What Is Encryption
Encryption is a process during which your data gets encoded so that it can only be read by certain individuals or entities.
It uses complex mathematical algorithms to scramble your data, making it impossible for unauthorized parties to get ahold of your private information.
Therefore, only the recipients eligible to access and use secret alphanumeric keys that encryption randomly generates can see the information you send.
Anyone without those keys will see nothing but mumbo-jumbo made up of strange letters and numbers.
It will look somewhat like this: HqUcj9rzwfvXFrfTHMzohA9JGtxHf4rthBWb2Tv3aRQ=
Why Do You Need To Encrypt Your Internet Traffic
Given the major crisis in online privacy and security we are all dealing with now, there are plenty of reasons why you should encrypt your Internet traffic.
Some of the main ones are the following:
- Internet traffic encryption is essential if you want to prevent ISPs, marketers, or government authorities from intruding on your privacy. Otherwise, your unciphered data can easily be monitored.
- Your Internet Service Provider can inspect unencrypted packets you send through the web (deep packet inspection) to track your online activities. If your ISP thinks you use up too much bandwidth while streaming or playing games, eventually it will start throttling your connection speeds.
- Even if you have never done anything illegal, Wi-Fi admins, hotels, and other third parties will still monitor what you’re doing on the web. By encrypting your Internet traffic, you can protect yourself from being spied on.
- Encrypting your Internet connection can help you stay safe on a public Wi-Fi network, deter hackers, and avoid having your sensitive information sold or stolen.
How To Encrypt Your Internet Connection
1. Use WPA2/WPA3 WiFi encryption
The first step to making sure your WiFi access is secure is to check whether your wireless router always uses the latest WPA2/WPA3 (WiFi Protected Access) encryption.
While your Wi-Fi router may use other data encryption protocols such as WEP and WPA, they are outdated and way less reliable in terms of protection against security breaches.
To be able to see what type of a protocol your router is currently using and, if necessary, change it, you will need to access your router control panel.
Generally, you can do this by typing in your IP address into a browser bar; however, for some router models, you may need to follow a different procedure.
Also, do not forget to protect access to your router with a strong custom password comprised of at least 12 lowercase and uppercase letters, numbers, and special symbols.
By default, your router credentials are set to “admin” and “password”, which makes your Wi-Fi security very vulnerable as pretty much anyone knows what the standard router password settings are.
2. Use HTTPS
Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure, or HTTPS, is an Internet protocol developed for secure data transfer between web browsers and websites.
It utilizes a TLS/SSL encryption certificate to grant secure data transfer between your web browser and the website you visit.
However, not all websites protect their users from being snooped on by using the HTTPS protocol.
Some websites use the old version of HTTPS — the HTTP protocol that doesn’t provide any encryption and therefore puts your sensitive information at risk.
All the sensitive information that you enter on an HTTP website, for example, account credentials or credit card details, can be easily monitored and intercepted, whilst on an HTTPS website, it is thoroughly masked.
The only thing that snoopers can see on an HTTPS website is the pages you visited, but nothing more.
That’s why we recommend that you should only interact with HTTPS-enabled websites.
3. Use end-to-end encryption messaging apps
Some messaging apps like WhatsApp, Telegram, and Viber offer end-to-end encryption (E2EE).
What it means is that all of these apps encrypt messages all the way from the sender to the receiver, making it impossible for third parties to see their content.
Therefore, both the sender and the receiver shall have public and private keys to view encrypted messages and their attachments.
It’s also important to mention that not all messaging apps provide E2EE, and some apps that provide don’t have it enabled by default, so you might need to turn it on by yourself.
4. Use encrypted email services
Along with using E2EE apps, you may want to use encrypted email services.
There are a lot of services such as ProtonMail and Tutanota, offering you different types of protection from temporary email addresses to “burner” emails that delete themselves in a short period after being read.
Given the natural vulnerability of emails to interception, using encrypted email services is highly recommended.
5. Use encrypted DNS
In case you don’t know what DNS is, here is a quick explanation.
DNS stands for Domain Name System.
It’s a system of addresses that acts like a phone book of the Internet, matching website domain names with their corresponding numeric addresses or IP addresses.
Each time when you enter the URL in your address bar, your web browser queries a DNS server.
The DNS server, in turn, translates that particular URL into an IP address and sends you to the appropriate website.
The problem is DNS servers are usually run by your ISP, which means it can intercept your DNS queries and check what you were doing online.
To prevent your ISP from tracking your online activities, you can use encrypted DNS to make your queries private.
While encrypted DNS is rather a new thing at the moment, the Firefox browser already uses it by default.
Google is also planning to add this feature to the Chrome browser in the nearest future.
6. Use Tor browser
Tor is an acronym for “The Onion Router.”
Putting it simply, Tor represents a global network of decentralized, anonymous servers that can be accessed via the Tor browser.
All the servers in the network are run by independent volunteers, and each volunteer gets only a piece of ciphered information you send.
When you start a new browser session, Tor randomly picks three anonymous servers (also called nodes), encrypts all your HTTP traffic, and reroutes it through those servers, giving you the ability to browse the web anonymously.
However, browsing the web using Tor may be somewhat tedious as the server network it’s based on is very slow.
Also, the data that you send through the Tor’s nodes can be potentially intercepted at the exit node where it gets decrypted.
You can find out more information on this in the article Tor vs VPN.
7. Use browser extensions
The web is full of browser security extensions that can add up an extra layer of protection to your Internet connection.
Some of them will upgrade your HTTP connection to HTTPS; others will send your traffic through a proxy or protect you from ads or tracking.
Use security browser extension when necessary, but don’t forget to download them from reliable sources as some extensions may be listed on fake, infected websites.
8. Use a VPN
Undoubtedly, the best way to encrypt your Internet connection is to use a virtual private network or a VPN.
A virtual private network hides your IP and sends your online traffic through a secure remote VPN server, making it impossible for spies to view your online activities or intercept your delicate data.
It shields you from hackers, snoopers, intrusive advertisers, or anyone else who wants to capitalize on your confidential information, allowing you to browse the Internet safely and anonymously.
However, you have to keep in mind that not all VPN providers can offer you a quality service.
We recommend that you avoid free VPN providers as, usually, they do not use the latest AES-256 encryption (let alone advanced security features) as, for example, SwitchVPN does.
Often, they also can't provide you a strict no-log policy, which is absolutely crucial these days.