What Is The Difference Between HTTP and HTTPS?

By Nidhi Nangia. Updated: February 7, 2019
What Is The Difference Between HTTP and HTTPS?

While browsing through websites, you must have noticed http:// or https:// in your browser’s address bar. To be precise, both of them are protocols that a particular website uses to exchange information between the web browser and the web server.

But have you ever wondered what is the difference between HTTP and HTTPS? Let’s find out here at oneHOWTO.

You may also be interested in: How to use a Proxy Server

What is HTTP and HTTPS?

The full form of HTTP stands for Hyper Text Transfer Protocol. While using this protocol, web users are able to transfer data from web pages, including: videos, images, texts, graphics, musics and other files. It is basically used to access web pages and other resources. In other words, it is a request-response system in a client-server model of computing. When you type http:// before a web address of the website you want to visit, it tells your browser to connect to the website via HTTP.

For instance, when you type in the address bar of your web browser, it sends HTTP command to your web server to transfer and fetch the web page you requested. In that case, your client is the web browser and your server is the website host.

On the other hand, full form of HTTPS is Hyper Text Transfer Protocol Secure. It uses encrypted connection of HTTP via transport-layer security system. While a client exchanges confidential data over the server, it needs to be secured so that no one can access or hack it. Keeping that in mind, Netscape Corporation developed HTTPS to enable secured transactions and authorization.

Security of HTTP and HTTPS

During the beginning period of the World Wide Web, network administrators had to find a way to share information uploaded on the Internet. With this aim in mind, they agreed on HTTP as a procedure to exchange information. Once everyone became familiar with to the way HTTP exchanges information, hacking became commonplace. So, they developed a procedure called HTTPs to protect the exchanged information. Security of online data relies on SSL certificate encryption. It means that the sender agrees to send a code to the recipient, so that their documents are translated into incomprehensible strings of characters. When anyone between the sender and the receiver opens the message, they won’t be able to decipher the information, due to which the data remains protected.

When humans receive the code, they can encode the documents, but computers are able to decode it even faster. To make this happen, computers at both ends use SSL Certificate that contain the strings of characters that can unlock the secret codes. SSL Certificate contains public key which anyone can access when they need to encrypt the message. The private key is not shared by anyone, in order for the shared information to remain protected and confidential.

What Is The Difference Between HTTP and HTTPS? - Security of HTTP and HTTPS

Benefits of HTTP and HTTPS

The major benefit of HTTP is that it is an independent platform which allows straight porting cross platforms. It does not require any ‘‘running time’’ to run efficiently, and it may be used through Firewalls too. Neither does it require connection orientation, nor a network overhead.

HTTPS, also carry a number of benefits. First of all, it provides security to confidential and private customer information, such as credit card numbers and passwords. They cannot be intercepted, therefore it cannot be deciphered between a sender and recipient by any hacker. By looking at HTTPS on your web address, visitors can quickly verify that you are a registered business owner and you are the owner of the domain. They can feel assured that the information they share on your website will stay protected against theft. Visitors are more likely to complete transactions on sites that have HTTPS.

HTTP and HTTPS security concerns

As mentioned earlier, HTTP has its own security concerns. Since it does not have any way to keep shared information private, anyone can easily access the data being shared between the computers of the sender and the recipient. As it does not have any integrity, anyone can alter or steal the content without authority. HTTP is not secure, as it does not have any methods of encryption. Therefore, any sensitive information shared through it, is subjected to eavesdropping. Since there is no authentication, the user does not have any idea about whom they are sharing their information with. Authentication is open for all, which means that anyone who can intercept the request can steal the username and password being used.

When it comes to using HTTPS, it is always slower than HTTP, probably because it has greater latency due to the extra work it has to do while making the connection. However, this extra time is taken only during the first request. For subsequent requests, the browser reuses the connection and caches the SSL session, so that it can quickly resume the communication.

Pages that you access by HTTPS cannot be cached using a shared cache. Since the connection between server and the browser is encrypted, no intermediate cache can see the content. Some browsers also do not cache HTTPS files in their local caches. Since it is not safe to mix HTTP and HTTPS content over a single page, embedded pictures and icons need to travel through encryption so that it cannot be cached. Since there is no local caching, it can lead to issues with Internet explorer which will not be able to save files or open them in other applications.

Encryption and decryption processes can lead to computation overhead for a browser as well as a server. It may not be noticed by modern client systems, but handling several HTTPS connections during busy server times would be a major issue. Certain proxy and firewall systems do not allow HTTPS site access. Many administrators just forget to allow HTTPS access on their systems. While sometimes, they intentionally make this decision for security purposes.

Since HTTPS are encrypted from one end to the other, they can carry traffic, but at a cost . When it comes to expenses, CAs charge a hefty amount to issue certificates. You require at least one certificate for each site you want to secure, as your hostname is part of the issued certificate. Hidden administrative costs are also applicable for the certification and its renewal every year.

What is port and encryption?

Port is a communication channel which determines the expectation of the server in receiving data from clients. Certain functions need different ports. For instance, the function of receiving and sending emails is made possible with Port 25 SMTP.For file transfers, it needs Port 21.

Similarly, HTTP uses Port 80 for most of the communication functions, on the other hand the preferred port for HTTPS is Port 443. As far as encryption is concerned, HTTP does not use any encryption, while HTTPS uses encryption due to its SSL/TSL certificates. You can quickly identify whether a website is encrypted or not by looking at its URL name. An HTTP url begins with HTTP://, while an HTTPS url begins with HTTPS://.

Therefore, if you are just browsing through a site for information purposes, then an HTTP url is fine, but if you are sharing any private information on a web page or making a financial transaction, then make sure that it is safe with HTTPS.

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