Any time you’re connected to the Internet, you’re at some risk of cyberattack, but an unsafe or untrusted connection can increase those risks. Bad actors can exploit the open hotspot at your coffee shop, your cell network, or even your friend’s WiFi to track you, steal your data, or sabotage your device.
Data encryption software is one of the best tools you have to decrease those risks. Encryption works by scrambling your data, using a special passphrase called a key to prevent unauthorized third parties from deciphering it. Here are some of the places it can help.
1. Always Encrypt On Public WiFi
We all love the convenience of public WiFi, but that convenience comes at a cost. Public WiFi nodes are often completely unprotected — no password, no encryption, no nothing. That means your traffic is sent unencrypted unless you use your own data encryption software. Anyone who wants to can see the sites you visit and (on unencrypted websites) all the information you type. Even password-protected public WiFi isn’t necessarily safe. Hackers can sabotage the nodes, or even setup their own nodes to trick users into giving away information. If you connect to a compromised WiFi node, hackers can spy on you, steal your account credentials and other valuable information, or infect your computer. Additionally, even legitimate public WiFi providers may be collecting your data to track you, or sell your information to advertising providers.
A Virtual Private Network (VPN) is one of the most valuable data encryption tools you can use to protect your online privacy on public WiFi. VPNs encrypt your traffic and prevent the provider and their ISP from seeing where you’re connecting to. However, as the Electronic Frontier Foundation points out, you need to choose a trustworthy VPN provider, or they could spy on you. Pick a VPN that doesn’t log user traffic or share it with anyone else, uses strong encryption, and does not share passwords between users.
2. Encrypting Data Cuts Risks At a Friend’s House
You’re probably safer at your friend’s house than you are logging on from a public WiFi hotspot, but you still face some of the same risks. Your friend could have a weak password or no password at all, or may have shared it with other people who aren’t trustworthy. They could have a router with unpatched security vulnerabilities, such as certain NETGEAR routers, which can be taken over by botnets.
Granted, the risks from any given router aren’t great, but it only takes one compromised connection to steal your login credentials and other sensitive information. If your privacy matters to you, you shouldn’t login without your data encryption software running.
3. Don’t Share Personal Information Without Data Encryption Software
Have you ever had to send your Insurance ID and Social Security Number (SSN) to straighten out a problem with insurance? What about forwarding HR your bank account number to set up payment for a new job? We all have to email personal information from time to time — it’s just a part of digital life.But normal doesn’t always mean safe. Sending personal or financial data in an unencrypted email could allow a hacker to intercept it, exposing your identity (not to mention your bank account) to theft. However, many companies have no secure alternative, or force you to install complex portals just to send the data.
With modern data encryption software, you don’t have to choose between taking a risk with your data and wasting time finding a workaround. Virtru email encryption makes it easy to send secure messages and attachments to any recipients using your own email account. Recipients can open email, download attachments and send their own encrypted responses without creating an account or installing anything. That means you can send secure data to anyone with an email address.
4. Your Smartphone Is Too Smart to Stay Unencrypted
Your mobile device can reveal a lot about you — your private emails, phone contacts, search history, bank number, and even where you went for dinner last Friday. If a hacker steals or breaks into your smartphone, they can quickly turn your life upside down, stealing your identity and money, trashing your reputation, and even victimizing your friends and coworkers by impersonating you. Your phone connection can also compromise you. Even if you stay off of unsecured WiFi, police, intelligence organizations and other unauthorized third parties can intercept the traffic your phone sends to cell towers.
To stay safe, you need to use data encryption software to secure your connection, as well as the device itself. Password-protected hard drive encryption will prevent a third party from breaking into your phone, should it be lost or stolen. Mobile Google Apps security settings, such as Android for Work can further reduce risks, by protecting your work account from unsecured apps.
You should also use mobile email encryption, and other app-specific data encryption software to safeguard your most valuable data. Virtru users get the same one-click encryption on mobile, desktop and laptop, allowing you to protect your email account on the go.
5. Use Data Encryption Software Every Time You Telecommute
No matter your job and industry, if you telecommute you should use data encryption software, period. Many telecommuters work with trade secrets and other intellectual property, and may be legally obligated to protect it from falling into the wrong hands — with stiff penalties for accidental disclosure. But even if you work in a low-security gig, you still email proposals and invoices, and have private conversations that could compromise you and your business relationships if they were compromised by a third party. And don’t forget, telecommuters on the go often use public WiFi, where data encryption is already essential. Virtru Pro provides unparalleled control over your valuable communications. In addition to encrypting emails and attachments, you can recall an email (even after it’s been read) or set a time limit on a sensitive message. That means you’re not just protected from hackers, but from your own mistakes.
6. Travelers Should Encrypt — If It’s Legal
Traveling presents a range of security challenges. Hotel WiFi is notorious for its slow speed, but its security is often even worse. And when dozens of users log into a single unsecured connection, it’s very easy for hackers to steal sensitive information or infect your computer.Data encryption is especially important overseas, as many foreign countries have extremely high rates of malware infection. For example, according to Microsoft, the Asia Pacific region has malware infection rates around twice the world’s average, with Pakistan, Indonesia, and Bangladesh posing the greatest infection rates.
Unfortunately, many countries prohibit some or all forms of data encryption software. These rules are often complex and arbitrary, so you need to do your research. For example, you may be able to use encrypted services like Virtru, but not use hard disk encryption to protect your devices. If you are going to a country with restrictive encryption laws, your best bet is to get new devices for the trip, and create a temporary email account to use while you travel. This will allow you to comply with security rules and police requests, without exposing your main email account, business contacts and other data.
Data Encryption Software Is Always Your Best Bet
Using encryption may be necessary some places, but it’s a good idea everywhere. Data encryption software always cuts risks and (assuming it’s well designed and user-friendly) has no downsides. Use these resources to learn more about how encryption can keep you safe, wherever you go: