Encryption is a method of securing data as it travels from the sender to the receiver. With end-to-end encryption, a message’s contents are scrambled and can only be unscrambled when it reaches the desired destination. Here is how to encrypt internet connection.
Encryption converts the original representation of the information, known as plaintext, into an alternative form known as ciphertext. Ideally, only authorized parties can decipher a ciphertext back to plaintext and access the original information. Encryption does not prevent interference; rather, it denies the intelligible content to a would-be interceptor.
There are many reasons why someone would want to encrypt their internet traffic, including shielding their online activities from their internet service provider or protecting their data from cybersecurity threats.
People’s right to a free, uncensored internet is being debated as nations and companies block access to specific applications. Encryption can help users utilize the internet while protecting their privacy and data from any security threats. But, to know how to encrypt your internet traffic, you must first understand why internet encryption is essential.
Why is Encryption Important?
The internet is never naturally a secure platform. It is open to anyone to do anything.
This open invitation poses a significant risk to internet users who just want to freely access news and information.
By encrypting your internet connection, you’re making yourself immune to several types of online threats, including ISP monitoring, hackers with malicious intent, and even government organizations that collect data from citizens.
To ensure privacy, it’s necessary to have your internet traffic encrypted with at least some kind of data encryption.
Types of Encryption
Did you know that there are various kinds of encryption? Most people aren’t aware of kind of security measures that are being used to store or transfer their data, but here are the most common.
The most standard of encryptions in the 1970s, DES encryption is no longer considered to be safe on its own. It encrypts just 56-bits of data at a time and it was found to be easily hacked not long after its introduction. It has, however, served as the standard upon which future, more secure encryption tools were based.
Triple Data Encryption Standard (3DES) works as its name implies. Instead of using a single, 56-bit key, it uses three separate 56-bit keys for triple protection. The drawback to 3DES is that it takes longer to encrypt the data. Also, the shorter block lengths are encrypted three times, but they can still be hacked.
One of the most secure encryption types, Advanced Encryption Standard (AES) is used by governments and security organizations as well as everyday businesses for classified communications. AES uses “symmetric” key encryption. Someone on the receiving end of the data would need a key to decode it.
AES differs from other encryption types in that it encrypts data in a single block, instead of as individual bits of data. The block sizes determine the name for each kind of AES encrypted data. Most of the data tools available on the market today use AES encryption. Even those that allow you to use other methods with their programs recommend the AES standard.
Another popular encryption standard is “Rivest-Shamir-Adleman” or RSA. Widely used for data sent online and relies on a public key to encrypt the data so that those on the receiving end of the data will have their own private key to decode the messages.
RSA Encryption has been proven to be a secure way to send information between people who may not know each other and want to communicate without compromising their personal or sensitive data.
Which Networks Should You Secure?
Encryption isn’t always a one-step solution From your home internet service, email, and other devices, it’s important to make sure that you are protected. In order to encrypt your internet connection, it’s important to consider ways to protect your most vulnerable personal networks.
Securing Your Home Wireless Network
Your home networks might have a range of wireless devices on them, from computers and phones to IP cameras, voice assistants, smart TVs, and connected appliances. Taking some basic steps to secure your home Wi-Fi network will help protect your devices from getting hacked or your information from being stolen.
You can encrypt your home network by simply updating your router settings to either WPA3 Personal or WPA2 Personal.
WPA3 is the newest encryption available, but both will work to scramble your information.
Email Security and Protection
Email encryption is mixing up the contents of an email so it becomes a puzzle that only you have the key to solve. The public key infrastructure (PKI) is used to encrypt and decrypt emails. Each person is assigned public and private keys in the form of digital code.
When encrypting emails, encrypt all of them, not just the ones with sensitive information. Sensitive information such as social security numbers, passwords, login credentials, and bank account numbers are vulnerable when sent via email, but only having select emails encrypted is a red flag for hackers and can leave you even more vulnerable. Here a the types of email encryption that are available:
- S/MIME: Secure/Multipurpose Internet Mail Extensions is built into most OSX and iOS devices and relies on a centralized authority to pick the encryption algorithm. S/MIME is used most often because it is built into large web-based email companies such as Apple and Outlook.
- PGP/MIME: Pretty Good Privacy/Multipurpose Internet Mail Extensions relies on a decentralized trust model and was developed to address security issues facing plain text messages. Within this model, there is more flexibility and control over how well you want your emails to be encrypted, but it requires a third-party encryption tool.
You can encrypt your emails by going into your email server’s settings and enabling encryption. Most programs are compatible with S/MIME.
Internet Browser Security & Privacy
Running a secure encrypted web server has gone from an option to a virtual necessity in recent years.
Attackers will constantly seek ways to steal information sent between users and web services, often by tapping into unencrypted content being sent over the Hypertext Transfer Protocol. Even for mundane, untargeted web content, securing a website with encryption is crucial, as the top browsers now flag unencrypted websites as potentially dangerous.
- HTTPS: When it comes to web traffic, https is different from https in that it enables website encryption by running HTTP over the Transport Layer Security (TLS) protocol. Even though the SSL protocol was replaced 20 years ago by TLS, these certificates are still often referred to as SSL certificates.
While these sessions can be reliably considered secure from eavesdropping attacks, HTTPS by itself does not protect against any other types of attack. Site administrators must still take an active role in preventing and mitigating cross-site scripting, injection, and many other attacks that target application or other website vulnerabilities.
VPN – Virtual Private Network
What is a VPN? A VPN, short for Virtual Private Network, acts as a secure route to a trusted third-party server. All data sent through this route gets encrypted, making it harder for third parties to identify and target individual users on a Wi-Fi network.
Web-based VPNs are available for a monthly fee. These VPN services are easy to set up for business or personal use. Once you’re connected to a VPN server, your real IP address is changed to a different IP address that corresponds to another location. This way, no third party can identify you, as your digital footprint and location are encrypted.
TOR – The Onion Router
TOR is a powerful encryption browser that hides your activities from ISPs, and an online routing system that routes a user’s traffic by encrypting their IP address from where it came.
At each hop, only the last and next IP addresses are available to enable routing. The other hops, including the real one, are encrypted and can only be decrypted by a Tor router.
When comparing TOR vs VPN, there are a number of differences including:
- TOR sends your traffic through multiple nodes to provide protection via layers.
- TOR is much slower than VPN traffic.
- TOR only protects your browser traffic, not the internet activity of the entire device.
Some messaging apps use end-to-end encryption (E2EE). This encrypts messages from the sender to the receiver without allowing third parties to intercept them. Both the sender and the receiver have public and private keys needed to decipher the message. The message can only be unlocked if you have both keys.
Not all IM services support E2EE, while some don’t offer it in their default settings. It’s important to choose privacy-oriented messaging services that do use E2EE encryption.
Applications such as Signal, WhatsApp, and Telegram are designed to deliver end-to-end encryption, which protects your data from would-be hackers. Organizations use sophisticated algorithms to suggest ads and search engine queries. The information that you share when you communicate should be kept confidential with end-to-end encryption.
Document encryption is the process by which documents are protected with cryptographic keys (a password, public key, token, etc.) so that only individuals with the corresponding decryption keys (the same password, private key, token, etc.) can open them. It is used to protect documents sent via email, stored on a disk, or in the cloud from being accessed by unauthorized users.
Document encryption programs can either be standalone applications (like PGP, which encrypts any files and not just documents) or plugins to certain applications like MS-Word or Adobe Acrobat which enable documents to be encrypted when they are saved to disk.
While most document encryption programs provide NIST-approved AES encryption they vary with their protection methods. Many provide password protection, others use hardware tokens, whereas others provide public key technology (PKI).
Protect Yourself Online
In this day and age, internet users need to encrypt their online traffic to avoid spying from government surveillance agencies and hackers. Fortunately, you can easily encrypt internet traffic with little effort, and luckily many of the tools you can use to do this are completely free to use.