When browsing online, you’ll have more than likely seen a green lock next to a website URL. You’ve probably wondered why it only appears on some sites and what it means when it does appear. Known as HTTPS the ‘green lock’ is an essential part of online security. But why was HTTPS introduced and how does it work? Take a look at our guide to find out everything you need to know about ‘that little green lock’.
Why was HTTPS introduced?
Standing for ‘Hyper Text Transfer Protocol Secure’ HTTPS is a more secure version of a website than HTTP ones. In short, HTTPS makes sure that a secure and encrypted connection is taking place when you’re browsing a website. In the early days of the internet, data was exchanged using a term called HTTP. While this worked fine it wasn’t a secure connection for online communication. This meant that data could be easily intercepted by cybercriminals, making any online communication insecure.
This is why HTTPS was introduced. Allowing data to be encrypted when online communications were taking place, HTTPS became the most secure way of communicating online. The encryption of data is the process of turning data into a secret code that can only be accessed by a secure password. Encrypted data is also sometimes referred to as cypher text. The data encryption became more important as money, and file transfers became more accessible online.
How HTTPS works
The big variation between HTTP and HTTPS sites is the port they connect to by default. HTTP sites using an insecure connection will connect to port 80, while HTTPS sites with a secure connection connect to port 443. When an online communication takes place via HTTPS, the data will be scrambled and can only be read by the initial sender and stated recipient.
For a website to gain HTTPS and have it implemented, it must have a valid SSL certificate. SSL certificates are available online from hundreds of different websites and vary in price.
How to tell if a website is HTTPS
Just because a site says HTTPS at the start of its URL, doesn’t mean it’s 100% secure. Websites can start with HTTPS, but their SSL certificate may have expired or be invalid. When you click on the small icon displayed next to the left of the URL, you’ll quickly be able to see if your connection to that site is secure or not.
If a website is HTTPS secure you will see this:
If it isn’t secure you will see this:
We’ve hidden the identity of the site for privacy.
From here you’re able to see further details (click on details) about your connection to the site. If you have a secure connection to a site, you’ll see this information. You are then able to view details on the sites SSL certificate including its administrator and dates of validity:
What if a page isn’t secure? If there’s no sign of HTTPS on a site, you’ll see this message once you click on details:
As we become ever more connected by technology, it’s crucial that we’re browsing safely online. HTTPS will only become more and more popular as a greater impetus is put on cyber security. Whenever you’re transfering files or money online make sure you’re doing with a site that has HTTPS implemented.