With cyber-attacks occurring every 39 seconds, many IT experts give a straightforward piece of advice: encrypt everything. For the average internet user, that may be a little excessive. But their point is still something for you to worry about. Data breaches are real, and hackers create new ways to gain access to your data every day. Thus, it’s essential to know when you should use encryption to protect yourself in the online world.
What is Encryption?
Encryption is an ancient practice that dates back thousands of years. It’s a method of converting information into a code to prevent unauthorized access. Over 2,000 years ago, the Greeks even had a tool that would rearrange letters to create such code.
Nowadays, the concept is still very similar ― encryption changes your data into indecipherable strings of text. If you don’t have the access password to that data, then it’s unlikely you would ever be able to break into them. Even the help of the world’s most powerful computer and top hackers would not be enough. Take cryptocurrency millionaire Gerald Cotten’s story, for instance. He died leaving $145 million in bitcoin inaccessible because of encryption.
Of course, this refers to files using robust encryption technology based on AES-256, Argon 2, and other protocols. Weaker encryption can be broken. Thus, when selecting which encryption software you will use, be sure to check the protocols it adheres to. And what kind of data it helps to encrypt.
1) Encrypt Your Files
A good guideline is that if something has value to you, then you should encrypt it. It doesn’t apply only to personal photos and videos. Think about tax statements or medical records. Also, your work files, your media, or any files that are important to you. Hackers often break into computers to steal users’ data.
Cybercriminals are fans of ransomware attacks. They hold people’s files hostage until they pay to get them back. That’s why you should always encrypt your data with secure technology and make backups.
There are many encryption services that you can use. Take NordLocker, for example. It uses encryption protocols that are almost impossible to crack. Once you encrypt your files, you can upload them to the cloud or transfer online. They will be unreadable to anyone but you and the people you share access permissions with.
2) Encrypt Your Internet Connection
Every time you connect to the internet, you leave a little trail of activity. Cybercriminals, governments, internet service providers, and advertisers can track what you do online. And they can use this information in a variety of ways. Hackers may use it to gain access to your login credentials while advertisers harvest your data to sell more products. Either way, it impacts your privacy and security. And, once again, that’s why you need encryption. Or in this case, a virtual private network (VPN).
A VPN encrypts your internet connection with the most reliable levels of security, making it almost impossible for anyone to track what you do online. Everyone using the internet should encrypt their connection this way. Plus, with a quality VPN, you won’t notice any difference in bandwidth speeds. But you will have more privacy and security.
3) Encrypt Your Passwords
The average person has over 90 online accounts. That’s a lot of login credentials to remember. Since our memory has its limits, most people end up recycling the same login IDs and passwords across their accounts. And risk exposing all of their accounts in case of one hack.
That’s where a password manager comes into rescue. It encrypts and stores your passwords in one convenient and secure location. Moreover, you can use password managers to create unique and strong passwords and store other sensitive information. Credit card details, answers to security questions ― you name it. Password managers are an excellent idea for everyday or professional use. They offer the combination of security and practicality that we all need.
4) Encrypt Your Conversations
One of the most common misconceptions people have is thinking, “I have nothing to hide.” Encryption isn’t necessary only for criminals and spies. Everybody has some information they want kept secret. And sometimes we share such information in our messages with friends and family. That includes birthdates, addresses, and other innocent exchanges. Sometimes enough for a hacker to use and steal one’s identity.
Our conversations cause not only security but privacy risks as well. Have you ever noticed an advertisement related to the topics you discussed with your friend online only minutes ago? Creepy? Then protect your privacy and encrypt your conversations. WhatsApp and Viber already offer encrypted messaging, and you can always use a dedicated encrypted messaging service like Telegram.
When To Use Encryption
Encryption is the best way to protect yourself from all kinds of people trying to get their hands on your data. You don’t have to encrypt every single file or connection to the internet. But you should introduce encryption into your life. Begin by using a convenient tool like Nordlocker to encrypt your files. Then use some software to secure your passwords and your internet connection. Consider secure messaging to keep your conversations genuinely private. You may not notice the difference right away, but you will be a lot more protected from all the security threats online.