This is an infomercial on understanding and avoiding insecure browsing to ensure cyber security and threat mitigation.
If a website’s URL does not start with https, that means the website does not have an SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) certificate. Missing an SSL certificate means a website is not marked as safe by any of the standardized certificate providers and may contain malicious content.
An SSL certificate is a small data file, binding a cryptographic key to an organization’s details digitally. An SSL certificate activates the padlock when installed on a server. The https protocol allows secure connection from a web server to a browser by ensuring secure encryption of the communication.
As per Google’s plan a few years back, “HTTPS Everywhere” was a concrete goal to be achieved. The trend caught on in 2017, and it is believed that Google Chrome will start marking websites as insecure from July 2018, if they fail to update to HTTPS.
The race to acquire HTTPS configuration on websites seems legit, as Google Chrome claims that the default use of HTTPS on the top 100 sites has risen from 37 in 2016 to 81 in the initial months of 2018.
When a website is HTTP configured (Hyper Text Transfer Protocol), instead of HTTPS configured (Hyper Text Transfer Protocol Secure), the interaction between a site and a user is in plain text which can be accessed by an attacker.
To ensure privacy and security, HTTPS encrypts all the interaction back and forth so that an attacker is unable to understand the coding.
Owing to the damaging vulnerability in HTTP, HTTPS was designed with the following features:
When you’re using public networks like café Wi-Fi, and you’re interacting with an HTTP site, your data can be leaked using packet sniffer tools, used by attackers to intercept and gather packets on networks.
In such cases, an attacker can even access your login information in plaintext. Moreover, they can also alter the content in transmission, tricking a user to download malware.
Even if no sensitive information is being communicated with an HTTP site over a public network, behavioral data can still be collected and identities can be breached by the attackers.
Therefore, HTTPS is a good option for organizations to improve their google ranking if they’re using HTTP.
Look for the green padlock next to a website’s URL in the address bar. It’ll read “Secure” if the website has enabled data encryption using HTTPS, and the URL will start with HTTPS. This indicates that the website owns a valid SSL/TLS certificate.
If the padlock displays “not secure” in red, with a strikethrough the https, this indicates that the website’s certificate has expired or not purchased. Clicking on the padlock reveals the status of the certificate of the website.
However, the hacker World has transcended these basic security measures now. A good indicator of a malicious site could be a typo in the domain name, despite an HTTPS configuration.
Owing to the ever-growing cyber-attacks, some websites attempt to impersonate other secure and trusted websites and are able to acquire an SSL certificate. But if the domain name doesn’t look original, do not trust the green padlock saying secure. An example would be, linked1n.com, which has a typo in it. Most users are unable to detect the spelling change and will consider the site to be LinkedIn. Any information provided to such duplicate sites can be breached by hackers.
Understanding and implementing Secure browsing is important for threat mitigation. The hacker world is a jungle out there, inventing and implementing new attacking techniques every day. Users are advised to keep an eye for suspicious website addresses, check HTTPS configuration before providing confidential information like credit card numbers or passwords.
In a more advanced case, organizations need to train employees in detecting malicious sites, based on typos in the domain names even if they have acquired SSL certificates.
If you think you are a victim of a cyber-security attack. Immediately send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org for a rapid response.