VPN vs. HTTPS: What’s the Difference?
Online security is very important if you’re connected to the internet. You may encounter several risks if your connection isn’t protected, which is why online users turn to different tools for their protection.
VPNs and HTTPS are two essential technologies that serve a similar purpose in different ways. Both technologies are used to protect you and your privacy, but the great thing is that you can easily use both to protect yourself.
This article will help you understand what HTTPS and VPNs are, their similarities, pros and cons, and the differences that set them apart.
What is HTTPS?
HTTPS, or Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure, is the secure version of HTTP, a protocol used to transfer data across the web. HTTPS is a communication protocol that browsers use for communicating with web servers.
It uses TLS (Transport Layer Security) encryption to protect data shared between you and your websites. It also carries out authentication to confirm the identity of both sides and verifies that the data being shared is still intact. HTTPS uses asymmetric encryption that depends on public and private cryptographic keys to protect the data being shared between your device and the website.
Its authentication process prevents man-in-the-middle attacks, DNS manipulation, and phishing attempts. When you visit an HTTPS site, your ISP (Internet Service Provider) or anyone monitoring your network will only notice that you’ve connected to a particular website, but not the pages you visited.
How Do You Know a Website Uses HTTPS?
It is very important to confirm that the website you’re visiting uses HTTPS, especially if you intend to share sensitive information. The easiest way to find out if the site uses HTTPS is to check if the URL link begins with “http” or “https”. You could also just check to see if there is a padlock icon before the URL.
A padlock indicates that the website is protected with HTTPS, and clicking on the icon will display more information about the website’s HTTPS certificate. Many people believe that only websites that handle financial details need to use HTTPS, but the reality is that it should use HTTPS protocol as long as a web page collects some data about you.
Advantages of HTTPS
There are numerous reasons why HTTPS is an important protocol. Some of them include:
HTTPS’s greatest advantage is its data encryption. Data that gets transmitted through HTTPS is always encrypted, so you’re sure of having secure connections. Even if your traffic gets intercepted by hackers, they won’t make sense of the information because of the encryption.
With HTTPS, no user data is stored on the client system, the chances of experiencing data theft are greatly reduced.
HTTPS websites have certificates that assure users that they have appropriate policies. If the certificates aren’t there, you’ll be notified of an unsecured connection. This assures you that your data is sent to the right destination.
HTTPS validates data through handshaking. All data transfers are validated before they occur. If the validations are unsuccessful, the operations would be aborted.
Disadvantages of HTTPS
The disadvantages of HTTPS include:
Because of the complex encryption HTTP uses, you may experience a slower connection speed. In addition, the process involves encrypting and decrypting data and authentication, which means that it would take a little longer to access content or use a service.
You’ll need to purchase SSL certificates for HTTPS websites. The cost depends on the HTTPS provider you’re doing business with. Also, it is not convenient to always generate keys for users. You’ll also have to install intermediate certificates occasionally to ensure your website is running smoothly.
What Is a VPN?
A VPN, or Virtual Private Network, is used to create an encrypted tunnel between your device and a server. It protects your identity and traffic online by routing your data through a VPN server, so nobody, including your Internet Service Provider (ISP), can keep an eye on your activities.
All of your data traffic gets encrypted and hidden from every third party. So while they won’t be able to see what you’re up to, they’ll be able to tell that you’re using a VPN server. VPNs can also be used to bypass firewalls and geo-restrictions you may encounter on different platforms such as Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime.
To establish a secure VPN connection, you’ll have to subscribe to a VPN service and install client software. With the VPN client, you can connect to VPN servers located across the world. In addition, premium VPN service providers allow you to connect to a broad network.
Once you connect to a VPN server, your ISP IP address is cloaked with another one from the VPN provider. The VPN server receives your connection requests and decrypts them before they are forwarded to the correct web server.
After the requested information is received, it is encrypted and sent to your device. When the VPN client receives it, it gets decrypted.
Advantages of a VPN
Here are a couple of perks that come with using a VPN.
These days, it is easier to keep tabs on people’s online activities. As a result, ISPs, advertisers, government agencies, and hackers can gain access to your traffic and compromise your privacy.
However, a VPN provides anonymity. With your IP address hidden and your traffic encrypted, it allows you to surf the web away from prying eyes. Even if someone accesses your IP address, they would be looking at your VPN IP address.
Getting Past Geo-Restrictions
We often come across movies, songs, articles, and other content that are blocked in your location. Depending on copyright rules and licensing regulations, websites and other online services enable geo-blocking based on your IP address. In addition, blocks are usually placed based on your country or region.
When a VPN masks your IP address, you can connect to the locations that have access to the content you’re interested in.
Firewalls and Security
Certain countries have censorships and firewalls that block sites like Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook. A VPN is the only way to bypass such restrictions.
Premium VPN services use the latest encryption technology to protect your data traffic. They also offer other security features such as a kill switch, data leak protection, and others.
Disadvantages of a VPN
A VPN is not without disadvantages; check out some of them below:
Reduced Connection Speed
A VPN may affect the stability of your internet connection. The encryption protocols slow down your internet speed, and it may also take longer to connect to VPN servers located far away.
You can easily install a VPN client on popular systems such as Android, iOS, macOS, and Windows, but on Linux and Chromebook, you’ll have to manually set up a VPN connection.
Free VPN Services
Using a free VPN is risky business because the provider may be unreliable. If the VPN service doesn’t meet the latest standards, you may be exposed to different cyber crimes. For example, a free VPN might keep logs of your online traffic or inject malware into your device.
Premium VPN services require subscriptions that are usually quite pricey. However, some VPN providers offer money-back guarantees for their plans.
VPN Connections Can be Blocked
These days, many online services like Netflix use VPN blockers to block VPN connections. Thus, even with your VPN connection, you may still encounter blocked content you cannot access. However, there are premium VPN services like ExpressVPN and NordVPN that are difficult to block.
VPN vs. HTTPS
There are several differences and similarities between HTTPS and VPNs. Let’s highlight some of them:
1. First, VPN services and HTTPS use encryption to secure your communications. VPN encrypts the entire traffic from your device, but HTTPS only protects data transmission between your browser and the website’s server.
2. A VPN remains active for as long as you’re connected to a server, but HTTPS needs to be set up on your browser and the websites you visit.
3. HTTPS cannot help you hide your real location, but you can appear to be in almost any location in the world with a VPN.
4. A VPN conceals your identity and browsing activity from your ISP, government agencies, and cybercriminals. On the other hand, HTTPS only encodes important data you submit on websites.
5. You have very little control over HTTPS because the website owner has issued the SSL certificate.
6. HTTPS encryption is weaker than the effective military-grade encryption that VPNs offer.
7. Some VPN services use the same port as HTTPS to make VPN connections appear like regular traffic.
HTTPS and VPNs are excellent technologies that protect your data from unauthorized access. HTTPS is a VPN protocol used to secure online communications, while VPNs are third-party software that protects your privacy with encryption and other features.
You can use HTTPS without a VPN, and you could also use a VPN without HTTPS. However, since both of them offer security, you can use both of them at the same time for enhanced security and privacy.