For many of us, it is hard to imagine a time before the internet. So much of our daily lives has become tied up with the online world, from doing our weekly grocery shop to betting on Super Bowl 2020 online, that we tend not to think about how it all works.
The downside to the convenience of the internet is that it can put your personal data at risk. There are many types of threat out there, from malicious hackers to seemingly random phishing attacks, and this means that while we are browsing, shopping or chatting online, there is a constant battle, fought by technology companies, to keep our personal data safe and secure.
The main weapon in the fight to keep your data safe is encryption. This is an essential tool for protecting information that works by encoding every piece of information that you send, from browser searches to emails. This makes it much harder for anyone to access your information.
Encryption works by encoding the original data using an algorithm and an encryption key. This produces something called ciphertext, which can then only be viewed in its original form by using the right key to decode it. Symmetric key technology uses the same key for both decryption and encryption, while asymmetric encryption employs two different keys, though new forms of encryption are being developed all the time to combat evolving data threats.
At one time, encryption was a technology that was only available to armed forces and national governments. However, once the technology became accessible to private users, it quickly spread thanks to developments such as the Diffie-Hellman key exchange. Now, encryption is used to protect stored or transmitted information, and the technology is employed in everything from modems and streaming boxes to SIM cards and smartcards.
The importance of using a strong password has been drilled into us over many years, at school, at work, and through continual reminders every time we choose a new one. However, increasingly, password managers are being used to manage the password process.
A good way to think of a password manager is like a vault that contains all of your passwords, which can be opened only by a master key. Password managers aren’t just a storage facility for your passwords, useful though that may be. They can also help users to create strong passwords whenever they access a new site. Some even come with extensions to your browser that automatically input your passwords, while password managers are increasingly able to sync across all your mobile devices, providing password protection wherever you are.
Also sometimes known as multi-factor authentication (MFA), this technology adds an extra degree of security to the traditional username and password method of authentication. With a typical MFA system, there will be an additional code to which only a specified user will have access. This will usually be sent to a mobile device. Although this is among the simpler types of technology used to keep us safe online, it is one of the most effective and provides a good support to the traditional approach.
The Beauty Of VPNs
A virtual private network or VPN is becoming one of the most common ways to protect yourself online. It was originally developed as a means through which different businesses could connect their networks, while also allowing employees to log onto their employer’s network from home or on the move. However, it has since become a popular way of protecting privacy.
The VPN works by hooking up the device you are using, whether that is a desktop PC, mobile or tablet, to a different computer connected to the internet somewhere else, and enables you to effectively browse the internet from that location, which is usually a different country. VPNs are sometimes used for nefarious purposes, but they can be a useful way of protecting yourself, particularly if you are having to use a public Wi-Fi connection that is untrustworthy.
We have come to depend on the internet to such a degree that for most of us, moving offline in our work or personal lives isn’t an option. Given that we are committed to the online world, it is vital that everyone takes the issue of data protection seriously. Fortunately, there is plenty of technology out there to help in the battle against hackers and data theft, both commercial and personal.