Hyper Text Transfer Protocol Secure (HTTPS) is the secure version of HTTP, the protocol over which data is sent between your browser and the website that you are connected to. The ‘S’ at the end of HTTPS stands for ‘Secure’. It means all communications between your browser and the website are encrypted. HTTPS is often used to protect highly confidential online transactions like online banking and online shopping order forms.
Web browsers such as Internet Explorer, Firefox and Chrome also display a padlock icon in the address bar to visually indicate that a HTTPS connection is in effect.
How Does HTTPS Work?
HTTPS pages typically use one of two secure protocols to encrypt communications – SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) or TLS (Transport Layer Security). Both the TLS and SSL protocols use what is known as an ‘asymmetric’ Public Key Infrastructure (PKI) system. An asymmetric system uses two ‘keys’ to encrypt communications, a ‘public’ key and a ‘private’ key. Anything encrypted with the public key can only be decrypted by the private key and vice-versa.
As the names suggest, the ‘private’ key should be kept strictly protected and should only be accessible the owner of the private key. In the case of a website, the private key remains securely ensconced on the web server. Conversely, the public key is intended to be distributed to anybody and everybody that needs to be able to decrypt information that was encrypted with the private key.
What is a HTTPS certificate?
When you request a HTTPS connection to a webpage, the website will initially send its SSL certificate to your browser. This certificate contains the public key needed to begin the secure session. Based on this initial exchange, your browser and the website then initiate the ‘SSL handshake’. The SSL handshake involves the generation of shared secrets to establish a uniquely secure connection between yourself and the website.
When a trusted SSL Digital Certificate is used during a HTTPS connection, users will see a padlock icon in the browser address bar. When an Extended Validation Certificate is installed on a web site, the address bar will turn green.
Why Is an SSL Certificate Required?
All communications sent over regular HTTP connections are in ‘plain text’ and can be read by any hacker that manages to break into the connection between your browser and the website. This presents a clear danger if the ‘communication’ is on an order form and includes your credit card details or social security number. With a HTTPS connection, all communications are securely encrypted. This means that even if somebody managed to break into the connection, they would not be able decrypt any of the data which passes between you and the website.
Benefits of Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure
The major benefits of a HTTPS certificate are:
- Customer information, like credit card numbers, is encrypted and cannot be intercepted
- Visitors can verify you are a registered business and that you own the domain
- Customers are more likely to trust and complete purchases from sites that use HTTPS