Comparing HTTPS vs VPN can be quite confusing.
Both HTTPS and VPN are two different things, but each of them shares the same goal of ensuring online privacy and security to Internet users.
Therefore, you might be asking yourself, "What's the difference between HTTPS and VPN?" or "Do I need to use a VPN with HTTPS? Is HTTP over VPN secure?”
In this article, we will provide detailed answers to all these questions.
But firstly, let's define what HTTPS and VPN actually are.
What is HTTPS?
Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure, or HTTPS, is an Internet connection protocol developed for secure data transfer between web browsers and websites.
It’s set up on a website by its owners and doesn’t require any installation or configuration from the side of an Internet user.
HTTPS is an advanced, secure version of its predecessor Hypertext Transfer Protocol or simply HTTP.
HTTPS utilizes a TLS/SSL encryption certificate on top of HTTP to allow secure online communication and data transfer between your web browser and a server of the website you visit.
It also performs authentication of both parties to prevent the possibility of MITM (Man-in-the-Middle) attacks and ensure that the two parties (web browser and a website) are really who they claim to be.
Today, all reputable websites, regardless of the purpose they serve, use HTTPS to protect their users’ Internet connections from being snooped on.
So if anybody will try to spy on your connection, for example your network admin, he or she will only be able to see websites you visited and what pages on those websites you opened, but all the other delicate data like your account credentials or credit card information will remain invisible.
Therefore, it’s important to always check whether a website you're landing on uses HTTPS.
All you need to do is to check your web browser’s address bar and see if it shows a green lock to the left of your website’s URL.
If yes, you’re all good and can use the website as intended, otherwise, you’d better avoid entering sensitive information on this site as it can easily be intercepted and stolen.
What is VPN?
A virtual private network or VPN is a technology that changes your IP address and creates a secure virtual tunnel between your device and a VPN server.
All information that passes through that tunnel is encrypted and therefore can’t be seen or hijacked.
When you connect to a VPN, not only does it ciphers your browser traffic, but it also ciphers all other online traffic coming from and to your device.
Thus, all the data you transmit over the web is encrypted and hidden from your ISP and other third parties.
VPNs are usually used to secure your sensitive information traveling through the Internet and bypass censorship restrictions that some countries and services impose.
In most cases, VPNs are installed manually by a user.
Comparing HTTPS vs VPN: Which is better?
Both HTTPS and VPN are necessary things to protect your online privacy and sensitive data, so you don’t have to choose between two.
The best option for you would be to utilize them together as they form a great pair, where each tool complements the other.
Anyways, let’s compare HTTPS vs VPN to better understand their specific functions.
- HTTPS has to be enabled on your browser and a website you visit (you don’t have to set up it manually on your browser as all modern browser support HTTPS). VPN client has to be manually installed by a user.
- HTTPS encrypts online traffic between your browser and a server of the website you visit. A VPN encrypts online traffic between your device and a VPN server.
- A VPN masks your IP address, changes your geolocation, and allows you to bypass censorship restrictions. HTTPS does none of these things.
- HTTPS provides somewhat weaker encryption than that of a VPN and is more exposed to certain types of hacker attacks. However, HTTPS encrypts your data flow from the final endpoint to your desired website and prevents your connection from being exploited by targeted MITM attacks.
Is HTTP over VPN secure?
Unfortunately, all the sensitive information you enter consciously on an insecure website page can still be monitored by hackers and prying eyes even if you reroute your traffic through a VPN.
But that is not a discrepancy of a VPN as a technology.
The thing is HTTPS provides end-to-encryption between the final endpoint and a website you access, safeguarding you from man-in-the-middle attacks.
A VPN encrypts the traffic you transmit up to the endpoint, which is a VPN server itself.
But still, on the way from that endpoint to the destination website, your personal information can be intercepted unless the HTTPS certificate was implemented on that website.
Therefore, it’s vital to use HTTPS and VPN together.
After all, there is no battle called HTTPS vs VPN, there is rather a synergy between the two tools.