What's SSL and HTTPS and how do they help protect my information?
Many websites on the net have sensitive information that is transmitted between the browser and the website. This includes things like passwords, emails, banking information, business data, images, private chat, etc. To protect this information websites use a technology named SSL. SSL, or Secure socket layer is an encryption technology that takes arbitrary information and “scrambles” it to prevent unwanted third parties from viewing that information.
Browsers tell you when the website is using SSL correctly with the small lock icon near the address bar. Some websites use SSL but haven't configured it correctly which can still let information slip or be modified by an attacker. That's why it's important to search for the lock icon which indicates a correct use of SSL by the website.
HTTP is the basic technology that powers the web. It's the language that websites and browsers use to communicate with one another. HTTPS is the marriage between HTTP and SSL, it's a shorthand used to describe a website that uses an encrypted connection.
The EFF (Electronic Frontier Foundation) has developed a browser extension called HTTPS Everywhere that automatically redirects you the the SSL version of the website if it's present which you can download here.