This tax season, when you visit the IRS’s website seeking tax information, can you be certain that no one else is monitoring which pages you browse?
Unfortunately, right now the answer to that question is “no.” Unlike Facebook, Twitter, Google Mail (Gmail), and virtually every bank and credit card company, the IRS, like most government agencies, does not use HTTPS for encryption and authentication on its website. If you try typing “mail.google.com” into your browser right now, you will see that the URL you end up at is actually “https://mail.google.com.” That “s” after the “http” may seem insignificant, but it means a lot. It signifies that Google is using Secure Sockets Layer encryption, or SSL, to both encrypt and authenticate its communications. When you visit google.com and you see “https” at the beginning of the address, it lets you know that your connection is secure, and that third parties – such as your internet service provider, employer, or university cannot monitor what you’re doing through the use of network interception technology.