Web Cloud Base

How HTTPS Works – Step by Step Explanation

Table of Contents

Want to learn How HTTPS Works? HTTP Secure (HTTPS) is a protocol to secure internet communication. It provides a secure channel between a client and a server by encrypting the data sent using Transport Layer Security (TLS).

How HTTPS works

Here is a high-level overview of the steps involved in establishing an HTTPS connection:

  1. The client (e.g., a web browser) sends an HTTPS request to a server.
  2. The server responds by sending back its SSL/TLS certificate. This certificate contains the server’s public key and other information used to verify the server’s identity.
  3. The client verifies the certificate and, if it is valid, generates a unique session key that it will use to encrypt all future communication between the client and the server it connects.
  4. The source client sends the session key to the server, encrypted with the server’s public key.
  5. The server then decrypts the session key utilizing its private key and stores it for future use.
  6. From this point on, all communication between the client and server is encrypted using the session key. Any data transmitted between the two is encrypted and decrypted using the session key.
  7. When the client or server wants to terminate the connection, they send a message to the other party to close it. The other party acknowledges the message, and the connection is closed.

This was a general overview of the process of establishing an HTTPS connection. Many details and variations are not covered here, but this should give you a good understanding of how HTTPS works.

HTTPS request flowchart
HTTPS request flowchart

HTTPS and HTTP difference

HTTP (Hypertext Transfer Protocol) and HTTPS (HTTP Secure) are both protocols for transmitting data over the internet. 

However, HTTPS provides an additional layer of security by encrypting the transmitted data.

Here are the main differences between HTTP and HTTPS:

  • Encryption: HTTPS uses Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) or Transport Layer Security (TLS) to encrypt the data being transmitted between a client (e.g., a web browser) and a server. This means that the data cannot be easily intercepted or modified by third parties. In contrast, HTTP does not provide encryption, and the transmitted data can be easily read or modified.
  • Trustworthiness: HTTPS uses encryption and requires an HTTPS certificate from a trusted certificate authority (CA), so it is generally considered more trustworthy than HTTP. This is especially important for sites that handle sensitive information, such as online banking or e-commerce.
  • Performance: HTTPS can be slightly slower than HTTP because of the extra overhead required to encrypt and decrypt the transmitted data. However, the difference in performance is usually insignificant for most websites.
  • Compatibility: HTTP and HTTPS use the same underlying HTTP protocol, so they are generally compatible. However, some older systems or devices may not support HTTPS.

In summary, HTTPS is an extension of HTTP that provides an additional layer of security by encrypting the transmitted data. It is generally considered more trustworthy and secure than HTTP but may have slightly lower performance due to the extra overhead required for encryption.

HTTP response codes

HTTP response codes are utilized to show the status of an HTTP request. 

Here is a list of standard HTTPS response codes and their meanings:

  1. 200 OK: This response code indicates that the request was successful and the requested resource was returned.
  2. 301 Moved Permanently: This response code indicates that the requested resource has permanently transferred to a new location. The response will include the new URL in the Location header.
  3. 302 Found: This response code indicates that the requested resource has temporarily moved to a new location. The response will include the new URL in the Location header.
  4. 303 See Other: This response code indicates that the requested resource can be found at a different URL. The response will include the new URL in the Location header.
  5. 400 Bad Request: This response code indicates that your request was non-valid or could not be comprehended by the server receiving it.
  6. 401 Unauthorized: This response code indicates that the request requires authentication. The response will include a WWW-Authenticate header that describes the authentication method that should be used.
  7. 403 Forbidden: This response code indicates that the server refuses to fulfill the request.
  8. 404 Not Found: This response code indicates that the requested resource could not be found.
  9. 500 Internal Server Error: This response code indicates that an error occurred on the server while processing the request.
  10. 503 Service Unavailable: This response code means that the server is temporarily incapable of handling the request due to maintenance or overload.

These are just small sample codes of the numerous HTTP response codes.

How many websites use HTTPS

It is challenging to pick the exact number of HTTPS websites, as this can change quickly, and many websites are on the internet. However, the adoption of HTTPS has been increasing in recent years as more and more websites have switched to using it.

According to data from the HTTPS Report published by the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), as of September 2021, about 83% of all websites use HTTPS. This is a significant increase from just a few years ago when the adoption rate was much lower.

The widespread adoption of HTTPS has been driven in part by the efforts of organizations such as the EFF and the Let’s Encrypt project, which have worked to promote the use of HTTPS and make it easier for website owners to switch to HTTPS. Additionally, major web browsers such as Google Chrome have implemented measures to encourage the use of HTTPS, such as displaying a warning when a user visits a website that is not using HTTPS.

HTTPS has become more common in recent years and is expected to continue to increase.

How HTTPS works (Certificate)

An HTTPS certificate is a digital certificate used to establish a website’s identity and secure communication between a client (e.g., a web browser) and a server using the HTTPS protocol.

Here is a general overview of how HTTPS  works:

  1. A website owner obtains an HTTPS certificate from a certificate authority (CA). This involves verifying the website owner’s identity and creating a certificate containing the website’s domain name and the website owner’s public key.
  2. The website owner installs the HTTPS certificate on the website’s server.
  3. When a client (e.g., a web browser) makes an HTTPS request to the website, the server responds by sending the HTTPS certificate to the client.
  4. The client verifies the HTTPS certificate by checking that a trusted CA signs it and that the domain name listed in the certificate matches the domain name of the website being accessed.
  5. If this certificate is valid, the client generates a unique session key that will be used to encrypt all future communication between the client and server. The session key is sent to the server, encrypted with the server’s public key.
  6. The server decrypts the session key utilizing its private key and caches it for future use.
  7. From this point on, all communication between the client and server is encrypted using the session key. Any data transmitted between the two is encrypted and decrypted using the session key.

This is a general overview of how HTTPS works. Many details and variations are not covered here, but this should give you a good understanding of the basic process.

HTTPS for WordPress

If you wish to use HTTPS on your WordPress website, there are a few steps you will need to follow:

  1. Obtain an HTTPS certificate: You will need to obtain an HTTPS certificate for your domain from a certificate authority (CA). Many options are available, including free certificates from organizations like Let’s Encrypt.
  2. Install the HTTPS certificate on your server: Once you have obtained it, you will need to install it on the server that hosts your WordPress site. This process will vary depending on your hosting provider and the type of certificate you have obtained.
  3. Configure WordPress to use HTTPS: Go to the “Settings” menu in the WordPress administration dashboard and click on the “General” submenu. In the “WordPress Address (URL)” and “Site Address (URL)” fields, change the “HTTP” prefix to “HTTPS.” Save the changes.
  4. Update links and resources to use HTTPS: It is important to update all links and resources on your site to use HTTPS, including links to images, stylesheets, and other assets. You can use a plugin like “Really Simple SSL” to automatically update these links.
  5. Test and verify your HTTPS configuration: After completing the above steps, it is important to test and verify that your HTTPS configuration is working properly. You can use tools like the SSL Server Test from Qualys SSL Labs to check for any issues.

By following these steps, you can configure your WordPress site to use HTTPS and ensure that all communication between your site and visitors is secure.

Is HTTPS good for SEO?

Yes, HTTPS can be good for SEO (Search Engine Optimization). In 2014, Google announced that it would use HTTPS as a ranking signal, meaning that websites using HTTPS may receive a small ranking boost in Google search results.

Here is a quote from Google’s Webmaster Central Blog that explains the rationale behind this decision:

“Over the past few months, we’ve been running tests taking into account whether sites use secure, encrypted connections as a signal in our search ranking algorithms. We’ve seen positive results, so we’re starting to use HTTPS as a ranking signal. For now, it’s only a very lightweight signal — affecting fewer than 1% of global queries, and carrying less weight than other signals such as high-quality content — while we give webmasters time to switch to HTTPS. But over time, we may decide to strengthen it, because we’d like to encourage all website owners to switch from HTTP to HTTPS to keep everyone safe on the web.”

In other words, while HTTPS is not a major ranking factor, it can still provide a small boost to your website’s search engine rankings. Additionally, HTTPS can help improve the security and trustworthiness of your website, which can also be beneficial for SEO.

While HTTPS is not a guarantee of better search engine rankings, it can be a positive factor for SEO and is generally considered a best practice for websites.

Why is my site not showing HTTPS?

There are several possible reasons why your site may not be showing HTTPS:

  1. You have not installed an HTTPS certificate: To use HTTPS, you must first acquire an HTTPS certificate from a CA (certificate authority) and install it on your server. If you have yet to do this, your site will not be able to use HTTPS.
  2. Your server is not configured to use HTTPS: Even if you have installed an HTTPS certificate, you must configure your server to use HTTPS for it to work. This may involve modifying your server’s configuration files and installing necessary dependencies.
  3. Your website is using mixed content: If your website is using HTTP resources (e.g., images, stylesheets, etc.) in addition to HTTPS, your browser may block the HTTPS connection and display a warning to the user. To fix this, you must update your website’s resources to HTTPS.
  4. Your website’s DNS records are not configured correctly: Your domain’s DNS records must be configured to point to the correct server and IP address for your website to be accessible. If your DNS records are incorrect or outdated, your website may not be accessible over HTTPS.
  5. There is a problem with your HTTPS certificate: If your HTTPS certificate is expired, invalid, or not installed correctly, your site may not be able to use HTTPS.

To troubleshoot why your site is not showing HTTPS, you will need to check for these and any other potential issues. It is also helpful to consult with your hosting provider or a qualified IT professional for further assistance.

How do I add free HTTPS to my website?

To add HTTPS to your website, you must learn how HTTPS works and obtain an HTTPS certificate from a certificate authority (CA) and install it on your server. 

Here is a general overview of the process:

Choose a certificate authority

There are many options for obtaining an HTTPS certificate, including free certificates from organizations like Let’s Encrypt. Choose a CA that meets your needs and budget.

Request an HTTPS certificate

Follow the instructions provided by the CA to request an HTTPS certificate for your domain. It may involve verifying your identity and ownership of the domain.

Install the HTTPS certificate on your server

Once you have received your HTTPS certificate, you will need to install it on the server that hosts your website. The procedure for doing this will differ depending on your hosting service provider and the type of certificate you have obtained. Consult your hosting provider’s documentation or contact their support team for assistance.

Configure your website to use HTTPS

Once the HTTPS certificate is installed on your server, you will need to update your website’s configuration to use HTTPS. This may involve modifying your server’s configuration files and updating any hard-coded HTTP links on your website to use HTTPS instead.

Test and verify your HTTPS configuration

After completing the above steps, it is important to test and verify that your HTTPS configuration is working properly. You can use tools like the SSL Server Test from Qualys SSL Labs to check for any issues.

By following these steps, you should be capable of adding HTTPS to your website and ensuring that all communication between your site and visitors is secure. 

Remember that the exact process may vary depending on your hosting provider and the tools and resources they offer.

How HTTPS works in cloud services?

HTTPS (Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure) is a protocol to secure internet communication. It is widely used in cloud services to protect data in transit between clients (such as web browsers) and servers.

In a cloud service environment, HTTPS is typically employed to secure communication between a client and servers and between servers within the cloud. For example, when a client transmits a request to a cloud-based server, the request is encrypted using HTTPS to ensure that it can not be intercepted and read by no one other than the intended recipient. It protects sensitive information such as passwords, financial data, and personal information from unauthorized parties.

Cloud services may also use HTTPS to secure communication between servers within the cloud. For example, servers in a cloud-based application may use HTTPS to communicate with each other and share data securely.

Overall, HTTPS is an important security measure in cloud services as it helps to ensure the confidentiality, integrity, and authenticity of communication over the internet.

Daniel Moore

Daniel Moore

I am a cloud technology blogger with a passion for helping others harness the power of the cloud. If you’re looking to learn more about the cloud, or simply want to stay up-to-date with the latest news and developments, then be sure to check out my blog!