About Computers for Newbies & Everyone Else

December 11, 2012


This Christmas season I hope you have seen some websites’ URLs that start with "https://" instead of "http://."  That is if you shop online, do banking online, etc. 

Here is a short lesson on what they mean.

The basic one, "http" stands for "Hyper Text Transfer Protocol" which is the main prefix for most websites.  Http allows browsing the internet, linking to sites and other "mapping" online.  It begins most websites’ addresses.  Most sites do not require "http://" to be entered.  So you could go to the address bar in your browser and type either, "" or "," press your enter key and end up at our site. 

The other one, "https" means "Hyper Text Transfer Protocol" with Secure Sockets Layer (SSL), or "Hyper Text Transfer Protocol Secure" for short.  This does basically the same thing as "http." However; it also is used to allow safe and secure internet transactions to be sent online.  

To use the secure version you usually need to type, "https://" in the address bar or click a link which directs, or maps, you to it. 

The reason I started with, "I hope you have seen https," recently is if you are purchasing anything online it should be in the site’s URL when you are entering financial information.  For instance, if you bank online, go to your bank’s website and check the address bar when you log onto your account.  When using "https" any info you send via that page is encrypted.  That makes it so no one can read that information except the appropriate party on the receiving end.  It does take a little longer to send securely since it has to encrypt it before passing it along the web.   

ffAnother way to tell if you are using a secured site is to look for a lock in your browser. Usually the lock icon is to the right of the site address or on the left where the icons for sites are usually located.  If you have never noticed it; open your bank’s site and look for the lock.  If you do not bank online try "" and click on the "Sign In" or "My Account" links.  Even if you do not have an account, when you go to the sign in page you will see the lock…look closely in your address bar. msie

Many sites automatically use the secure protocol for instance Gmail, Hotmail (and all of its derivatives like, etc.), Amazon and many others.  Some you have to tell you want to use https, so check the sites you visit and see.  You only need to use it when you are entering username, password or account information on a site.  However, you may be able to use it at other sites.
I once heard, "You never send a postcard in the mail with your username and password written on it for everyone to see, why do it online?"  That thought has some merit, be careful online. 

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