DEFINITION of 'HTTPS'

A secure form of Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP) that is used to exchange information between webpages or access information found on a webpage. Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure, more commonly referred to as HTTPS, encrypts data before it is sent.

BREAKING DOWN 'HTTPS'

A large portion of webpages found on the Internet use HTTP, most often because the information being requested is less likely to need to be secure. For example, accessing a news article is unlikely to involve the exchange of sensitive information. You can tell if a page is using HTTPS by looking at the URL displayed in the web browser. A webpage using HTTPS will start with https://.

Sending or accessing sensitive information on a website is much more likely to be conducted through HTTPS because of its increased level of encryption. Accessing a brokerage account or online banking platform, for example, involves the exchange of information that a user would likely want to remain secure.

Request and response data is encrypted using a security layer such as Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) or Transport Layer Security (TLS). In order to speed up encryption, websites place SSL or TLS certificates in libraries where the encoding and decoding of website information takes place.

When navigating a webpage the browser automatically looks at the URL to determine whether the page is using HTTP or HTTPS. If the page is using HTTPS the browser exchanges some SSL parameters with the web server, and then opens up a secure connection. The web browser automatically seeks out the certificate, which doesn’t require any action on the user’s part in most situations.

Webpages tend to perform slower when using HTTPS due to the time required to encrypt information. Because slower pages can provide a poorer user experience, HTTPS is often reserved for pages in which sensitive information is being transferred. The majority of other pages can be coded in HTTP.

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