Internet Security Basics, Part 6: Encryption, the Ultimate Protection | New
Whether it’s financial and medical information stored on your computer or private data sent over the Internet in an email, encryption turns your personal information into a secret code that can only be unlocked if you have the key. .
Don’t be put off by the unfamiliar terminology that may be involved. Use of encryption does not require a James Bond University degree or CIA clearance.
Many modern encryption products are so easy to use that, yes, even cave dwellers can use them.
When securing your data, there are two main areas where encryption should be used, called “data at rest” and “data in motion”.
“Data at rest” is information that is simply stored on hard drives, USB drives, etc. “Data in motion” is information that moves between devices, for example over a network or the Internet.
There are many good products that will encrypt data at rest and most of them work on the same set of principles, which are similar to installing a wall safe in your home.
The first step is to create an encrypted folder or “container”; it’s your safe. Then you give the folder a password or “encryption key;” it is the combination of your safe.
Finally, you put the items you want to protect in your vault, i.e. your encrypted folder.
Therefore, anyone wishing to access these files that you have protected will need to know your special encryption key, which you will of course keep secret. It’s that simple.
Although Windows PCs and Apple Macs may have built-in encryption features, they are often too restrictive in their hardware requirements and ease of use for many people, so I recommend third-party encryption products.
A product I like for data at rest is called Cryptainer LE, which can be found at cypherix.com/cryptainerle. Aimed at Windows users, Cryptainer LE, perfect for home users, is the free version of Cypherix’s more industrial encryption products and is easy to use.
Like most encryption products, Cryptainer LE will also let you protect files on removable flash drives, portable hard drives, and even CDs. Professionals will probably want to opt for the more powerful products from Cypherix which, starting at $30, are a bargain.
Mac (and Windows) users should check out Veracrypt at www.veracrypt.fr. Although Truecrypt is not as easy to use as Cryptainer, it is also not very difficult to use.
This is a very strong encryption and is an excellent choice for PC and Mac users. It is one of the few free encryption options approved for use by employees of many large companies.
Data in motion also needs attention, especially emails. Let’s face it, though, most emails sent by most email users don’t need strong encryption.
But when it does, the easiest way to deploy encrypted email has to come from a company in Switzerland called ProtonMail (protonmail.com).
All you need to do is create an account, get an email address and start using it. There are free accounts for personal use and paid accounts, starting at 4 euros per month (about US$4.08) for businesses.
Books can be (and have been) written about file encryption, and there are many encryption methods available; too many to mention here.
That should be enough to get you started and thinking about the topic though. For highly entertaining, informative, and educational reads on the subject, check out Steven Levy’s book “Crypto.”
Home users will want to protect their important QuickBooks and TurboTax files, as well as their financial and medical information.
Many businesses, such as those in the legal, financial and healthcare sectors, are now required by law to exercise due diligence in protecting sensitive personal and private information; encryption is how it’s done.
While I wouldn’t recommend storing anything on your phone that would require encryption-level protection, for people who just can’t seem to control themselves, you’ll want to enable encryption on your phone.
On iPhones, be sure to use at least a six-digit PIN; check the settings, FaceID and passcode, and make sure it says “Data protection is on” at the bottom. Android users, see Settings — Security — Encrypt device.