HTTP und HTTPS im Browser

HTTP and HTTPS: What is the difference?

Cyber Security

HTTP and HTTPS: What is the difference?

The HTTP and HTTPS protocols are important for communication on the Internet and are therefore terms often encountered while browsing the net. But what is the difference between these two protocols? We have all the details.

As soon as you enter and confirm an address in the web browser, a communication protocol is started in the background that mediates between the client (the browser) and the web server (the target page). This is the normal procedure when using the net.

However, the question arises as to which protocols are operating in the background – and this plays a major role, especially in terms of security.

What is HTTP?

If http:// (= Hypertext Transfer Protocol) stands in front of the URL you enter, then this is a sign of an unsecured connection.

As one of the building blocks for the World Wide Web, the HTTP protocol dates back to the 90s and had a simple task: create a standard that would make surfing the net as smooth as possible.

Using the HTTP protocol, files are requested and transferred from one client to another on the Internet. While in the early days of the WWW mainly HTML documents were transmitted via HTTP and then displayed as web pages, all kinds of data can now be requested via the protocol.

This still works exactly as it should, but has a serious catch: the HTTP protocol, as a so-called client-server principle, simply works, but is not interested in how the data is actually exchanged.

The unencrypted communication from client to web server leaves you vulnerable, as criminals can intercept and manipulate the requests relatively easily. This is especially dangerous when transactions or sensitive data are sent over via this connection.

What is HTTPS?

HTTPS (= Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure) is not the opposite of HTTP, but a logical further development that additionally encrypts the transmitted data cryptographically.

If you visit a website, look for the lock icon next to the URL in your browser, which signals a secure connection via https://.

The function is as simple as it is effective: The web server addressed authenticates itself with a certificate that is sent back to the client and thus identifies itself as a trustworthy source.

The connection is encrypted via SSL/TLS. SSL (= Secure Sockets Layer) and its successor TLS (= Transport Layer Security) provide increased security when accessing a website.

In addition, site operators need a certificate to provide clear proof of authentication between the server and the domain – a kind of security key that is exchanged between the visitor and the target site during the session.

This certificate can be applied for and issued by relevant certification authorities.

What differences exist between HTTP and HTTPS?

This is actually quickly explained, because on a technical level, both protocols function absolutely identically. The only difference is the previously mentioned security aspect that HTTPS brings with it. For this reason, this protocol exists more and more often on the web – because it offers clear advantages over HTTP.

HTTPS especially adds value on a technical level:

  • An SSL/TLS encryption
  • A special authentication certificate
  • Its own addressing in the URL bar
  • A dedicated lock icon in the browser

Other clear benefits to using HTTPS:

  • Customer trust: If the user has to enter highly sensitive data, security plays an important role. A website user is more likely to enter their data on an encrypted page than on a non-encrypted web offering.
  • Search Engine Optimization (SEO): Google is always striving to offer users only the best results in ist own the rankings. In addition to informative content, security also plays an important role in the user experience and authenticates the ranked website as a reputable source.

Why should you rely on the secure connection?

Even if not every website uses encrypted communication today, it is at least advised to do so. The risk of becoming the focus of cyber criminals is not only high, but also quite realistic – especially if there is no protection against the attack at all.

Unencrypted connections can be easily spied out and identified by criminals. Malware is then infiltrated in these connections and distributed via deceitfully adapted websites.

A classic process here would be the use of a man-in-the-middle (MITM) attack. In this case, the attackers can infiltrate between the visitor and the web server and pretend that both parties are dealing with the other. Thus, the communication does not take place as planned, but via a third party.

It takes little imagination here to think what happens to the transmitted data that is unknowingly intercepted.

In addition, such MITM attacks are often used to take an even more offensive approach, attacking the user’s system and the system behind it. The damage caused by such an approach is often sensitive.

A small tip: Public WLAN connections in particular are a popular target for hackers, since there are only low or no security barriers here. Special caution is required!

Conclusion: HTTPS is clearly the better choice

Switching to the HTTPS protocol is not a must, but the advantages for operators and visitors are obvious. In the meantime, many web providers have recognized this for themselves, because additional encryption is playing an increasingly important role on the web, even for websites that do not work with highly sensitive data.

HTTPS not only provides more security, but also creates trust. Therefore, a switch to the encrypted protocol should be seriously considered. Especially since the process of a changeover is neither complicated nor time-consuming.

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