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What is HTTPS: The Complete Explainer Guide

Comprehensive guide on the HTTPS protocol

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Have you ever noticed the term HTTPS and a small padlock icon during web browsing? Have you ever pondered over its significance and why it matters? If you have, this guide will help you understand HTTPS and its crucial role in helping you navigate the internet safely.

HTTPS is your line of defense in the digital war, protecting critical information like credit card details and passwords as well as averting online privacy invasions.

Many users have also decided to turn on DNS over HTTPS on their Windows 11 devices to improve security and privacy.

What is HTTPS?

Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure is a protocol that facilitates communication between the user’s browser and the website. It facilitates data transport as well and is the secure version of HTTP. The data flow in this protocol is encrypted to increase security. This is important to guarantee security when sending sensitive data, such as passwords and contact details.

FeatureHTTPSHTTP
SecuritySecure: Encrypts dataInsecure: Data travels unencrypted
ProtectionHigh: Shields data against manipulation and interceptionLow: Information susceptible to manipulation and interception
Data TransmissionEncrypted: Information is jumbled and unreadable for everyone except the intended recipientPlaintext: Clear text is used to transmit the information, making it visible to everyone
Suitable forSensitive information: Logins, online transactions, personal dataNon-sensitive information: Browsing public websites, reading news articles
A symbol in the address barPadlock icon and “HTTPS”No symbol in the address bar

In today’s digital world, using HTTPS is no longer an option but a necessity because security is paramount when carrying out activities online, especially concerning sensitive information.

How Does HTTPS Work?

Encryption is a crucial component of HTTPS because it converts your message (data) into an unreadable format, such as a complicated code, using a unique key. The decryption key, held only by the website, acts as an unbreakable lock, ensuring the coded message remains unreadable, and the original information is inaccessible to others. HTTPS uses two types of encryption. These are:

Asymmetric encryption

It is asymmetric encryption that makes the HTTPS protocol operational. Two different keys are needed for encryption and decryption when using asymmetric encryption. These are the public and private keys. Data is encrypted using the public key, which is meant to be shared with everyone, and someone with the corresponding private key can then decrypt this data.
Understanding the asymmetric encryption process

Symmetric encryption

With symmetric encryption, data is encrypted and decrypted from plaintext to ciphertext using a single key shared between the two parties during the session. This encryption ensures that data sharing between the two verified parties is protected from interception throughout the session.
Understanding how the symmetric encryption works

Because of this encryption, even if the data were to be intercepted during its transfer between you and the website, it would remain unreadable to the interceptor without the decryption key. In other words, HTTPS protects your data from prying eyes by using encryption as an invisible shield.

Transport Layer Security (TLS) acts as the architect and creates a secure connection between your browser and the website you are viewing. Here’s an overview of how it functions in simpler terms:

  • Handshake – A handshake, or initial communication, occurs when you connect to an HTTPS website. Your browser and the website exchange information to build confidence and decide on encryption techniques.
  • Key Exchange – During this handshake, each party produces an individual encryption key. One website keeps a private key, while the other is a public one that is freely shared.
  • Data Encryption – Using HTTPS encrypts your communications, making it significantly harder for unauthorized individuals to decipher what you’re saying. This data gets jumbled up by the encryption, rendering it unreadable to anyone who intercepts it.
  • Data Transmission – The encrypted data moves securely across the internet as a coded message.
  • Data Decryption – When the data package reaches the website, the server decrypts it using its private key. By doing this, the jumbled data is unlocked, and the website can comprehend your message.

Benefits of Using HTTPS

Here are some of the reasons why you should use HTTPS.

  • Protects sensitive information – Anytime you use a HTTPS website, your data flows encrypted. This protects it from attacks by hackers and other nefarious individuals who could be prowling online. It safeguards sensitive data like credit card numbers, passwords, or personal information.
  • Prevents data theft – HTTPS uses sophisticated code to encrypt your data as a virtual bodyguard. This considerably lowers the possibility of identity theft and illegal access to your personal information.
  • Safeguards online transactions – Utmost security is needed for bank transactions and online purchasing. Your financial information, including credit card numbers and banking credentials, is protected during transactions when you use HTTPS. This security measure keeps unauthorized parties from obtaining your accounts, making fraudulent purchases, or stealing your financial information.
  • Protects private communications – HTTPS can safeguard private messages and conversations on specific websites. Using HTTPS encrypts your communications, making it significantly harder for unauthorized individuals to decipher what you’re saying.

HTTPS is committed to user privacy and security by promoting user engagement and information sharing. Even if optimization is not the primary focus, search engines like Google take website security into account in their ranking algorithms. There can also be a little SEO advantage for HTTPS websites.

Final Thoughts

In this guide, we have comprehensively explained what HTTPS means and how to use it to improve online security and privacy. If you have further questions, contact us via the comment section below.

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David Ogbor
David is a tech guru with extensive knowledge in technical articles. He is passionate about writing and presents technical articles in an easy-to-understand format for easy comprehension. He aims to present easy solutions for day-to-day problems encountered while using PC. In his spare time, he likes traveling, playing sports, and singing.