If you’ve paused to read this article, you’re probably already “in the know” when it comes to the distinction between HTTP and HTTPS. Ideally, you look for the tiny but crucial difference in the designation before doing anything profound, like filling in an online form or handing over your credit card to make a purchase. But for those who are not as tech savvy about security designations, Google is ramping up its warning system to protect consumers.
Right now, sites that collect sensitive information and do not carry the HTTPS designation get a little symbol in the top of the task bar. It’s not an offensive or intrusive symbol, and that’s the problem. If you don’t know not to shop online through a website that is only HTTP-level secure, an innocuous little neutral symbol isn’t exactly a warning sign. (At the same time, the little green “you’re good to go!” symbol on HTTPS-designated shopping sites probably isn’t much of a boost, either.)
All that’s about to change. Google’s update to Chrome scheduled for early 2017 will include a far more ominous-looking red warning icon on websites that haven’t updated their security to reach the gold standard of HTTPS. That’s an important step in consumer safety considering Chrome is the most widely used browser in the world, and the page views run through Chrome are about evenly split between HTTP and HTTPS sites. That means that more consumers use Chrome than any other browser, but also that about half their traffic is to unsecured websites.
Of course, some tech news sites feel like this isn’t so much a safety net for hapless internet shoppers as it is a push to web developers to get their act together when it comes to security. If you don’t want a bright red warning sticker slapped on your website, get it under control and make it meet Google’s standards for consumer safety.