Data Encryption Strategies You Can Use to Keep Data Safe—at Work, or at Home
Document encryption and VPN usage are key strategies for keeping data locked down
By Brad Smith04/29/2021
Whether you’ve been searching for ways to tighten your cybersecurity or you’ve been browsing the headlines of the most recent breaches, you’ve probably come across data encryption. It’s clear that encryption is an important component of online safety, but you may not realize just how important it is to keeping your data safe.
What Is Data Encryption?Data encryption is the process of taking the information traveling through your device and changing it so that information is not readily available to those who don’t have permission to access it. The process leaves the data unreadable to anyone who doesn’t have the appropriate decryption key and keeps personal information personal. Oversimplified and in its most basic form, data encryption is the application of a secret code that’s not shared with others, rendering any data collected nothing more than gibberish and entirely useless.
Is Data Encryption Necessary?Every time your information is traveling across the internet, there’s the risk that someone could find and steal that information. With banking and identity information linked to your name, address, email address and place of work, a small breach can quickly lead to devastating consequences—sometimes before you’ve even realized your information has been compromised.
There are many steps you can take to help reduce the risk of becoming a victim of a cyberattack. You may have some of these protocols in place already, like using only trusted websites and networks, sticking with strong passwords and opting to use multifactor authentication. Don’t be fooled into believing the safety protocols you have in place are more than enough to keep your information safe, though. Large breaches are happening more frequently and data is being compromised at an alarming rate.
Hackers are often on the cutting edge of technology, and they’ll likely learn how to bypass your security measures before you realize you’re at risk. While encrypting data shouldn’t be the only step you take toward protecting your data, it can help keep your information secure even if your device, system or account has been compromised
How to Encrypt Your DataThere are a variety of programs and software options you can use to safely encrypt your data. Many OSes have encryption capabilities built in to them. You’ll also find many standard software options, like Microsoft Suite, have an encryption option.
While these included encryption options are great to use, you may have to manually prompt the encryption, which means there can be periods of time or entire documents that remain unencrypted and leave your information vulnerable to poaching. This style of encryption also does little to protect your actual devices and the networks you run them on.
To up the efficacy of your data encryption safety measures, you’ll want to implement additional encryption tactics. Begin by using an encryption service that’s specifically for password management. There are both free and paid-for subscriptions for password managers. This software allows you to safely store your passwords while keeping them safe from unauthorized third parties. Not only do these managers keep your actual password encrypted, but they also encourage you to use a unique password for each account you hold, meaning a breach at one location is less likely to lead to a breach somewhere else.
Instead of relying on individual programs to encrypt your device’s data, you can also use a VPN as an encryption tool. A VPN creates a secure internet connection for all of your devices, encrypting any data that moves through your device. VPNs can be installed on your individual internet-ready devices—like tablets, smartphones, and laptops—to keep your information protected when you’re on the go. You can also install a VPN to your network, which protects you in the event a device has been compromised at a secondary location, like at school, work, library or other public Wi-Fi location.
A VPN is a great way to prevent access to your sensitive data through the Internet of Things (IoT), as well. Smart thermostats, security systems, lighting or even everyday items that connect to Wi-Fi and make your life easier—like a robot vacuum or wireless printer—may create weak spots where a hacker can gain access to your network. A VPN strengthens these access points and ensures that data from all of your devices is better protected.
Better Protection for Your Personal InformationWith so many security options available, there’s no reason to leave yourself vulnerable to data theft that could lead to financial ruin or identity theft. Beef up the security you do have, choosing to encrypt individual documents and use encryption-based messaging apps and programs. For the utmost protection, go ahead and install that VPN on your network and your devices. It will make your internet use safer when you’re on the go and help prevent authorized Wi-Fi users from unintentionally compromising other devices on your network.
The last year has shown us that the internet can be an exceptional tool to help us lead a full, convenient, and safe life. With a few small tweaks to your security protocols like data encryption, you can embrace the positive aspects the internet provides while also reducing any risks it may harbor.
Brad Smith is a technology expert at TurnOnVPN, a non-profit promoting a safe and free internet for all.
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