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For those of us who aren’t tech savvy, the difference between “http” and “https” in a URL is one we don’t even think about. But for regular Internet surfers and online shoppers, this knowledge can keep your accounts from being hacked, your information private, and your web browsing secure.

Http stands for “hypertext transfer protocol.” Essentially, it is the language a website uses to communicate with your computer. The information a website presents is always stored in a server somewhere, but then you need to request that information in order to get it to show up on your computer screen. Your web browser (Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome, Window Explorer, Safari, etc.) reads the instructions from the http and uses it to recreate the website the way the designer intended it to be seen.

When a website uses http, data is sent back and forth between its server and your computer without storing any information about your computer. It is “stateless,” meaning that it does not remember any data from one web session to the next. If you use a website one day and then come back the next, the website will not remember your first visit. Not recording any data makes the website using http much faster.

The “s” in https stands for “secure.” You might have noticed that websites using https also have a green locked icon next to the web address. Https works with another protocol (language) called Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) to help transfer data safely. While http and https both worry about the correct data coming onto your computer screen, SSL only ensures that it gets there safely.

Unlike http, https does keep track of the websites visitors. This creates a closed connection between the website origins and the website visitor, meaning hackers cannot “eavesdrop.” SSL also encrypts data, meaning that it is converted into a code before it is sent anywhere. Websites obtain the https status through a special certificate that they must buy from a security authority. The website is required to pass security standards before receiving the certificate. Oftentimes, websites choose to display their certification through trust seals.

The difference between http and https is crucial. Internet users are advised not to enter their personal or credit card information into a website without https. Doing so can result in personal information being stolen and identity theft. Check for a trust seal as well – they also verify the safety of a website. Social media websites without https are also vulnerable to hacking; because of this, websites such as Facebook, Twitter, and Google use https.

Sources:

Dotson, Jeremy. “HTTP vs. HTTPS.” http://www.biztechmagazine.com/article/2007/07/http-vs-https. (26 August 2013).

“HTTP vs HTTPS: Similarities and Differences.” http://theprofessionalspoint.blogspot.com/2012/04/http-vs-https-similarities-and.html. (26 August 2013.)