A padlock (or lock) icon displayed in a web browser indicates a secure communication channel between the browser and the server on which the website is hosted. It signifies that the connection to the website is encrypted using HTTPS and has an SSL/TLS certificate. While it does not mean the site a user is viewing is safe to use, it does mean that the connection to the site is secure.
Most web browsers have some type of padlock icon feature, though the specific location and design of the icon varies. Users can click the padlock to learn additional information about the connection. This includes any permissions that have already been granted, information about the website and SSL/TLS certificate, the number of times the site has been visited, stored cookies, and saved passwords.
As HTTPS becomes the standard for all websites, however, many web browsers are considering removing the padlock icon altogether. Instead, the passive icon may be replaced with an active alert if the user visits a site that does not have a valid SSL/TLS certificate.
Does a padlock mean a website is safe?
Not necessarily. As mentioned above, a padlock icon reflects the SSL/TLS certificate and verification of HTTPS encryption. It does not reflect anything about the intentions of the site owner, nor risks that may come with interacting with the site. Even malicious sites can be encrypted with HTTPS. The padlock icon merely means a user is securely connected to the correct site.
Padlock icon by browser
A padlock icon can look different between different browsers and on different devices. Usually, the icon is located near the URL bar. The screenshots below compare the padlock icons for the desktop and Android Google Chrome browser and the mobile Apple Safari browser for iOS.
Google Chrome for Windows or macOS
Google Chrome for Android
Safari for iOS
With some browsers, the padlock icon will change colors to indicate the presence (or absence) of an SSL/TLS certificate. Alternatively, some browsers will display another symbol to indicate an issue with the site’s encryption either in conjunction with or in place of the padlock icon.
This article was updated April 2021 by Kaiti Norton.