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Difference Between ‘HTTP’ and ‘HTTPS’3 min read

by TechABU
Difference Between HTTP and HTTPS

HTTPS (Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure) is HTTP with encryption. The main difference between these two protocols is that HTTPS encrypts HTTP requests and responses with TLS (SSL). As a result, HTTPS is far safer than HTTP. The URL of a website that uses HTTP is HTTP://, whereas a website that uses HTTPS is HTTP://.

What is HTTP?

HTTP stands for Hypertext Transfer Protocol, and it is a protocol or a set of rules used to transfer data over the Internet. The HTTP protocol is used to send most data across the Internet, including website content and API calls.

What is an HTTP request? What is an HTTP response?

HTTP communications are divided into two categories: requests and responses. As a person interacts with online properties, their browser generates HTTP requests. When a user clicks on a hyperlink, for example, the browser sends a series of “HTTP GET” requests for the content on that website. These HTTP requests are sent to an origin server or a proxy caching server, which will respond with an HTTP response. Responses to HTTP requests are known as HTTP responses.

HTTP requests and responses are delivered in unencrypted (plaintext) across the Internet. The issue is that these plaintexts may be read by anyone examining the connection. This is highly problematic when users input sensitive information through a website or online app. This might be anything from a password to a credit card number to any information entered into a form. Essentially, a bad attacker may read the content of a request or response and determine exactly what information is being requested, provided, or received, and even modify the communication.

What Does a Typical HTTP Request Look Like?

An HTTP request is just a series of plaintext that follows the HTTP protocol. Below is an example of a GET request:

GET /helloworld.txt HTTP/1.1
User-Agent: curl/7.63.0 libcurl/7.63.0 OpenSSL/1.1.l zlib/1.2.11
Host: example.com
Accept-Language: en

The user’s browser generates this piece of text, which is then transferred via the Internet. The issue is that it’s transferred in plaintext, which anyone monitoring the connection may read. (Those unfamiliar with the HTTP protocol may find this text difficult to read, but anyone with a basic understanding of the protocol’s instructions and syntax should be able to read it without difficulty.)

This is especially a big issue when users input sensitive information through a website or online application. This might be a password, a credit card number, or any other information submitted into a form. Under HTTP, all of this information is delivered in plaintext, making it accessible to anybody. (When a user fills out a form, the browser sends an HTTP POST request rather than an HTTP GET request.)

When an origin server gets an HTTP request, it responds with something like this:

HTTP/1.1 200 OK
Date: Wed, 30 Jan 2019 12:14:39 GMT
Server: Apache
Last-Modified: Mon, 28 Jan 2019 11:17:01 GMT
Accept-Ranges: bytes
Content-Length: 12
Vary: Accept-Encoding
Content-Type: text/plain

I hope you’ve now understood what an HTTP protocol is? But, you might think it’s an unsecured connection, and Yes, it is, and that’s why we have a secure protocol, HTTPS.

What is HTTPS?

Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure (HTTPS) is a secure version of the HTTP protocol (also referred to as HTTP over TLS or HTTP over SSL). HTTPS encrypts HTTP requests and responses with TLS (or SSL), so an attacker would see a series of seemingly random characters instead of the plaintext.

For example,

t8Fw6T8UV81pQfyhDkhebbz7+oiwldr1j2gHBB3L3RFTRsQCpaSnSBZ78Vme+DpDVJPvZdZUZHpzbbcqmSW1+3xXGsERHg9YDmpYk0VVDiRvw1H5miNieJeJ/FNUjgH0BmVRWII6+T4MnDwmCMZUI/orxP3HGwYCSIvyzS3MpmmSe4iaWKCOHQ==

How Does TLS/SSL Encrypt HTTP Requests and Responses in HTTPS?

TLS utilizes public-key encryption, which consists of two keys: a public key and a private key, with the public key being shared with client devices via the server’s SSL certificate. When a client establishes a connection with a server, the public and private keys are used to agree on new keys, known as session keys, to encrypt future communications.

These session keys are then used to encrypt all HTTP requests and responses, ensuring that anyone monitoring communications only sees a random string of characters rather than the plaintext.

What Role Does HTTPS Play in Web Server Authentication?

Authentication is the process of confirming that a person or device is who they claim they are. There is no identity verification in HTTP; instead, it is based on trust. HTTP’s designers didn’t make a conscious decision to trust all web servers unconditionally; they just had other priorities at the time. Authentication, on the other hand, is critical on today’s Internet.

A private key validates server identification in the same way an ID card proves a person’s identity. Ownership of the private key that matches the public key in a website’s SSL certificate indicates that the server is the authentic host of the website when a client establishes a connection with an origin server (e.g., when a user navigates to a website). This helps to avoid or limit a variety of possible attacks without authentication.

Difference Between HTTP and HTTPS

HTTPHTTPS
In HTTP, the URL begins with HTTP://. For example, http://techabu.coIn HTTPS, the URL begins with HTTPS://. For example, https://techabu.co
HTTP protocols use port 80 for communication.HTTPS protocols use the secure port 443 for communication.
HTTP is insecure.HTTPS is secure.
HTTP works at the Application Layer.HTTPS works at the Transport Layer.
HTTP doesn't have any encryption.In HTTPS, encryption is present.
HTTP does not require any certificate for connection.HTTPS strictly requires an SSL certificate for a secure connection.

Conclusion

HTTPS has several advantages in terms of performance and, most importantly, security. All browsers strongly recommend users only trust websites that utilize HTTPS since it is the only way to protect themselves from a range of attacks and threats.

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