This is a question we received at the Spokane Ask Me Anything sponsored by the National Association of Women Business Owners held on June 12, 2014.

Socket

Socket

This can get to be a very technical discussion which I don’t think is your desire. I’ll try to keep it non-technical.

I’m going to quote a bit from Wikipedia’s article on https: “Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure (HTTPS) is a communications protocol for secure communication over a computer network.” Suffice it to say that if a web site is using https (you’ll see it in the URL as opposed to the regular http) it is likely to be more secure than a web site that doesn’t.

Why did I say likely? Because it all depends on how well the web site was constructed. If the protocols where not installed or implemented correctly, the traffic on the site can be compromised. And even if the site was correctly constructed, it has been shown that a lot of information can be gathered by just looking at the traffic (called packets). However, it takes a sophisticated set up to be able to crack in to it.

Then there’s the question of how likely is someone trying to get your information? Pictures of your doggy Fluffy are not likely to attract the attention of anyone with the time, money, equipment, and know-how. Target’s retail site where there are thousands or millions of people using their credit cards is a likely target (pun intended) because the payoff is worth the effort.

So how can you tell? Unfortunately, you can’t tell how secure a site is even if it’s using https. If you own a site using https, make sure that whoever is responsible for setting it up does so correctly with all the latest bug fixes. And if you’re really paranoid, you can hire “white hat” hackers to test your site for vulnerabilities, hopefully before the black hats do.

A physicist by trade, author by choice, a born teacher, a retired veteran, and an adamant problem solver, Frank has helped the White House, federal agencies, military offices, historical museums, manufacturers, and over 250 technology startups get stuff done, communicate effectively, and find practical solutions that work for them. In his spare time, he makes sawdust and watches Godzilla movies.