What Are the Differences Between HTTP & HTTPS?

HTTP stands for hypertext transfer protocol and HTTPS stands for hypertext transfer protocol secure. As you all might imagine, HTTPS has added an extra layer of security to web browsing than HTTP.

HTTPS was traditionally used to protect higher sensitive information, such as online payments since it was conceived over 20 years ago by Netscape for the Netscape Navigator web browser. In recent history, however, it’s been rolled out to almost all online platforms and has overtaken HTTP as the most common method of web-based data transfer.

You’ll know if your website is HTTPS protected as you’ll have the padlock symbol at the beginning of the URL in your browser, as shown in the image below. Web users may have noticed over the last few years that more and more websites are shifting from HTTP over to HTTPS.

In this article, we will discuss the basics of how they work and what their differences are.

What is HTTP?

HTTP stands for Hypertext Transfer Protocol. It is a protocol that specifies the order and syntax for presenting information on the Internet. The HTTP protocol is used to send most information over the Internet, including website content and API calls.

The traditional HTTP method transmitted information as clearly for all to see as if it was jotted down on a piece of paper. 

The new protocol used to secure the socket layer, which in short is SSL, and transport layer security, which again, in short, is TSL, to encrypt any information being transmitted, meaning that it’s relatively difficult if not impossible to read if and when intercepted. Any attackers hoping to get information from such data will instead be met with gobbled letters and numbers.

What is HTTPS?

HTTPS stands for Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure (also known as HTTP over TLS or HTTP over SSL). HTTPS uses TLS (or SSL) to encrypt HTTP requests and responses so that an attacker sees a series of seemingly random characters instead of the plaintext.

As mentioned in the previous slide, using HTTP means that data is transmitted in plain ticks. This means that if someone wants to intercept the data while it’s in transit, known as the middle and the man attack, they would be able to see all of our data without putting any additional effort. HTTPS meanwhile uses public encryption keys via SSL as we’ve just discussed.

Here’s an example to further reinforce the difference between them. When using HTTP to send a message such as a hello world, that attacker would see exactly that, hello world, plus some additional information about the server and when the text was created, and so on and so on. However, with HTTPS the attacker would see something like this, a big wall of gobbled letters and numbers. As you can see, it’s a lot harder to encrypt and figure out what the message actually said.

Additionally, in order for a website to have an SSL certificate that enables it to use HTTPS, the domain must be verified to check that they belong to the website owner. How to switch from HTTP to HTTPS. 

If you’re not using HTTPS to secure your website, it’s time to talk to your hosting company. Your hosting company should issue and install an SSL certificate for you, redirecting your traffic from the HTTP to HTTPS version with little effort. The only thing you need to do is get in touch with your hosting company and ask them to activate it for you.

Differences between HTTP and HTTPS

The following table presents the main distinctions between HTTP and HTTPS, based on the above presentation.

URL http:// https://
Security Unsecure Enhanced security
Port PORT 80 PORT 443
OSI Layer Application Layer Transport Layer
TLS Certificates No Yes
Domain Validation Not required Domain Validation (+ legal validation)
Encryption No Yes

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