In a time when people can’t even trust their personal WiFi networks anymore, Google’s latest Transparency Report offers a glimmer of hope. For the first time in history, 64% of all Chrome traffic uses HTTPS (Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure) encryption, compared to just 42% this time last year.
Not only does this mean more people are browsing encrypted sites than ever before, but the year-over-year increase is also staggering.
Why the sudden change?
You may have noticed a change in how the Chrome browser operates over the last year or so. Every time you type in a URL without HTTPS or click on a random redirect link, your browser will automatically alert you to the fact that the website may not be secure. Now, whether or not the website in question is malicious is moot; if a site isn’t using HTTPS, it’s simply not safe.
Google’s been pushing hard to enact HTTPS as the industry standard, and by flagging potentially unsecure websites, they’ve been able to nudge more developers to turn to HTTPS.
How HTTPS works
That’s because HTTPS has become the de facto standard for website encryption. When you visit a site with HTTPS in the URL, your information is encrypted, meaning it’s impossible for someone to see what you’re doing, what you’re buying, or which links you click. While the early days of the internet only reserved HTTPS for high-risk sites like your bank, it’s becoming more and more popular today—in large part due to Google’s insistence.
Other key takeaways from the report
Not only are more people browsing securely, the number of encrypted sites has also increased. According to Google, the top 100 websites that now use HTTPS has increased by 37% from last year, nearly doubling the year-over-year amount. This push for more security has given app developers more incentive to meet specific privacy protections, which has been evident in various encrypted messenger apps like WhatsApp and Telegram. Even Facebook Messenger, which is used by more than 1.2 billion people worldwide, provides end-to-end encryption to keep messages private.
What’s even more surprising is the fact that nearly every major platform in the U.S. has record surges in HTTPS-protected traffic:
- Android is now at 64%, up from 42% last year
- iPhone/iPad is at 75%, up from 67%
- Mac is at 75%, up from 60%
- Windows isn’t far behind at 73%, up from 59%
You can read Google’s Transparency Report in its entirety here.
Privacy on the mind
While Google’s push for HTTPS has undoubtedly been successful, experts still suggest people use VPNs to keep their devices safe. Just this month the KRACK security flaw, which exploits a basic feature in the WPA2 encryption protocol, has been shown to be avoidable by simply connecting to a VPN server. That’s because a VPN will reroute your web traffic through another encrypted server, thereby patching the network flaw automatically. And while IoT devices like smart TVs are most at risk, connecting your VPN to your home’s router is a simple way to keep your connections secure.
With governments pushing for stronger surveillance protocols and an increasing influx of malware and spyware, a VPN is still your best line of defense.