I am using the ESP32 in soft access point mode. In other words I specify my wifi username and password on the ESP32 and I am able to connect to it from my phone.

So I am not using any router or internet connection. Only my phone and the esp32.

If my phone is the only device on the network created by the esp32 do I have to worry about HTTPS? People say HTTP is not secure and I also know how easy it is to see http traffic with Wireshark. But if no one else has access to the network I guess http is secure correct? If no one knows the wifi password will my http requests be encrypted? Moreover, if I connect from my computer instead than my phone via wifi to the ESP32 and send UDP packets will those be encrypted?

  • the quality of the encryption depends solely on the quality of the wifi password. – dandavis Aug 27 at 18:54

WiFi with WPA2 (which is what you get when you specify a password) is encrypted.

As long as your HTTP requests only go over that connection and nowhere else then yes, they are encrypted and as secure as WPA2 (which isn't unbreakable, but not easy to break).

HTTPS adds encryption for use over the internet which in general is not encrypted.

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If you provide a password for you network, it will be encrypted. Thats the point of the password. When you look at the function description in the WifiAP.cpp file of the Wifi class for the ESP32, the description suggests, that it will be encrypted with WPA2, which is currently the standard in Wifi encryption. (Though that can depend on the actual library, that you are using)

do I have to worry about HTTPS?

That depends on your needs. In IT security is a scale, not a binary. Using HTTP on a WPA2 protected network can be considered safe on the one side and unsafe on the other. You need to thing about, if your project needs that additional layer of encryption through HTTPS.

For example: If you control your Smart Home with that ESP32, which may be able to open your windows or even the door, I would consider that critical. Then I would take every bit of security, that I can get, as there are ways to break into a WPA2 protected wifi network.

An example in the other direction: I'm currently building a game, which gets configured on a smartphone via the Wifi network of an ESP32. The network is encrypted to prevent casual attackers from messing with my current game run, but the project has so low security needs, that I will not bother with HTTPS. It's just a game, that will not that often being used, and the possibility of an attack on it is very low.

So it's about risk assessment (as with all security in IT).

if I connect from my computer instead than my phone via wifi to the ESP32 and send UDP packets will those be encrypted

The mentioned types of encryption (WPA2 and HTTPS) happen on two different layers of the network communication. With WPA2 your complete wifi data of that network is encrypted. So the UDP packet is also encrypted, but only in that wifi network, and it can be read by any authenticated user of the network. HTTPS works in a layer above that, so that your packet would be encrypted, even if it would move out of that Wifi network. For learning more about network layers, refer to the OSI model.

Apart from the security perspective: When you use HTTPS you also need to think about the certificate, that you are using. If you use a self-signed one, your browser will present you a warning about that, everytime you open that site. To prevent that, you either need to trust that certificate on all your devices, or you need to use an officially signed certificate (which might be a problem for a pure local project).

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