You’ve probably noticed it before; that small lock icon marked “Secure” or “Not Secure” next to the URL in your browser. What does it mean? Is your computer at risk?
Many websites use Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP) to pass information to the web browser. For a long time this was standard, despite the inherent risk of hackers intercepting data passed back and forth without encryption.
Today, many websites utilize Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure (HTTPS), an encrypted version of HTTP that protects and authenticates all communications between the website and the browser. This is particularly important when the website requires sensitive user data like credit card or social security numbers.
Google has been pushing to make HTTPS the new standard for all websites. Most notably, they have updated their Chrome browser to notify users when websites that require sensitive user data use HTTP by marking them as “Not Secure”. This push to raise security awareness has been very successful, and now it is common for even websites that do not require sensitive user data to utilize HTTPS.
The takeaway from all of this is clear; never input sensitive financial or personal information into a website that uses HTTP – Your data will NOT be safe! To best protect yourself, utilize a virtual private network and other security measures to encrypt your information to further protect your data.