Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure (HTTPS) is the secure version of HTTP. HTTPS is encrypted to encrypt the data sent across the web network. Certain websites, especially those that require credentials should use HTTPS. So In short, an HTTPS domain has to have a certificate to make it secure therefore it will not work without one.

This article answers the basic question of the need or validity of a certificate for HTTPS. Interested in finding out how HTTPS works? This article provides you with clarity on that too.

How does HTTPS work?

HTTPS simply uses encryption known as transport layer security (TLS) to encrypt communications. Formerly known as Secure Sockets Layer, the TLS protocol secures data transmitted across the web using the asymmetric public key infrastructure (PKI).

HTTPS simply takes the HTTP protocol and layers a TLS or SSL digital certificate on top of it. The communication between servers and clients doesn’t necessarily change. The only thing new is that their communication is now run over a secure SSL connection that encrypts and decrypts their connection. Wonder what the job of the SSL is? Well, the SSL essentially, is responsible for two things:

-It verifies that you’re communicating with the intended server

-It ensures that the messages transmitted between you and the server are read by you and the server alone.

 
To encrypt data, there are a few things that it operationally allows to get done. They are:

  • The data you need to encrypt. 
  • An encryption key
  • An encryption algorithm. This serves to garble the data.

With these, you may ask, how is data encrypted? When you plug in the data and the encryption key into the algorithm, the output you get is called a cipher text. This cipher text is exactly the encrypted version of your data. It takes a senseless form.

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To decrypt the cipher text all you have to do is reverse the process with the same encryption key. This then decrypts the encryption and restores the original form of the data. What makes this process unique is the secrecy of the encryption key. The encryption key knows exactly how to encrypt data so that only the intended users have access to it.

Another thing to know is the different kinds of encryption. When you use the same encryption key on both ends, it is called symmetric encryption. Encryptions like this are what a typical home Wifi uses. You only have one encryption key, which in everyday language is called a password. It is this password that you input into your wireless router or laptop.

The process is however more complicated when you want to connect to a website on the public internet. Symmetric encryption is pointless here, this is because you don’t control the other end. This problem is solved using asymmetric encryption which means you’re using two different keys. One key to encrypt, the other key to decrypt. 

Does HTTPS Work Without an SSL/TLS Certificate?

SSL certificates are what enable websites to move from HTTP to HTTPS. As established already, HTTPS is the secure version of HTTP. For this to happen, an SSL certificate must be obtained. An SSL certificate is a data file located in a website’s original server.

SSL certificates are what make SSL/TLS encryption possible. They also contain the public key of the website, as well as the identity of the website. Hence, devices that want to share data with the origin server will reference this file. This is because it needs to obtain the public key and scrutinize the identity of the server.

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The information contained in SSL certificates are:

  • The domain name to use the certificate 
  • The name of the person or device the certificate was issued to
  • The certificate authority that issued it
  • The digital signature of the certificate authority
  • Date of issuance, as well as the expiration date of the certificate 
  • The public key

What are the Functions of SSL Certificates?

Some of the reasons why a website needs an SSL certificate are:

  1. Encryption: SSL/TLS encryption is possible due to the public-private key pairing SSL certificates aid. Clients get the public key required to open a TLS connection from the certificate of a server’s SSL.
  2. Authentication: One primary reason why SSL certificates are indispensable is that they scrutinize the identity of the server communicating with a client. This way, man-in-the-middle attacks and other kinds of attacks including domain spoofing are intercepted. 

What are the dangers of using an invalid SSL/TLS certificate?

As you already know, SSL certificates grant authentication to your websites. Another indispensable duty of an SSL certificate is ensuring proper encryption of your internet traffic. When you’re running your domain or website with an incapacitated certificate it simply implies that none of the functions will be met.

Running your domain on an expired or invalid SSL certificate exposes you to some risks. Find out below:

-Your Website is Now Vulnerable and Insecure: Since the basic duty of an SSL certificate has been truncated, you should expect nothing but vulnerability. An expired or invalid certificate means your website is no longer recognized as safe and is thus susceptible to cyber attacks.

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-Customers Revenues are in Jeopardy: Digital certificates are paramount in building reliability and trust between your business and your clients. You want to provide your customers with a secure digital environment to build lasting clientage. This enables them to feel safe when providing you with sensitive or personal details like home address or credit card details.

Once your certificate expires, the browser immediately flags your domain and warns intending visitors of the risk of using your site.

-Man-in-the-Middle Attacks: An invalid certificate enables attackers to place themselves in the middle of the user’s browser. The attacker is now able to impersonate either the user/client. This scenario enables the hacker to harvest the data sent across the network, without the server recognizing it.

Conclusion

The sensitivity of the internet and data as a whole has created needs for security on the internet. HTTP is different from HTTPS in that the latter carries an extra layer of security protocol. This encrypts whatever web traffic the client is sending and receiving to and from the server.

This article exposes to you, the dangers of using an invalid SSL certificate as well as the general necessities of a certificate. Choosing to ignore these risks is simply aiding the vulnerability of your data. Want to find out if HTTPS works without a certificate, this article is your best bet for that info too.