What does it mean if a URL begins with https as opposed to http?
The "S" at the beginning of https stands for secure. When you see that in front of any address, you know that your computer is communicating with that website securely. Secure means that your information should not be seen by anyone who might be trying to intercept it while it transfers between your computer and its destination server. This can often come up during online shopping when you are sending personal information like credit card numbers to an ecommerce site.
URLs starting with "http://" transfer data using what is called clear text, which means everything is transferred in plain view. Data sent over the Internet should only be transmitted this way when there isn't much risk involved, such as using an unsecured WiFi network at your local coffee shop. However, if your data is sensitive anything like credit card numbers or private personal information, you should only send it over the Internet using a secure connection such as HTTPS .
How can I tell which website is secure?
When on a secure website, many browsers will display a small padlock next to the address bar in your browser. This indicates that all of the communication between you and this site are encrypted. As opposed to "http://" URLs where everything sent back and forth is visible without encryption, everything with an "https://" URL is encrypted end-to-end.
Does it matter what order my addresses are typed in?
No, there's no difference between entering https: and http: before the URL for a secure connection. This is because your browser automatically converts "http://" into "https://" when sending requests through a secure site.
If you find yourself on an unsecured website, you will get this error message:
This means that there is no encryption between your computer and the server that is hosting the website which could allow someone to see what information you are sending or receiving from it. Some browsers may display various other messages such as "Not Secure" if they feel the unencrypted website presents an immediate security risk to you. Others may simply warn you more subtly by highlighting text with red or displaying some other indicator within their own.
How does encryption protect me?
A secure connection encrypts all the communication between your computer and its destination server, which makes it very difficult for anyone to steal or tamper with that data. It also allows you to safely perform actions like logging in to a website without revealing who you are or what account information you are submitting. This encryption comes in two ways: on the data sent from your computer to the server (in this case, your web browser), and on the data traveling back from the destination server towards your device (your web browser). Without end-to-end encryption, everything is visible while passing through many different servers before finally reaching its final destination. Only under rare circumstances should clear text ever be used when communicating over the Internet at large. With an "https://" URL, you can rest assured that all your information is encrypted in transit.
How does HTTPS protect me over an unsecured network?
If you are using a public WiFi network at a coffee shop or other open wireless connection, anyone on the same network can take advantage of any traffic passing through it to spy on everything you are doing online. This includes logging into websites with sensitive accounts like your bank account. HTTPS encrypts all data in transit between your device and its destination in order to prevent people from seeing what's being sent back-and-forth while using an open wireless connection. If someone wanted to try intercepting your communications over this type of network for nefarious purposes, they would only be able to see that you are sending a secure HTTPS request. They wouldn't be able to see the website you are visiting or any data being sent back and forth.
However, if HTTPS is active it does not mean that an unsecured open wireless network is safe to use. It's very important that you always take into consideration the fact that someone could conceivably snoop on your activity even after you've logged in to a secure site. If there isn't any encrypted communication happening between you and the sites you visit over an unsecure network, there's no way for anyone else using the same network to protect your information from being seen by them. For this reason, we recommend using a Virtual Private Network (VPN) service when navigating insecure networks such as these so long as you are using sites that require HTTPS. Remember to always use trusted sources when deciding which VPN service is right for you.
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