You might have read that it’s safe to browse the web using an https connection instead of http. Websites with an https certificate are indicated with a padlock icon in the browser location bar. These sites have a secure encryption, which offers another layer of security to the standard HTTP. Here, the data between the server and your browser is encrypted and protected from any attacks. The content of your established connection is invisible to hackers trying to intercept it.
HTTP vs HTTPS – Which Protocol Leaves You Totally Exposed?
What Happens When You Don’t use HTTPS
It means that your data is susceptible to attacks when you are not using an HTTPS connection. As mentioned earlier, non-HTTPS websites don’t have their data encrypted, which means any details that you enter in those websites can be hacked.
But it doesn’t mean that you cannot use non-HTTP websites at all. There is a simple way to stay protected. When you connect to sites which don’t offer basic encryption, a service like VPN can protect your vulnerable data against potential attacks.
Difference between HTTP and HTTPS
The basic difference between HTTP and HTTPS lies in how they ensure to keep your data secure. HTTP is a protocol or a language, which forms the passage between web servers and clients. The data is transferred to and from the servers and browsers using http. What makes HTTPS more secure is the additional protection layer that it offers, where ‘S’ stands for ‘secure’.
You can find out if the website you are visiting is HTTPS encrypted or not by looking at the browser bar. The address in the URL bar starts with https or http. If it is the latter, it means that your connection is unsecured.
By this, you can confirm if the web server and your browser are communicating through non-encrypted protocol or in simpler terms, are they using a regular language which is not secure. So, anyone can spy on you or watch your activities on the said website. Hackers can eavesdrop on who you are talking to or what kinds of activities you perform. If you even fill out a form and enter your personal details, anybody who wants to access your private data will be easily successful.
So you must be very careful while entering your financial details or credit card numbers on an HTTP website. Always make sure that you are using a secure connection because an HTTPS website uses a secure code that makes your data inaccessible to others. There are many people who do not understand this and fall prey to data thefts and other attacks.
What if you visit an HTTP website without a VPN?
While it is always recommended to use a VPN when browsing a non-encrypted website, but if you don’t use a VPN, here is what anyone lurking on the connection can see:
Local Wi-Fi operator
Mediating actors of server’s ISP and your ISP
And if someone hacks the connection, they can even see the data that you enter on the non-HTTP website. While this doesn’t mean that all HTTPS websites are absolutely 100% safe, they do have a higher security level than plain HTTPS websites.
With a VPN, you can hide your identity and location to remain anonymous. But there is no way to hide your identity through the transmitted data like names, email addresses, and your computer information.
Governments around the world use intelligence agencies to snoop on international connections on the web using deep-sea fiber cables and internet switches. It is impossible for you to avoid their interception of all your unencrypted data while you are not using a VPN.
Wi-Fi operators have access to all your data
Wi-Fi router of the local network you use has access to all your data. Every site you visit and all the forms you fill can be read by the Wi-Fi operator. If you click a link or make communication requests through an HTTP website, your local network operator can see them.
It is possible for a malicious network operator to install malware code into the sites you regularly visit. They can replace a downloadable software on the site with their own program which can harm your system when you download it unknowingly. The most common forms of this malware make use of innocent looking advertisements. Routers might replace existing ads with their own intelligent malicious ads and cause damage to even these site owners in terms of their ad revenue.
This is not to say that the network operators do this deliberately. Sometimes, when the router is infected with malware, it automatically spreads to your device. Moreover, the Wi-Fi must be WPA2 configured with modern standards of encryption.
When you access a public Wi-Fi, it could be set up by hackers who intentionally want to steal your data. Protecting your connection becomes all the more important while accessing a public Wi-Fi.
How VPNs protect HTTP connections
Using a VPN can eliminate all the data threats from a Wi-Fi router, as it establishes an encrypted tunnel of communication for your device. Anyone else who is using the same Wi-Fi connection as you, cannot access your data when you use a VPN. Even if the router is hacked, the VPN cuts off the connection. This ensures that there is no interference and keeps your device and data protected.
You should know that a VPN service can read your data and intercept it. This is generally done by free service providers. If you plan to secure your connection with a VPN, make sure you use a reliable provider. We have a list of the top VPN providers in the market. And the good part is that all these VPN services are really affordable.
Summer is an established author when it comes to everything tech. She frequently analyses various software and has reviewed many apps in the process. As a technology enthusiast, Summer has worked in many IT-related industries. She follows cybersecurity news closely and published articles related to the latest tech-trends from around the world.