data transfer is over a secure network. 

However, the best part about an HTTPS-enabled website is that search engines encourage and promote such websites. 

Visitors do not see the “Not Secure” sign and warning signals, so they feel safer sharing sensitive information. 

Moreover, in an HTTPS website, visitors can easily derive information about the credibility of the website owner by clicking on the grey padlock. 

Depending on the level of Validation, an SSL certificate will show the verified information about the website owner. 

Difference between HTTP vs HTTPS

HTTP vs HTTPS Security is one of the heated debates on the internet. Let us figure out which one is better by understanding these 5 points mentioned below:

  • HTTPS provides an additional layer of security

HTTPS comes with SSL encryption, where the Secure Socket Layer encrypts the data transfer between a client and a server. 

But, in HTTP, the data is transferred in a plain text format where any hacker can easily intercept and steal it. 

  • HTTPS Encryption helps avoid “Not Secure” Signs

If your website is HTTPS encrypted, your website will get marked as “Secure” by search engines. 

But, in the case of HTTP, search engines will display a “Not Secure” sign both ahead of the URL and on the interface as well. 

HTTP only operates on the application layer, whereas HTTPS operates on the transport layer or secure socket layer. 

HTTPS uses Public Key Infrastructure technology which stores, creates, and distributes digital certificates that verify the authenticity of the user and the public key. 

Moreover, HTTP operates on port 80, whereas HTTPS operates on Port 443.  

  • HTTPS helps build trust

Influence, attention, and trust are three of the most important pillars to do any business. 

You may successfully influence visitors to visit their website, grab their attention, but if you have an HTTP website that shows a “Not Secure” warning upon their visit, there is no way you can convert them because the trust factor is lost. 

An HTTPS website helps maintain your market reputation among customers by displaying your identity through a grey padlock, whereas an HTTP website will scare them away. 

Thus, HTTPS helps build trust and reputation. 

  • HTTPS increases your Search Rankings while HTTP dips them

Search engines like Google back HTTPS websites, but they discourage people from visiting HTTP websites by displaying “Not Secure” signs. 

When prospects visit an HTTP website, they bounce back after seeing the warning signal, which automatically spikes the bounce rate and dips the website rankings. 

Moreover, the Page Experience update will also play a crucial role in dipping the HTTP website rankings. 

But, on an HTTPS website, customers feel safe and freely share their sensitive information like bank and Debit/Credit Card details thus, increasing their rankings. 

  • HTTPS helps in complying with PCI/DSS guidelines

The Payment Card Industry guidelines must be followed by all websites that always accept payments. 

A website that follows PCI/DSS guidelines is considered secure and safe to transact. Such websites can collect sensitive information like credit/debit card details. 

One of the major factors that are necessary for compliance with these guidelines is the use of HTTPS. 

According to the PCI, websites that accept sensitive details and store them must be HTTPS encrypted; otherwise, they will face heavy penalties from credit card companies. 

However, an HTTP website does not qualify for receiving online payments and storing sensitive information according to PCI guidelines. 

How Do I get my website HTTPS Encrypted?

To install HTTPS encryption, you need to buy SSL certificate and install it. 

Many reputed brands sell SSL certificates. However, before buying the certificate, you must assess your website. 

Are you a small business looking to expand in the future with subdomains? If yes, then go for a wildcard SSL certificate. 

But, if you are a static website that is there to provide information then, a regular SSL certificate will do well. 

Buying an SSL certificate is the only way to get HTTPS encryption. 

To Conclude: Differentiation between HTTP and HTTPS

As of May 2021, 72.3% of all websites now use HTTPS as their default security protocol

The number includes both the top-ranked websites and those not ranking on the first three pages of Google. It testifies that websites have now understood the need for HTTPS encryption. 

Here is the differentiation between the HTTP vs HTTPS:

  • Where HTTPS provides security through PKI infrastructure technology, HTTP still works on the Application Layer Protocol. 
  • In HTTPS, users can verify the credibility of the website owner by clicking on the grey padlock but, HTTP does not show the owner’s identity. 
  • Search engines encourage HTTPS encrypted websites while discouraging the ones that operate on HTTP. 
  • All of Google’s algorithms (2014 and 2021) updates are based on forcing sites to get HTTPS encryption while demeaning the HTTP protocol. 
  • Visitors trust HTTPS websites over HTTP websites because of the authenticity it provides. 
  • Sites that have HTTPS encryption rank much better than the ones having HTTP encryption. 
  • An HTTPS-enabled website can accept payments and pass sensitive customer information (according to the PCI/DSS guidelines) between the server and the browser, whereas an HTTP-enabled website cannot. 

From the above differentiation, you must have understood the importance of HTTPS in today’s world. 

It is visible that HTTPS is a far better choice than HTTP.

If you want to be in the good books of search engines like Google, get HTTPS encryption today. 

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