An unsecured website is viewed as a serious threat, especially in the present-day scenario. This is because 'websites' are becoming the digital identity of a company or a service provider or any kind of venture. So many valuable pieces of information are being uploaded and communicated over the internet. Therefore, Google has started looking into the digital security of the websites closely. Let us see the essential technical aspects of HTTP vs HTTPS websites in this article.
Before we get into the technical aspects of secured vs unsecured websites, let us have a quick glance at this conversation.
Ananya is a budding digital marketer in her mid-twenties. Ananya’s mother Ms. Thanya was in her early fifties and has just started to use the digital platforms predominantly and Ananya wants to make sure if her Mom was careful about the important things such as net banking, etc. She asks her Mom how she wires the money to her parents.
Ananya: Mom, are you cross-checking twice before you proceed with net banking?
Ms. Thanya: Ananya, I’m not sure about what you are asking here. I just type Xyz bank.com on Google and I click on the first link that comes up. Once that comes, I give in the credentials of my account and transfer the money. Why do you ask Beta?
Ananya: Well, I asked you because it is very necessary to be extra careful while you surf the internet. And you need to be more careful when you do transactions Mom.
Ms. Thanya: Alright Beta, I get it now. But how do I know if it's the authenticated bank website that I’m viewing?
Ananya: Mom, it is kind of simple to trace these. Wait, I’ll show you.
(As she spoke this way, Ananya gets up from her laptop, takes that and sits beside her Mom)
Ananya: Mom, give me your smartphone.
(Ms. Thanya hands her smartphone to Ananya. Ananya quickly types the name of the bank in which she has an account and gives enter and shows the screen to her Mom)
Ananya: Mom, see here. In this top right corner, as soon as you click on the bank’s website and it loads, you will see a ‘lock’ symbol like this (She points that lock symbol to her Mom)
Ms. Thanya: Haan, now I can see it. Alright. So, only after this lock symbol comes, it means that it is safe and secure to do transactions. Is it?
Ananya: Yes Mom. This is one way to identify if you are engaging with the right website or not.
Ms. Thanya: Got it. I shall make sure to look out for this symbol henceforth.
In the above conversation, Ananya explained in very simple terms how to watch out for the sign to make sure that you are viewing the actual authentic website. The above screenshot depicts the lock symbol to look out for. This is how you differentiate between a secured and unsecured website. Let us look into the need for differentiating between secured and unsecured websites now.
Ever since the digital world advanced and keeps advancing at a fast-growing rate, the need for having a grip over the security of digital content became a mandate. This is mainly due to the importance of the information that is being uploaded and exchanged over the digital platform.
The importance of data is very crucial in the present-day scenario. Data has become wealth since data science paved the way for analytics. The insight gained from data analytics is a vital key for many digital purposes today like marketing, research, prediction, etc.
There are negative impacts of misusing the data as well - Also why the breach of information is something to be avoided at all costs. The above-mentioned reasons are why the scrutinization of digital security became a mandate and thus evolved HTTPS websites.
HTTP is the short form of HyperText Transfer Protocol. HTTP is the protocol used by www (World Wide Web) which defines the algorithm to be followed when messages are transmitted from the device to the website. It also formulates what kind of actions needs to be taken in response to various commands.
HTTPS is the short form of HyperText Transfer Protocol Secure. HTTPS came into the picture when HTTP faced lots of security issues. The HTTPS protocol is widely used for secured communications among computer networks. The communication protocol in HTTPS is encrypted by Transport Layer Security for security purposes. The earlier version of this secure protocol was SSL – Secure Sockets Layer.
The key differences between HTTP and HTTPS are as follows.
|Uses Port 80||Uses Port 443|
|Data is transferred as plain text||Data is transferred as ciphertext (encrypted)|
|Unsecure Protocol||Secure Protocol|
As seen in the above comparison, HTTPS is better than HTTP based on various performance metrics as mentioned above.
Google has been giving a soft warning for the last couple of years to take HTTPS updates seriously. This is because Google wants to provide web service providers and the users assurance based on the following parameters:
Among the three parameters, 'Security’ tops the list. This is due to the fact that the quality of the data transferred and uploaded on the internet became more sensitive as days rolled by. Ever since ‘Go Digital’ became the mantra in all walks of life, sensitive data were also uploaded and stored on the internet (now using cloud technologies). So, in order to secure the data that is being communicated on the digital platform, Google strictly wanted to migrate to HTTPS websites.
It is true that Google has been insisting on the migration towards ‘HTTPS for Websites’. Especially now that SEO Rankings are the major contributor to the SERP Results, Google has made an official statement that not implementing HTTPS updates will come at the price of the Rankings.
SEO Rankings are based on so many parameters such as
Along with the above-mentioned parameters, ‘HTTPS Update’ is also enlisted. It will soon be algorithmic by the end of this year.
It is very much evident that Google is taking so many actions against the unsecured website. This is due to the fact that there are many digital fraudulent complaints lodged and sensitive pieces of information being tapped out and money being digitally stolen while online transaction happens. In order to avoid all these mishaps, Google is rushing towards the ‘HTTPS for Website’ protocols.
Let us see what happened to Mr. Tushar Kapoor on the basis of our above discussion. Mr. Tushar Kapoor is a retired Head Master of a renowned Higher Secondary School in Mumbai. Upon retirement, there was a huge cash settlement for him as per authentic norms. It is during this time, he wanted to make a fixed deposit for his daughter. During the online transaction, he realized that something went seriously wrong and he went to the Cyber Police to lodge a complaint.
Mr. Tushar: Mam, I was doing the transaction as usual, but this time, I lost Rs. 80,000. I really am shocked and don’t know what to do!
Police Officer: Sir, I need you to calm down first. Please bring your Laptop here and let our department IT specialist check for the necessary information to track down what went wrong and where!
(IT Specialist quickly runs a thorough check on Mr. Tushar’s Laptop and his face frowns)
IT Specialist: Sir, Could you please show me how you logged into your bank account?
(Mr. Tushar types http://Xyz.com and gives enter and the bank website opens)
IT Specialist: I’m afraid this is exactly where things went wrong Mr. Tushar. Sir, there is a huge difference between HTTP and HTTPS, especially in the current scenario. Someone has displayed an imposter website just like your bank website and has taken away your money.
Mr. Tushar: What? Is that even possible?
Police Officer: I’m sorry Sir, but yes, it is possible. The main issue with online transactions is that you need to watch out for it! Please take a look at the following authentic and malicious website URLs. The second one is an unsecured website, Mr. Tushar.
(Mr. Tushar takes a proper look at the two different websites)
Mr. Tushar: But the website page on which I entered the login credentials looked exactly like the first one.
IT Specialist: Well Sir, that is possible. Every time something malicious happens, they have a different way of displaying the website. The one that you saw mimicked the actual website. That is how you were misled!
Mr. Tushar: Only if I were a little more careful and aware of these details. I feel really bad!
Police Officer: I’m sorry Mr. Tushar, but we’ll do our best to retrieve your money back. Please lodge a complaint.
IT Specialist: Mr. Tushar, don’t worry, I’ll do my best to trace the online activities during your transaction time and will get back the money. Please don’t worry.
Mr. Tushar: Thank you, Sir, and thank you, Mam. I’ll be careful henceforth.
The above incident is an example of a serious mishap due to the transaction over an unsecured website. This is why Google is rushing towards HTTPS update. The above scenario is for a banking website, but nowadays, there are many payment gateways to make online payments for products and services. Transacting over an unsecured website will cost you so much more. This is yet another important reason why Google is taking serious steps towards ‘HTTPS for website’.
Amidst various digital chaos, it is important and doable to figure out if the ‘HTTPS for website’ is actually working or not. Take a look at the below screenshot.
The above screenshot shows the ‘secure’ status of JanBask Digital Design’s website. This is how you check if a website is a secured or unsecured website. If secured, you will be able to see a closed lock symbol and if you click on the closed lock symbol, you will see the pop-up message displayed just as above.
If you don’t find a closed lock symbol, then you need to be careful as that is the first sign that that website that you are on is lightly to be a malicious website. Also, you might encounter an unlocked lock symbol as well. When you click on it, you will see an unsecured website pop-up message.
This is how you can check and cross-verify the authenticity of the website that you are viewing. Once you realize that you are on a malicious website, it is advisable that you close the website soon. Chances of other malicious activities are highly possible from these kinds of ‘unsecured websites’.
Google Search Console Help gives you step by step guide to migrate from HTTP to HTTPS. If you think you can’t do it on your own, you could seek professional help from digital marketers like JanBask Digital Design. Be known that you might face some of the following hiccups during the migration process.
1. Temporary Website Traffic Drop
2. Link Dilution due to Duplicate Contents
If you already had an HTTP website, and are migrating to HTTPS, Google views this process as moving of a site, which comes at a price. SEO ranking penalties. Once you shift your website from HTTP to HTTPS domain using Google Search Console Webmaster Tools and Bing tools, you need to be patient for 2-3 months for the SEO rankings to bounce back.
Since the migration process is viewed as ‘site move’ by Google, it is mandated that only one website needs to be active at a time. This can be taken care of by the following steps:
By taking care of the above-mentioned steps, you can control the link dilution due to duplicate contents to a large extent. This will help to dodge the SEO ranking penalties to some extent. Once you are done with your HTTPS Update, you will be able to get a hang of the change. Also ‘HTTPS for website protocols will be implemented in your new HTTPS URL and your SEO ranking will gradually improve back to normal.
HTTPS Update is very crucial and essential for many of the above-discussed reasons. So, when you optimize your website for the current update protocols, you need to make sure that they are optimized for HTTPS Update as well since that contributes to the overall SEO ranking of your website taking the present scenario into consideration.
Maybe it is just a matter of implication of an encrypted protocol, but updating that to your website brings about a huge change in terms of security. This is where and how your website will come under the label ‘secured website’ and not ‘unsecured website’. More than just for the sake of ranking, the HTTPS update has more to it.
The above-discussed scenarios would have given you an idea of the importance of migrating to HTTPS for websites. Moving forward, it will become a mandate for all the websites to be secured with the TLS configuration. Also, since it will take a couple of months to bounce back your SEO rankings, it is advisable that you migrate from HTTP to HTTPS and enlist yourself as a ‘secured website’ at the earliest possible.