Why is the ‘S’ in https important

If you have read some of my other posts you will know that I have a bee in my bonnet about security, privacy and backups. Make sure you have these and you are building a solid foundation to enjoy your digital life with peace of mind.

Information flows from your computer across a public networkAnything that you send or receive from your computer flows out across the Internet which is a great big public network that anyone might see and read as it goes by. It is more like sending a postcard in the normal mail than a letter, everything can be inspected as it goes by. Sadly, there are malicious people and programs out there that search for things like passwords and credit card numbers in this constant flow of information.

HTTPS hides your information as it goes across the Internet

One of the easiest ways to gain some peace of mind is to use secure connections on the Internet rather than insecure ones. The S in HTTPS stands for secure – in a nutshell:

  • When you see http:\\ on the address bar of your browser it means that the connection is not secured and any information sent to or from your computer could be intercepted and read by others.
  • When you see https:\\ on the address bar it means that the information that is sent to and from your computer is encrypted so that to anyone else on the internet it appears as random gibberish and they can not read it.

The most common place you will see this is when you do your Internet banking or purchase anything on line – no doubt you will have read that you should always look for the “https” and the little lock symbol in the status bar of your browser (make sure you know where the real lock symbol appears for the browser you are using, as some fake websites will put up a fake lock to trick you).

Be careful of fake internet sites and Phishing

Paypal have a good little quiz on determining if a site or email is used for Phishing.  Phishing is the name for an attempt to trick you into giving away your passwords, credit card info or other personal details. These details can then be used in an unauthorised way. The most common way for this to occur is by sending you an email that looks genuine (say from your bank) but when you click the link in the email it takes you to a fake site that captures your account details and sends them to another person who can then access your real account.

Get into the habit of checking you are on the right site when you are about to enter your banking or other personal information – look for the https, look for the lock symbol, and make sure that the site looks as you would expect. Never click on a link in an email that claims to be from your bank and asks you to verify your account. Developing the habit of a quick site sanity check is a good step towards keeping you safe online.

Here is to your online safety and enjoyment.

Brian
your ‘peoples geek’