In the world of cybersecurity, one often comes across two terms — the Virtual Private Network (VPN) and the Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure (HTTPS). So, if you are new to these terms, you are likely to get confused between the two and wonder which one is better. If so, you must know that comparing these two is like comparing two different species.
However, people tend to get confused because of the term ‘encryption,’ which is the only common factor between these two technologies. So, even though there is no common ground between the two, people often wonder whether to choose VPN over HTTPS or vice versa.
Some readers have also asked us if the two are the same. If you are in that zone, here is everything you need to know about these two technologies, their individual uses, and their benefits. So, let us dive right into it.
What is HTTPS?
The HTTPS is an advanced version of the Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP) and provides better network security. This can be activated on a domain or subdomain by installing the TLS or the SSL certificate on the webserver that hosts the particular domain or the subdomain. It is a digital certificate that uses cryptographic keys to encrypt and decrypt the client and server’s data.
This secure protocol evolved mainly to counter cyberattacks such as packet sniffing, credential stealing, and man-in-the-middle attacks. At present, Google, PCI DSS, the European Union (vide the GDPR) insist on using the HTTPS protocol to protect in-transit user data. Webmasters and admins can do this by installing a self-signed SSL certificate or avail one through a reliable third-party known as the Certificate Authority (CA). Since most browsers and OS come preloaded with the public keys of reputed CAs, it is always recommended that webmasters buy at least a cheap SSL certificate from a reliable CA rather than generating a self-signed certificate.
What is a VPN?
A VPN is an artificially created network used to conceal the original user’s IP address in the most straightforward words. It tunnels the connection between the client and the server, which prevents cybercriminals from snooping on the user’s activities. It can be used to secure remote access to corporate networks or to remain unidentified while accessing certain websites.
This service can be availed through many third-party VPN service providers like Nord VPN. However, you would be using these services at your own risk. While reputed VPN services are relatively safe for legitimate purposes, others may inject malware into your system to gain unauthorized access or make it part of a bot network.
Is HTTPS the same as a VPN?
No, HTTPS is not the same as a VPN. These are two distinct technologies meant to serve two very different purposes. As the two are entirely different, there is no comparison between them. While the HTTPS is an internet protocol, the VPN is designed to mask its IP and prevent it from being identified and tracked. So, if you own a website or an app, you need to install an SSL certificate to protect user data such as credit card details, login credentials, or health records. On the other hand, if you visit Cuba and wish to access Google or any other website restricted in that region, a VPN would come in handy.
VPN vs. HTTPS| Key Differences
The Virtual Private Network is an unregulated service offered by third-party service providers. In contrast, the HTTPS encryption can be enabled through self-signed SSL certificates and those signed by the Certificate Authority. As the CAs are reputed names such as Microsoft and Symantec, HTTPS is a far more secure and reliable technology.
Furthermore, the HTTPS encrypts traffic to a website and needs to be activated by the webmaster by installing a TLS/SSL certificate on the webserver. On the other hand, the VPN is a technology used by an end-user to mask their IP address. So, the purposes for which the two technologies are used vary significantly. Let us now discuss some uses of each of these two technologies to understand which one you may want to pick.
When to use a VPN?
Typically, a VPN service is used to bypass security restrictions that prevent user access to certain websites based on user location. For instance, if someone located in China or Cuba wishes to access Google, they might not be able to do so due to local restrictions. In that case, they may use a VPN to connect to Google from a different IP. It can also be used to stream data, run searches, shop online, or do any other activity discreetly.
When to use HTTPS?
If you own a website or an application, you need to activate the HTTPS protocol by installing a valid SSL certificate on the webserver. A point to note is that these certificates remain valid for a maximum of five years (need to be reissued after thirteen months) and protect limited extensions.
So, you must choose one based on the number of domain extensions and subdomains you wish to protect. We recommend buying an advanced SSL instead of a cheap SSL certificate because it is easier to manage a single certificate. Plus, you can get big discounts on websites like ClickSSL.
On the other hand, if you are an internet user, consider using only those websites with an active SSL certificate. You can identify that by looking at the secure padlock in the browser’s URL bar, which appears before the website’s name. Based on the type of validation performed by the CA, it confirms the authenticity of the website.
Now that we have discussed the key differences, it should be clear that the HTTPS is not the same as a VPN. So, there is no question of choosing a VPN over HTTPS or vice versa. By now, you should be in a better position to plan your security measures effectively. Whichever technology you choose, always make it a point to use the services of a trusted and reputable entity.