Back in the day, when the internet as we know it today was still in its infancy, the HTTP protocol was the norm. As things progressed, we moved forward to different solutions, but despite this, the HTTP protocol is occasionally still used to this very date. So what is the problem, you might ask? In one word: security. Still confused? Then keep on reading.
What is HTTP, and why is it considered outdated?
HyperText Transfer Protocol (or HTTP for short) is not inherently secure. Anyone with the basic knowledge of cybersecurity is fully aware of the fact that any single piece of data transferred through it can be intercepted or eavesdropped on. For the simple purpose of reading news, forums, or blog posts, this may still be fine. But as soon as any sensitive data is exchanged (think login credentials, personal details, payment information), you’ve got a problem on your hands.
HTTPS is a step up in security and here’s why
Introducing HyperText Transfer Protocol Secure (or HTTPS for short). A solution that takes cyber security to a whole new level by forcing a layer of encryption on every packet of data exchanged through a browser. In other words, this is how communication between the client and the server stays secure from anyone who’s trying to tamper with it. While a third-party may still see your browsing history, the actions you performed while on the website remain hidden from view.
Since this is an important factor of a safe and secure online shopping experience, to name one example, Google started enforcing the protocol not too long ago. Consequently, the webmasters who refuse to listen to these guidelines are seeing their website rankings plummet in the search results. If you’re accessing it by typing in the URL directly into your browser, there is still a way to check for the HTTPS protocol manually. The simplest way to do it is by looking at the URL bar in your browser. In case HTTPS is not enabled, your browser will display an alert or a warning icon.
Despite everything, HTTPS is not perfect
HTTPS relies on TLS which stands for Transport Layer Security. This is a system based on providing two keys – the public and the private one. As soon as the connection with an HTTP website is established, your device reveals a public key to complete a so-called handshake. After that, a unique private key for your particular connection is generated, allowing you to exchange encrypted information.
However, the problem is that every time such a connection is established, DNS is called upon, the process of which is not encrypted. This presents an opportunity for hackers to mess with it. For example, by initiating a DNS spoofing attack, a hacker may send you to a fraudulent website. There are other vulnerabilities the HTTPS protocol suffers from, so it’s not a perfect solution, despite it being a step up from HTTP.
A VPN is the ultimate solution for ensuring your security
A desktop or mobile VPN is the ultimate level of security as it covers all the holes that HTTPS fails to address. This includes the DNS requests. Those who are connected through one are safe from DNS spoofing attacks. Moreover, not even your ISP will be able to see which websites you visited, and your true location is guaranteed to remain a private matter.
If you use a VPN while connected to an unsecured public Wi-Fi network, you won’t have to worry about people trying to eavesdrop on your connection. A VPN is an absolute necessity when shopping online or doing online banking if you want to ensure your peace of mind. An HTTPS protocol shares some of the similar traits, but keep in mind that it needs to be enabled both on your end (in the browser) as well as on the website you’re trying to access. A VPN will also protect you from certain types of cyber attacks that can still be executed against you through the HTTPS protocol.
In the end, HTTPS is miles ahead of HTTP, but if you want a high level of protection, you need a VPN as well. Since the cybersecurity experts widely recognize these vulnerabilities, why take the chance? Secure yourself today to enjoy a stress-free public Wi-Fi experience, no matter where you are.