What is a 'HTTPS'

Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure (HTTPS) is the secure form of exchanging information between a browser and a webpage.

BREAKING DOWN 'HTTPS'

Hypertext Transfer Protocol is how information is exchanged on the internet. The secure version of the exchange means that the information is encrypted when it is being sent to the browser, preventing anyone that shouldn’t have access to the information from viewing it. Increased security is needed on many websites today because of how much personal information is exchanged online. People today access their bank accounts, medical records and other sensitive information online, many times by entering in account numbers or Social Security Numbers (SSN). The added security of encryption helps prevent unintended data breaches, and also prevents internet providers from selling private information to advertisers.

To determine if a webpage is using the old Hypertext Transfer Protocol versus the secure protocol, simply look at the address of the website in the tool bar. If the address begins with HTTPS then the site is secure. If it doesn’t, the site does not have the extra encryption and should be treated as less secure. There are plenty of websites that are safe to view even if they are unsecure, like news publications or other entertainment sites where no information is entered by the visitor.

Why Aren’t All Websites Secure?

It seems like a more secure internet experience would be beneficial to everyone, however there are downsides. Websites that are secure may take longer to load than their unsecured counterparts. If someone is not entering or receiving sensitive information, they may see that added wait time as more burdensome than beneficial.

However, there are upsides. Websites like Google now automatically default to a secure Uniform Resource Locator (URL). This prevents other people from being able to access an open WIFI and view what someone has been searching for on Google. That may not seem like a big deal to someone that isn’t searching for anything embarrassing or illegal, but when this information is not secured it can be sold by your Internet Service Provider (ISP) to advertisers and other investors so that they can gain a better understanding of their target audience. This may seem harmless, but many people feel that this is a violation of privacy. Others feel that ISP’s should not be profiting from selling an individual’s search history or internet activity.

Anyone that is curious about whether their information has ever been sold can look at their Facebook news feed or the advertisements on many of the websites they frequent. If someone who had just looked for prices on snowblowers suddenly starts seeing advertisements for various snowblowers on every website they visit, chances are they were looking at snowblowers on an unsecured site.

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