The internet is a vast and complex place, and with it comes a plethora of security concerns. Confidential information such as credit card details, phone numbers, and street addresses are all at risk of being leaked to prying eyes. This is where the Secure HTTP (HTTPS) protocol comes in handy. In this article, we will discuss HTTPS and whether it is necessary for websites.
HTTP is a protocol used by web servers and clients to communicate and transfer web pages and files. There are many other protocols like FTP, SSH, and BitTorrent. HTTPS is a secured version of the HTTP protocol that uses SSL (Secured Socket Layer) encryption. The SSL encryption process requires a solid understanding of cryptography and a bachelor’s degree in Computer Science. However, thanks to the concept of abstraction, we need not worry about the technicalities. All we need to remember is that HTTP + SSL = HTTPS.
HTTPS uses a public and private key matching “handshake mechanism” before transferring data. Once the handshake is done, the connection is established, and the secured session begins. When you visit an HTTPS site, all of this happens almost instantaneously before you see the green indicator in your browser’s address bar.
There are four reasons why HTTPS is great. Firstly, it provides top-notch security by encrypting your connection. Secondly, it requires an SSL certificate that can only be acquired through a serious process that verifies official documents submitted by businesses. Thirdly, it legitimizes businesses by providing necessary contact details of the owner from the site’s SSL certificate. Lastly, it ensures data integrity by preventing attackers from compromising data requested by visitors.
However, establishing a secure connection requires substantial computation power both by the server and the client. This results in a slower transfer rate when compared to HTTP. That’s why most sites don’t use HTTPS all the time. They wait until you try to login or make a purchase. E-commerce sites like Amazon and Newegg follow this rule. This way, browsing is blazing fast, and purchases are secure.
The question is, do you really need HTTPS on your WordPress site? The answer is not a simple yes or no. Search engines prefer HTTPS sites, and Google has started using secure, encrypted connections as a signal in their search ranking algorithms. However, this does not mean that if you don’t have HTTPS in your site, your SERP rank will fall. For now, it is an early indicator of what the future holds.
There are plenty of situations where HTTPS should be used as an added layer of security. For example, e-commerce stores using WooCommerce or iThemes Exchange should use HTTPS in the transaction pages of the site. Donation pages should also incorporate SSL to prevent attackers from manipulating the site’s data to show fraudulent information. Membership sites that carry private data should use SSL to eliminate data integrity threats and create a secure environment for members to interact. Sites that have been hacked in the past should also consider switching to an SSL encrypted site to shield themselves from future attacks.
Setting up SSL is a complicated and tedious process that requires technical expertise and substantial time. It is recommended to talk to your hosting manager to help you set up SSL. Managed WordPress hosting companies like WPEngine offer integrated SSL certificates for an annual cost of $49 to $199. Alternatively, third-party SSL can be used to set up and configure HTTPS on your site.
In conclusion, HTTPS provides added security for websites, but it comes at a cost of slower transfer rates. It is necessary for e-commerce stores, donation pages, membership sites, and sites that have been hacked in the past. However, it is not necessary for static blogs. The decision to use HTTPS ultimately depends on the type of website and its security needs.