- What is encryption?
- Why should you encrypt internet traffic?
- Encrypting your internet connection
- What are the different types of internet encryption?
- Why not just use standard web encryption?
What is encryption?
Encryption is the encoding of a message so it can only be decoded by trusted recipients. In computing, this means using algorithms to make your data indecipherable for anyone who might illegitimately get hold of it.
Why should you encrypt internet traffic?
You should encrypt your traffic for the following reasons:
- Unencrypted data is like plain text, which snoopers can intercept. Anyone from an internet service provider (ISP) to a government agency or a cybercriminal can see your traffic.
- Even if you’re not doing anything against the law, someone might track you for other purposes.
- An ISP might limit your bandwidth based on your activity (streaming, gaming, etc.)
- A government agency might check if you visit restricted websites.
Data is a valuable commodity, so there is always someone interested in what you do online. Encryption is one of the most reliable ways to safeguard your online privacy.
Encrypting your internet connection
Let’s look at some options you have to encrypt your internet connection and secure your online activity for good.
1. Use WPA2 encryption
Check your router and Wi-Fi settings and make sure the WPA2 or WPA3 encryption protocol is on. While there may be other protocols, such as WEP and WPA, available, they are outdated and may be vulnerable to hackers. To be better equipped, learn about the differences between WEP, WPA, WPA2, and WPA3.
The procedure might differ across different router models. However, you will probably have to access your router’s control panel by entering its IP into your browser. After you find your router’s IP, go to its security settings and choose WPA2-PSK. Also, don’t forget to protect your network by creating a strong password. Naturally, this only encrypts the traffic on your local network, but it’s an important start.
2. Use Tor browser
The Tor browser encrypts your traffic three times via three different nodes. Independent volunteers and organizations maintain every single node. Each relay in the Tor network removes only one layer of encryption and forwards the remaining encrypted data to the next relay. This process continues until the data reaches the final exit node, where the last layer of encryption is removed, and the data is sent to its destination.
However, due to the complicated process, it slows down your internet connection. Also, it’s not very transparent, because there is no oversight over node maintainers. Tor’s primary focus is anonymity rather than privacy.
3. Use browser extensions
Numerous browser extensions can add protection to your internet connection. For example, they may upgrade your HTTP connection to HTTPS or send your traffic through a proxy.
As usual, be cautious with third-party apps. Only download them from reliable sources, and always make sure they don’t track your data or gather info. Be sure to check their privacy policies and research them online.
4. Use end-to-end encryption for instant messaging
Some messaging apps use end-to-end encryption (E2EE). It encrypts your message from the sender to the receiver, and no third parties can intercept it. The sender and receiver have public and private keys to decipher the message. The message can only be unlocked if you have both keys.
Not all IM services support E2EE, and some of them don’t offer it in their default settings. We suggest choosing more privacy-oriented messaging services that use this kind of encryption. Some even have “burner messages,” meaning you’ll leave no trace of your communication. Check our list of the most secure messaging apps.
5. Use encrypted email services
Similarly to IM, you can also encrypt your email communications.
Similarly to IM, you can also encrypt your email communications. Different email services provide additional layers of safety and privacy. They may offer you temporary email addresses or “burner” messages, which delete themselves after a certain amount of time. Check out our list of the best anonymous email services.
6. Use a HTTPS
Web servers use the secure HTTPS protocol to communicate with websites. It uses TLS encryption methods and authenticates both communicating parties, and it checks whether the sent data has not been breached.
However, not all websites use HTTPS (unless you enable it through browser settings and third-party apps). Also, third parties, such as your ISP, can see that you visited the HTTPS websites. They just can’t see what you did there. We recommend you use it in combination with method 7.
7. Use a VPN
The best and most comprehensive way to encrypt your online traffic is to use a reliable virtual private network (VPN). A VPN encrypts all of your online traffic by using sophisticated algorithms and hides your virtual location by routing your traffic through remote servers. A VPN also hides the websites you visit from your ISP, so you can browse with increased safety and privacy.
However, we don’t advise using free VPN services because there’s usually a catch. Make sure you use a reliable provider that doesn’t take logs. NordVPN doesn’t keep any customer’s online activity logs and uses top-notch encryption. And with NordVPN, you can use Meshnet, a feature that allows you to securely access your devices remotely. We’ve also received high marks from VPN reviewers.
8. Use NordLocker to encrypt your files
While it’s vital to encrypt your traffic, we also strongly suggest you protect your offline data. If you encrypt it at rest, even if somebody gets hold of it, they won’t be able to access, edit, or otherwise manipulate it.
For this purpose, try NordLocker file vault. It uses state-of-the-art cryptography and a zero-knowledge policy, and it is easy to use. Also, it not only encrypts files in your hard drive, but you can also encrypt your documents in other ways, such as in the cloud, email, or WeTransfer. It does not encrypt your traffic fully but can safeguard the files you send online.
What are the different types of internet encryption?
There are two types of data encryption methods: symmetric and asymmetric. Symmetric encryption uses the same key for encryption and decryption. In contrast, asymmetric encryption uses a pair of mathematically related keys — a public key for encryption and a private key for decryption. Now let’s look at the main encryption algorithms used to protect data packets.
RSA is one of the oldest and most trustworthy asymmetric encryption algorithms. It uses public and private keys and their length reaches 4096-bit. It is one of the toughest ciphers to crack for cybercriminals due to its long encryption key and one of the best ways to secure data transmission, digital signatures, and key exchange.
Triple Data Encryption Standard (Triple DES)
Triple DES is a symmetric encryption algorithm derived from the older Data Encryption Standard (DES). Security specialists refer to triple DES as one of the most reliable encryption methods because it uses a long encryption key. It applies the DES cipher three times to each data block, which is why it operates a little slower. However, it provides a high level of security compared to the original DES and is often used in legacy systems.
Advanced Encryption Standard (AES)
AES is a symmetric encryption algorithm and the most popular in the VPN industry due to its high security and efficiency. It takes its form from the Rijndael algorithm and uses a block cipher with key sizes of 128, 192, or 256 bits. AES is so secure that governments adapt it to their systems, so if you’re looking for the best encryption, this is it.
Twofish is a symmetric encryption algorithm with an option to change the length of a key, which ranges from 128 to 256 bits. Its advanced structure makes the algorithm one of the most secure and reliable in the market and perfect for software and hardware applications.
Blowfish is a symmetric encryption algorithm. It is simple, fast, and supports key sizes between 32 and 448 bits. It is suitable for various applications, including encryption of files, data transmission, and secure communications.
Why not just use standard web encryption?
Standard web encryption does quite a good job when securing data transmission over the internet. However, there are some situations where additional encryption measures might be necessary. Some cases require end-to-end encryption, like secure messaging apps. What’s more, standard encryption doesn’t prevent your ISP from tracking your online activities.