I recently made a comprehensive post on what a VPN is and why you should have one, and one thing I neglected to talk about was the security differences between an HTTPS address and a VPN service. They both deal with online security, and this is something that often confuses people. I thought it warranted it’s own separate post.
If these random acronyms are confusing to you, allow me to explain them:
What is HTTPS?
HTTPS is short for Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure. It was originally invented in 1994 for the Netscape browser. I bring this up because lots of people think that https is a new thing. It’s actually not.
In October of 2017, Google notified web hosts and domain owners that if their page wasn’t https compatible, visitors would see a security warning. You’ve probably seen them before, they look something like the picture below:
Before 2017, Google and internet browsers as a whole wouldn’t notify you if a page was insecure, which was really bad for obvious reasons.
It’s still really easy to miss these notifications sometimes, depending on what your browser is, if you’re on mobile or not, if you’re just not paying attention, etc.
From a website owner’s perspective, not having an https compatible website also hurts your Google page rankings, since Google doesn’t want to feature a website that leaks the information of people who visit it.
The takeaway here is that HTTPS websites are mostly secure and HTTP ones are not.
What is a VPN?
If you read my previous post, you’d know that VPN is short for Virtual Private Network. It essentially creates an encrypted connection between your device and an unsecure network. All your internet traffic goes through the VPN’s server rather than your ISP (Internet Service Provider).
When using a VPN, people trying to view your activity won’t be able to locate your real IP address or location, and they won’t be able to track what websites you’re going to, what information you’re sending and retrieving, any of your passwords, that sort of thing.
Am I 100% safe if I use a VPN?
You’re basically safe if you use a reliable VPN service, but there are still ways malicious people could get your information if you aren’t careful.
For example, if you were unfortunate enough to click on a seemingly legitimate link in an email and give away your information that way, you could have your username and password leaked. This is called Phishing. This is something you can watch out for by being careful and verifying if the sender is who they say they are.
As long as you keep an eye on who’s emailing you and you’re using good judgement, you should be safe from phishing. This is just one example where using a VPN alone wouldn’t save you.
Attacks like these aside, using a VPN makes you way more safe than you otherwise would be, especially if you use the internet in public on a regular basis.
What’s the difference between HTTPS and VPN?
Here’s a quick list of the key differences:
- A VPN encrypts ALL of the communications from your device. HTTPS only secures the connection between you and that one website.
- A VPN hides your identity and can help you get around regional limitations and censorship. HTTPS doesn’t do this, people hacking unsecure connections can still see what page you’re on if all you have is an HTTPS connection
- The encryption on HTTPS is good but not perfect, encryption from VPN services are much more powerful and up-to-date.
Are there any VPN services you’d recommend?
I’d recommend NordVPN as my number one pick if you’re interested in being more secure online. You can click here to sign up with them for $3.49 per month, which is 70% off their normal rates for a limited time.
Hopefully that clears up any questions you might have had. Feel free to comment below if you have any additional questions.