An important part of designing and developing a website is equipping it with features that safeguard the information it contains and will gather from visitors. This includes having a website with traffic encryption features. So how can you tell if a website encrypts its traffic? That’s easy, let me show you how!
How Can You Tell If A Website Encrypts Its Traffic: Look For The Signs!
There are two signs a website has traffic encryption features. These are all found in the website location or address of your browser. Specifically, the website’s address itself must begin with “HTTPS,” which is preceded by a lock or padlock icon. What do these mean?
HTTP means Hyper Text Transfer Protocol and SSL means Secure Socket Layer. This is shortened as HTTPS and seen in websites that have encrypted site traffic.
The padlock icon on the address bar, on the other hand, appears once the website has fully loaded on your browser. The color of the padlock may change depending on browser types but the important thing to check is if it’s a locked padlock icon.
A locked padlock indicates a website is secure. This means the website is equipped with traffic encryption. While an open padlock or broken lock means it is not. The color of the padlock varies in that for Safari it is green, for Firefox it is gray, and for Chrome it is black.
As per the University of Wisconsin-Madison, both a padlock icon and an “HTTPS” address have to be existing on a website before one could be sure it is secure. Missing one indicator might still mean the website’s communication to your browser is still vulnerable to being intercepted by others.
“Okay,” you might say, “these websites indicate safe browsing. But how does it work?” Let me discuss that next.
How does website encryption work?
Alpine Security explains that internet traffic is moderated through SSL certificates. A website must have an SSL certificate that is signed by the Certificate Authority, which guarantees that it is free from viruses, malware, and intellectual property infringements.
Your browser, before accessing the website, first checks on the SSL certificate’s authenticity–that is if it is really owned by the website. If it is not, it prompts you with a warning from proceeding to the said website. (This is like an orange or red stop light sign in daily road traffic.)
But if the website’s SSL certificate is valid, the browser proceeds in accessing it. (Yes, this equates with the green stop light sign.)
Thus, website traffic encryption is a process of transferring information safely from a source or website into your computer’s or device’s browser. It is meant to safeguard your computer or device and the personal information it contains from the prying eyes of hackers and identity thieves.
It becomes safe, FortiNet elaborates, because the information being transferred is converted into computer language (encryption) such that confidential data is not readable by human eyes. The converted data would then be decoded by the receiving device so that it will become human-readable again in your browser.
Now, you might be wondering how could you enable traffic encryption when you browse online. So let’s talk about that next.
What are the ways of ensuring I only access a website that encrypts its traffic?
According to WildApricot, one option to secure your access to a website you’ll like to browse is to add an “S” after the “HTTP” and before the “://” of the website address. Another option is to permanently set your web browser’s Security Settings for “Traffic Encryption (HTTP/SSL).”
A. For Chrome Users
You can permanently set traffic encryption for your browser’s settings, particularly Google Chrome’s, through the following steps:
1. Click the three dots on the upper right-hand corner of Chrome
2. Scroll down to Settings on the drop-down menu. This will open a new tab or window that shows the options available under Settings.
3. Click “Privacy and security” and choose the Security option. This will expand the features available for your browsing security.
4. Click the type of protection you want under Safe Browsing, which could be Standard, Enhanced, or None. The best option, of course, is Enhanced security.
5. Once you choose your type of security, scroll down to the Advanced section of the page.
6. Turn the “Always Use Secure Connections” option on to enable traffic encryption. That simple!
If you want to see what websites you have browsed that have authentic SSL certificates, scroll down a bit more to the “Manage certificates” option and click it. This will open a pop-up window that displays the SSL certificates of various websites, their expiration dates, and the issuing Certificate Authority. Simply Close the window when you’re done viewing.
B. For Firefox Users
For Mozilla Firefox users, setting up your browser for traffic encryption uses a two-way security feature from the back-end network. Mozilla launched this new feature called “DNS-over-HTTPS” (DOH) in 2019 to circumvent hacker technology, which also uses encryption. The “DNS-over-HTTPS” feature relies more on safe domain names than on SSL certificates. You can read more on this here.
To set up your Firefox, simply do the following:
1. Go to your browser’s Settings and choose “Network Settings” under the General panel.
2. In the Network Settings, choose “Settings” to open a pop-up window.
3. Click the option to put “Enable DNS over HTTPS” on.
4. Finish off by clicking OK.
Besides the aforementioned options to set up website traffic encryption, you could also install apps, configure your internet network, and install a VPN for added protection. The KB SSL Enforcer is an example of a Google Chrome plugin that ensures site encryption.
While configuring your internet network means setting up a password for your internet connection and setting up a new administrator password for your router. I previously discussed how VPNs work and how to set them up. You may read about it here.
How Can You Tell If A Website Encrypts Its Traffic: In A Nutshell
It is easy to tell if a website encrypts its traffic by looking for the padlock icon and the HTTPS in its address. The more important thing to remember is to be constantly alert these are present in the website you are accessing whenever you surf online.
Do the varying colors of the padlock icon in web browsers mean varying levels of security?
No, the different colors of the padlock have no relation to levels of security. The colors simply indicate the aesthetic preference of the brand of web browser you are using. Google uses black, Safari uses green, and Firefox uses gray.
Is there a downside to encrypting website traffic?
According to Fortinet, there is a downside to a network that uses traffic encryption because hackers use the same language to embed malware in a website. This is why web browser providers Google, Mozilla, and Apple constantly update their encryption technology.
If you have more questions, feel free to message me! I’ll be happy to help you with it.