As a regular internet user, you’ve probably heard the term encryption. Many internet users have no clue what encryption is, but it’s critical that you know why you need to encrypt your internet connection, and how you can do so.
Prying eyes on the internet abound. That’s why most of the popular messaging applications, like WhatsApp and Viber, implement end-to-end encryption. You, too, should hide your data and bolster your defenses.
This article will serve as an in-depth guide on how to encrypt your connection journey. Cybercrime is rampant in this day and age — you don’t want to be caught vulnerable.
Related guide: How to encrypt an external drive or USB
Generally, encryption means making data unreadable. The purpose of encryption is to secure your data from unauthorized access and to keep your privacy intact. Encryption uses cryptography techniques to scramble the messages or data you send so that it becomes unreadable to everything and everyone except that data’s intended recipient.
Encryption is an essential security tool to protect your sensitive data from the wrong hands.
A bunch of reasons! Here are some highlights:
Convinced you need to encrypt your internet traffic? Good. Keep reading…
You’ve got some options:
The best VPNs require you to purchase a subscription for maximal benefit. But another feasible solution to encrypt your data is by using the Tor Browser.
This is free software! It’s an open network that can help you stay anonymous and defend against potential cyber attackers and privy government agencies.
Those annoying third-party trackers and ads can’t follow you, as every website you visit is isolated by the browser. And your browsing history and cookies are cleared automatically when you finish your work. In a normal browser, that happens only manually, usually when an issue occurs.
The Tor Browser offers multi-layered encryption. It relays your internet traffic and encrypts three times when passing through the Tor network. Not only that, but it also gives you ways to defend against ISPs and governments watching your internet traffic.
You can download Tor Browser here.
The secure version of HTTP is known as the HyperText Transfer Protocol Secure (HTTPS). It’s primarily used for sending data between a website and a browser. So what makes this secure? HTTPS is encrypted so that the security of the transferred data is ensured.
TLS (Transport Layer Security) encryption techniques are used here, and HTTPS authenticates both the data sender and receiver at each end and makes sure that the data sent hasn’t been breached, ensuring integrity.
With an added layer of encryption with HTTPS, all your usernames, passwords, credit card information, and other sensitive information is protected. How do you know if the website you’re visiting has HTTPS enabled? Easy. Take a look at the URL in your browser, and you’ll see the address starting with “https://” if HTTPS is enabled. Otherwise, there will be a warning message in the URL: “Not Secure.”
The problem is that not every website makes use of HTTPS, but you can enable it using your browser settings and with the help of third-party applications.
How to enable SSL certificates in Chrome using Windows
1. Go to Settings.
2. Then click on System settings under the Advanced option.
3. Then click on “Open your computer’s proxy settings.”
4. Check the option box next to “Use TLS 1.2”.
Using HTTPS everywhere
This is another option where you can enable HTTPS encryption. You can get the “HTTPS Everywhere” extension by the Electronic Frontier Foundation via the Chrome Web Store. Here’s how:
1. Go to the Chrome Web Store.
2. Search for “HTTPS Everywhere” and click on the “Add to Chrome” button.
3. Click on the “Add extension” button.
This extension is available for Firefox and Opera as well.
End-to-end encrypted messaging applications
Did you know that your standard SMS texts aren’t encrypted at all? That’s why it’s better to use messaging apps that offer end-to-end encryption. Third parties won’t be able to spy on your messages and monitor them.
So what exactly is end-to-end encryption?
End-to-end encryption (more commonly referred to as E2EE) guarantees that only you (one end) and the person you’re communicating with (the other end) can read and modify the data being transferred. Transferred data is encrypted on the sender’s end, and only the receiver’s end can decrypt it.
Let’s look at some of the popular messaging apps that offer these encryption facilities.
Owned by Facebook, WhatsApp is currently the most popular messaging platform in the world. You can send and receive messages, share images and videos, and take audio and video calls — all enabled with end-to-end encryption.
WhatsApp security guarantees that only the user and the person communicating with that user can read the sent messages. Not even WhatsApp itself can read the data.
The message you send is secured with a lock, and only the receiver of that particular message can unlock it with a special key and read the message. Not only that, but each message has a unique lock and key, which makes it more secure. WhatsApp does this automatically, and you don’t need to worry about how to turn the encryption on in the settings.
Viber didn’t have end-to-end encryption until version 6.0 was released. This release brought more security to its wide user range of over 900 million in the world.
Known as Rakuten Viber since 2017, it provides quality messaging and calling services, all secured with end-to-end encryption.
Wickr Me is a private messenger application provided by Wickr, and it’s all about the privacy and security of your data. Wickr’s mission is to provide a secure communication platform trusted by individuals, teams, and corporations across industries, sizes, and scales, to manage their most valuable communications.
With its 256-bit, authenticated end-to-end encryption, only the intended receivers can read messages; not even Wickr can obtain the decryption keys. Wikr’s other advanced security features include multi-factor authentication, encryption of devices at rest, client network traffic obfuscation, detecting screenshots being taken, and many more.
Read more about Wickr security here.
Signal, which is a cross-platform messaging application across Android, iOS, macOS, Windows, and Linux operating systems, can be used to send messages to individuals or groups. These messages may consist of audio files, images, videos, and voice messages, which are all encrypted by Signal. It was built by the Signal Foundation and Signal Messenger LLC.
Related guide: Signal review
Signal invites you to share securely. It boasts state-of-the-art end-to-end encryption supported by the open-source Signal Protocol. Just like the apps above, no one — not even Signal itself — can listen to or read your messages.
Related guide: Signal review
Encryption in the Local Wi-Fi Network
This is the most basic option to start encrypting your internet traffic. Make sure you’ve set a password when joining your Wi-Fi network; otherwise, this is vulnerable to any attacks by anyone who can access the wireless router. People nearby can freely access the router and thereby gain access to your internet traffic as well. Who knows what information they may see on your browsing history.
Encrypting your Wi-Fi connection is fairly easy:
1. Enter the IP address of the router in the address bar of your web browser and enter the admin panel. This is usually 192.168.1.0 or 192.168.1.1. If none of these work, try checking the bottom of your router to get the correct IP address.
2. Log in to the admin panel by entering the username and password.
3. Click on the “Network” option and go to “Security” settings under “WLAN.”
4. You’ll see several options under the authentication type. Enable WPA2-PSK. The other options — WEP (Wired Equivalent Privacy) and WPA (Wi-Fi Protected Access) — are much older versions of encryption and are considered to be more vulnerable to attack.
5. Next, set a strong password for your Wi-Fi router.
6. Finally, choose “AES” as your WPA encryption algorithm.
7. Save and exit.
The best way to encrypt your data is with a reliable VPN (Virtual Private Network). By creating a private network from a public internet connection, a VPN protects your privacy online and keeps you anonymous. Your IP address is masked, so no one can track your activities online. The best thing is that the data that’s transferred is encrypted. So, in a nutshell, a VPN not only hides your identity, but also protects your data.
As a bonus, you can configure almost any internet-connecting device with a VPN provider, be it your mobile phone, your personal computer, and even your router.
Some of today’s best VPNs are ExpressVPN, NordVPN, SurfShark, VyprVPN, and IPVanish. Yes, some of these VPNs can be a bit expensive, but the benefits you’ll gain are worth the money. All these VPN vendors allow you to use the application with multiple devices using the same subscription.
How to encrypt your data with a VPN
1. Choose a VPN and create an account – we recommend ExpressVPN
2. Download ExpressVPN.
3. Log in to your account.
4. Activate your subscription.
5. Connect to a server of your choice.
Now that you’ve got a good idea of encryption basics, let’s quickly explore a few other kinds of encryption. Here are the most popular:
Encryption is a good start, but it’s just one line of defense. You’ve also got firewalls, strong passwords, better authentication methods, intrusion detection systems, antivirus software, and more. Technology is advancing day by day — for the good and the bad. So if you truly value your data and information, definitely consider diving more deeply into these other ways to bolster your defenses.