Encrypt All Your Data by Following This Guide

Encrypt All Your Data by Following This Guide

To keep your private data secure in the digital world we live in, it is crucial you take a moment to encrypt your devices and the services you're using.

All of our important data nowadays lives on our devices or it's stored on a cloud service. And, most of the times, this data contains private information about ourselves that mal intended people can take advantage of and use for fraudulent activities or for deploying phishing attacks against us.

Moreover, we also exchange private information with our friends and coworkers via messages or emails. The data from such services can also be intercepted and stolen by cybercriminals if the content is not encrypted.

So how can you protect your private data from getting stolen and misused?

The answer is simple - encryption.

Encryption scrambles the data using mathematics in such a way that it becomes unreadable to someone that might intercept it. The encrypted data can only be read by you because you are the only owner of the deciphering key. In the case of messages, the content can be read by both the sender and the receiver.

When your data is encrypted, even if someone manages to hack into your computer, let's say, they won't be able to access the data because they would need the PIN code or the password only you know.

Now let's see how you can encrypt your data and files so you secure them from snooping eyes.


Encrypt the files on your devices

First, let's start with the files you keep stored on your devices because you surely have saved all kinds of files on your desktop PC, laptop, smartphone, tablet, and even removable drives (such as USB drives). Your photographs, spreadsheets, receipts, personal documents, work files, and so on - they contain private information that, falling in the wrong hands by getting your device hacked or stolen, can result in ugly outcomes such as identity theft.

The most secure way to encrypt the data on your devices is FDE. FDE stands for full-disk encryption and it's encryption at the hardware level. It encrypts all the data on your device and the files will only be accessible after providing a password or a PIN code. Once you enable FDE, any new file you save to your device will be automatically encrypted.

Most operating systems already come with encryption tools included, BitLocker for Windows and FileVault for Mac, and we'll go over how you can enable them below.

How to encrypt your Windows device

Newer Microsoft operating systems, starting with Windows Vista, come with an encryption tool called BitLocker that uses the AES encryption algorithm with a 128-bit or 256-bit key. Besides encrypting your whole system BitLocker also gives you the ability to encrypt removable drives.

BitLocker is supported on the following operating systems:

  • Windows 7 and Vista: Enterprise and Ultimate editions
  • Windows 8 and 8.1: Professional and Enterprise editions
  • Windows 10: Pro, Enterprise, and Education editions

To enable BitLocker on your Windows device:

  • Access the Control Panel > System and Security
  • Find the BitLocker Drive Encryption
  • Click on Turn on BitLocker
  • It will run a check to see if your computer meets the requirements and it will make the necessary preparations.
  • You'll be asked to provide a PIN code that you will need to enter every time you start your device.
  • You'll also be given a recovery key to use in case you have trouble with accessing your PC. Don't jump over the step of making a backup of the recovery key using one of the methods they provide.
  • You'll have to restart the device to start the encryption process. The process will take a while and your device must be plugged into AC power. You can use your device as the encryption takes place in the background.

How to encrypt your Mac

FileVault is an encryption program that comes with Mac OS X 10.3 (Panther) and later. The primary edition can only be applied to the home directory, not the startup volume. Starting with OS X Lion, FileVault 2 was introduced which suffered a significant redesign and encrypts the entire startup volume, including the home directory, using XTS-AES-128 encryption with a 256-bit key.

To enable FileVault on your Mac:

  • Click on the Apple menu > System Preferences and access Security & Privacy
  • Access the FileVault tab
  • Click on the Lock button and provide the administrator name and password to enable changes
  • Click on Turn On FileVault...
  • If you have more user accounts, you'll be required to provide the password for each of them so they will be able to unlock the disk
  • You'll be required to choose if your iCloud account can be used to recover your password or if you want a recovery key. Make sure to backup your recovery key somewhere safe if you pick this method.
  • Your Mac will restart and the encryption process will start. The process will take a while and your device must be plugged into AC power. You can use your device as the encryption takes place in the background.

How to encrypt your Android device

Full-disk encryption (FDE) on Android devices have been introduced starting with Android 4.4. As of Android 5.0, new features were introduced to the encryption process. Newer Android devices, such as Google's Pixel, Google's Nexus phones, and Galaxy phones starting with S7 have the encryption enabled by default. If you don't own one of these devices, the process of enabling encryption is pretty simple and it's quite similar across all Android devices.

What you should know before getting started:

  • Your device must be plugged into a power source through the whole process
  • It will take an hour or longer depending on how many files you have stored on your device
  • You can lose all your data if you interfere with the process before it's done
  • If your device is rooted, you must unroot it before you proceed

To encrypt your Android device:

  • First, keep in mind that the categories might be slightly different based on the manufacturer and Android version, so take this as a guideline.
  • Access the Settings and go to the Security menu
  • Find the Encryption category and tap on Encrypt phone/tablet (for some devices, you must first tap on More settings at the bottom of the page)
  • If you don't have a lock screen PIN or password yet, you'll be asked to set it now
  • Your device will reboot and start the encryption process. You can't use your device until the process is finished.

You can also choose to encrypt your microSD card if you store sensitive data on it. But before you proceed to do so, you should know that you won't be able to access the files on the microSD from your computer without removing the encryption first.

How to encrypt your iOS device

You can easily protect the data on your device if you own an iPhone 3GS or later, iPod touch 3rd generation or later, or any iPad by enabling a passphrase or password.

To encrypt your iOS device:

  • Access the Settings menu
  • Tap on Touch ID & Passcode
  • Tap on Turn Passcode On > Passcode options
  • Create a numeric or alphanumeric code (recommended as it is more secure)
  • To check if your device is encrypted, go back to the Settings > Touch ID & Passcode. At the bottom of the page, you should see the message "Data protection is enabled".

Encrypt the files stored in the Cloud

You're probably using services such as Google Drive, DropBox or OneDrive to store personal files. And these services are great. They make for a useful place to back up your files (which you should be doing if you're not already) and they make it easy to share files with friends or workmates.

Their disadvantage though is that the data you store in the cloud is not encrypted. Even if you secure your account with a password or two-factor authentication, the service providers still have access to your data. And someone hacking your account will also be able to access your files. But some tools can help you encrypt the files you store in the cloud to properly secure your data.

Boxcryptor

Boxcryptor is a highly useful tool if you want to encrypt the files you store on cloud services. All you have to do to start using Boxcryptor is installing their driver on your device (Windows 7 or later, macOS 10.11 or later, Android 5.0 or later, iOS 11.0 or later), create an account (it is free for individuals), and the tool will automatically add all your or later, cloud providers to the drive. From there, you can go on and encrypt all the files you want. The tool supports most cloud providers.

Tresorit

Tresorit is an alternative to the popular cloud storage services that encrypts all the files on your device before you upload them to the cloud by using end-to-end encryption, the AES algorithm, and 256-bit keys. It is available on Windows, macOS, Android, iOS, Linux, and from any browser. A great advantage of this tool is its subjection to the Swiss jurisdiction which makes for strong data protection and privacy.


Encrypt your messages

Nowadays, we communicate a lot using different messaging apps and sometimes we exchange personal information that should not fall into the hands of the wrong people.

So it's important the apps we use provide a thick layer of security so no one can interfere with our conversations. This means featuring end-to-end encryption. With end-to-end encryption, the messages are sent in a secret code rather than in plain text and only the sender and the receiver have the deciphering key.

Most popular messaging apps nowadays provide end-to-end encryption, but the most secure are those which have the encryption enabled by default. For example, Facebook Messenger offers end-to-end encryption, but you must turn on the Secret Conversation feature before you start chatting, and this is not a fact known by many.

There are other secure messaging apps out there which have the encryption enabled at all times such as WhatsApp, Signal, and Wickr.

You can read more about the most secure messaging apps in the following article:


Encrypt your emails

Such as with messages, emails can be interfered and their content is accessible to the attacker if this happens. Not to mention that compromised emails can pose an even greater danger as we receive and send more sensitive information via email.

The good news is you can encrypt your emails so no one can read them even if they should hack your account.

ProtonMail

If you're up to changing your email provider, ProtonMail is your best bet. ProtonMail provides a secure environment for your communications, automatically encrypting all the emails you send or receive. Not even the service providers can decrypt your emails. Moreover, they don't require any personal information, don't keep IP logs, and all user data is protected by strict Swiss privacy laws. ProtonMail makes for the best email provider when it comes to security and online privacy.

Pretty Good Privacy (PGP)

If you're not thinking of switching email providers, you can use PGP, an encryption program that will allow you to encrypt your emails in your desired email client. Even though PGP started as a freeware, it was acquired by Symantec and you can find paid versions of the product. Still, there are also non-proprietary versions such as OpenPGP.

Mailvelope

Mailvelope is an open-source browser extension using the OpenPGP standard that encrypts your mails for your existing email addresses. To send encrypted emails, you must communicate with users that use software compatible with the PGP standard.


Encrypt your internet traffic

Encrypting your internet traffic is also highly important for securing your personal data. You ISP (Internet Service Provider) can see everything you do online, from the websites you visit to the files you download over the internet. They log of your online activity and they can sell it to third parties so they bombard you with creepy personalized ads. Not to mention, if someone hacks into your network, they can use the data they collect against you.

By encrypting your internet traffic with a VPN, the ISP will only be able to see the encrypted traffic that flows between your computer and the VPN server, but everything that happens behind that server is hidden from all malicious eyes.

The VPN creates a secure tunnel, encrypting all the information that's exchanged between your device and the internet. Even if an attacker manages to intercept your connection, they won't be able to read the information, meaning your private data is safe and secure.

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