HTTPS port 443: What is it, and is it safe to open?

Tips & tricks
9 mins

Whenever you send sensitive information over the internet, such as credit card numbers, passwords, or personal details, port 443 is the essential gateway that ensures your data reaches its destination securely. It’s like a reliable courier in the digital realm, delivering your information safely and discreetly.

But how exactly does port 443 do this, and why should it matter to you? The answer lies in its ability to establish a secure connection whenever you see “HTTPS” in your browser’s address bar.

Jump to…
What is a port?
What is port 443?
How does port 443 work?
Why is port 443 important?
HTTPS port 443 and HTTP connections
Port 443 vulnerabilities
Can I open port 443?
How to open port 443: macOS
How to open port 443: Windows 10
How to troubleshoot port 443
The dangers of port 443

What is a port?

Before we dive into what port 443 is, it’s first important to understand what a port is.

A port is a virtual connection point that is used by programs and services to exchange information. It specifically determines which program or service on a computer or server is going to be used, whether that’s pulling up a web page, using an FTP service, or accessing email.

Port numbers are used to identify specific ports. Each port number is assigned to a specific protocol or service. For example, port 80 is used for HTTP traffic, port 443 is used for HTTPS (HyperText Transfer Protocol Secure) traffic, and port 25 is used for SMTP traffic.

When a computer or server receives data, it uses the port number to determine which program or service should handle the data. This allows multiple programs and services to run on the same computer or server without conflicting with each other.

Ports are also used to restrict access to certain programs and services. For example, a firewall can be configured to block all incoming traffic on ports that are not being used by legitimate programs and services. This can help to protect a computer or server from attack.

Here are some examples of ports and the services they are used for:

  • Port 80: HTTP (web traffic)
  • Port 443: HTTPS (secure web traffic)
  • Port 25: SMTP (email)
  • Port 22: SSH (secure shell access)
  • Port 53: DNS (domain name system)
  • Port 8080: HTTP alternative port

Ports are an essential part of computer networking and allow multiple programs and services to communicate with each other securely and efficiently.

What is port 443?

Port 443 is the standard port for HTTPS, the secure version of HTTP. HTTPS is used by websites and other online services to protect your data from being intercepted by eavesdroppers.

Imagine port 443 as a secure tunnel between your web browser and a website. When you visit a website that uses HTTPS, all communication between your browser and the website is encrypted through this tunnel. This means that even if someone were to intercept your traffic, they wouldn’t be able to read it.

Port 443 is used by a wide variety of websites and online services, including:

  • E-commerce websites
  • Banking websites
  • Social media sites
  • Email services
  • Cloud storage services
  • VPN services

How does port 443 work?

Port 443 works by using a cryptographic protocol called TLS (Transport Layer Security). TLS is the successor to SSL (Secure Sockets Layer), and it provides a secure channel between two machines or devices operating over the internet or an internal network.

When you visit a website that uses HTTPS, your browser and the website establish a TLS connection. This connection is secured by an SSL/TLS certificate, which is a digital certificate that verifies the identity of the website and encrypts all data transmitted between your browser and the server.

Why is port 443 important?

Port 443 is important because it helps protect your data from being intercepted by cybercriminals. When you use HTTPS, all communication between your browser and the website is encrypted. This means that even if someone were to intercept your traffic, they wouldn’t be able to read it.

Port 443 is especially important for websites and online services that handle sensitive data, such as credit card numbers, passwords, and social security numbers. By using HTTPS, these websites and services can help to protect your data from being stolen by hackers.

HTTPS port 443 and HTTP connections

HTTPS port 443 also supports sites to be available over HTTP connections. If the site uses HTTPS but is unavailable over port 443 for any reason, port 80 will step in to load the HTTPS-enabled website.

However, it’s important to note that HTTP connections aren’t secure. This means that if you visit a website over HTTP, your data is vulnerable to being intercepted by cybersleuths.

Therefore, it’s always best to visit websites over HTTPS whenever possible. You can check if a website is using HTTPS by looking for the lock icon in the address bar of your browser:

Read more: The internet is safer now—but a VPN is still essential protection

Port 443 vulnerabilities 

While port 443 is widely recognized as a secure gateway for online communication, it’s not without its vulnerabilities. These potential weaknesses include:

  • Man-in-the-Middle (MITM) attacks: This type of attack occurs when a malicious actor intercepts the communication between a client and server. By doing so, they can gain unauthorized access to sensitive information.
  • SSL/TLS vulnerabilities: One notable vulnerability is the Heartbleed bug, which primarily affects older versions of the SSL protocol. In such cases, attackers can exploit this weakness to gain access to private data. It’s important to note, however, that this issue has been addressed in the more current TLS 1.2 and TLS 1.3 protocols.
  • Malware infections: Attackers may seek to exploit open ports, including port 443, as a means to infiltrate systems with malware (more on this below). This can lead to a range of detrimental consequences, including data breaches and system compromise.

Can I open port 443?

You can open port 443, and doing so involves configuring your firewall to allow incoming connections on a specific port. This means instructing your firewall to accept incoming connections on that port from any source. This can be useful if you plan to:

  • To host a website or web application using HTTPS.
  • To use a remote desktop application to connect to a computer over the internet.
  • To use a cloud storage service that uses HTTPS.
  • To run a multiplayer game server.
  • To share files with other computers on your network.

How to open port 443: macOS

To open port 443 on Mac, you follow the steps below. Just ensure your firewall is disabled before you begin.

You can go to System Settings > Network > Firewall to see if yours is on. If it is, turn it off:

  1. Then, open the Terminal app.

  1. At the prompt, enter the following command to stop the packet filler (pf) firewall in case it’s active: 
    • sudo pfctl -d
  2. Open the configuration file for pf by using the nano text editor: 
    • sudo nano /etc/pf.conf

3. The editor will show the contents of the default config. To open port 443, enter your custom rule (for example, pass inet proto tcp from any to any port 443 no state) below any existing configurations. 

  • Press Ctrl-x to exit nano, and press Y and Enter to confirm that you want to save the file with the same name.
    • Reload the pf firewall rules: sudo pfctl -f /etc/pf.conf
  • Lastly, enter the following prompt to re-start the firewall: sudo pfctl -E

Once you’ve opened port 443, applications that need to use it will be able to do so. For example, if you’re running a web server on your Mac, you will need to open port 443 in order for it to be accessible to other devices on the network.

How to open port 443: Windows 10

Opening port 443 is a little more complex than on Mac. That’s because you need to add it to the Windows Firewall directly. To do this:

  1. Type firewall in the search box, then select Windows Defender Firewall with Advanced Security

2. Once the Windows Firewall is open, in the left pane, select Inbound Rules.

3. In the right pane, click New Rule.

4. Select Port and click Next.

5. Select TCP and Specific local ports. In the Specific local ports box, type 443 and click Next.

6. Select Allow the connection and click Next.
7. Select the network profiles that you want the rule to apply to and click Next.
8. Give the rule a name and description, and click Finish.

Once you’ve created the rule, port 443 will be open on your computer.

Note: Leaving ports open can increase your computer’s vulnerability to attack. Only open ports that you need to open.

How to troubleshoot port 443

If you’re having trouble opening port 443 on your Mac or Windows device, or you suspect it may still be closed:

  1. Check if port 443 is open
    • To do this on Mac: head back to Terminal > type nc -zv + IP address or hostname + port number to run the telnet command and test the port status. 
    • On Windows: open the Command Prompt on your Windows machine > type telnet <IP address or domain name> 443 and press Enter. If the command returns “Connected to <IP address or domain name>”, then port 443 is open.

2. Check your firewall: Make sure that port 443 is allowed in your firewall. You can usually find these settings in the security or firewall section of your operating system’s control panel.

3. Check your proxy server: If you’re using a proxy server, make sure that it is configured to allow traffic through port 443. You can usually find these settings in the proxy server’s configuration settings.

4. Restart your device: Sometimes, restarting your computer can fix port 443 issues.

5. Check the application that is using port 443: If port 443 is open and you are still having problems, then the problem may be with the application that is using port 443. Try restarting the application or reinstalling it.

If you’re still having problems, you can contact your ISP or the developer of the application that is using port 443 for further guidance.

The dangers of opening port 443

While port 443 is generally considered to be a secure port, opening it on your computer can increase your risk of being hacked. This is because attackers know that port 443 is often used for sensitive traffic, such as online banking and shopping.

If you open port 443 on your computer, you’re essentially exposing your system to attack from anyone who can scan the internet for open ports. This includes attackers who are looking for systems to exploit with malware or to use in DOS attacks.

How to protect yourself

If you don’t need to open port 443 on your computer, it’s best to keep it closed. This will reduce your risk of being attacked. But if you do, there are a few things you can do to protect yourself:

  • Make sure that you’re using the latest versions of the SSL/TLS protocols.
  • Keep your software up to date, including your web browser, operating system, and any other software that uses port 443.
  • Consider using a high-quality VPN like ExpressVPN to encrypt your traffic when using public Wi-Fi networks.

FAQ: About port 443

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Is port 443 secure?
What is port 80 and 443?
What is TCP port 443?
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