A lot of what we do these days is online from our internet banking, shopping online and using email, to storing pictures, documents or online dating. We don’t seem to think twice about giving our personal information to third parties somewhere on the internet without even speaking to a person. As a result, it is vitally important that we protect our online data, and rather than rely on the assumption that others are taking care of it for us, this article will inform you about how to think and act in a more secure way when online. The primary way that we can do this is to encrypt our internet activity.
What is Encryption
Let’s get the technical bit out of the way so that we can talk the same computer-speak and know what we are doing. Encryption is a very general term used to describe the methods used to turn readable information, like text, into what appears to be a garbled or corrupt sequence of letters. It can apply to a 500-page document, or it can be used to make a one-word password unreadable. If something is encrypted, it is only natural that it must be decrypted in order to be able to read it.
Cryptography as a science has been used for thousands of years to hide secret information and prevent it from being interpreted by an unwanted reader. Historically it was done with pen and paper and the means to read the secret information, the cipher, was known to both the writer and the reader.
Modern computer systems can encrypt information at rest (in files) and in
transmission (over the internet) and a key, or password or phrase, is needed to encrypt and unlock the file or communicated data. The most common strong encryption ciphers are AES128 or AES256. AES stands for Advanced Encryption Standard, and the 128 or 256 is an indication of the strength of encryption used. AES is a symmetric key algorithm, and the key used for encryption is known to the sender and the receiver (that’s the symmetric part). If the key is leaked to an outsider then the security of the file or transmission is compromised. Learn more from the security and technology blog.
Why is Encryption Needed.
By analogy in modern internet communication, hackers and criminals are always hunting for prey and easy pickings. Without using the encryption methods available, we as users are exposing ourselves to unnecessary risk.
The modern ciphers that are used today are many times more powerful at preventing unwanted access and yet the cipher methods are constantly under attack and security flaws are found, meaning that newer and harder to crack encryption methods are needed.
How Does this Affect Me?
You have information to hide, for very good reason. If anyone can read your private information, it can be used to impersonate you and access your bank accounts, or even your whole identity. Countless victims can attest that this is real and is a constant threat to the unwary.
How Do I Know it is Being Used When I am Online?
As this article specifically focuses on securing an internet connection, we will turn our attention to this now. To know whether your internet connection is currently secure, make sure that you can see the browser address bar. You can usually jump to it by Ctrl-d. The left-most characters are what is important. You will see HTTP or HTTPS. If you see HTTPS then your internet connection for the site you are connected to on the browser tab is being encrypted. This means that the HTTP information between the website and the browser is using TLS (Transport Layer Security), and it has negotiated a secure cipher like AES to scramble the internet traffic. Without HTTPS, it is possible for clever and determined people to snoop on your activity and “scrape” your information out of the plain text that is exchanged. Remember that, the communication exchanged is started by your browser (the client), and it is the client that requests the connection and the encryption to be used. If your setup does not ensure encrypted connections as a setting, then your information could be completely exposed.
How Can I securely Encrypt My Internet Connection?
Rename your router SSID to something other than what the manufacturer supplied. The Wi-Fi signal will often reach the road and it possible to drive and detect a Wi-Fi router from the street.
Change the default passwords and make sure they are strong
Check that encryption in the router is on and what is being used. This is normally access in the router WPA2 security settings and set the type to use AES.
Use a VPN (Virtual Private Network) to secure the connection. This is one of the best ways to lock down the security of all of your online activity. Once installed on your PC or device, your browsing activity is managed through the VPN client, which creates a private network from a public connection. If you are establishing a connection to a workplace from home, you will probably find that it is not possible without running a corporate VPN Client. A VPN is something that should ideally be used when connecting to a public network such as a coffee shop. 4G connections are generally more secure than public or other untrusted networks.
In this article we have covered a little on how we conduct our every day’s lives online and the importance of protecting our data and how encrypting our internet is one way in which we can do this. When it comes to our own personal data and its security, it is primarily our responsibility and by taking the steps to encrypt our internet, we are making our personal information a whole lot more secure.