There are many reasons why someone would want to encrypt their internet traffic, including shielding their online activities from their internet service provider or protecting their data from cybersecurity threats. Either way, a secure internet connection has become an emerging interest among online consumers due to data retention laws and mass surveillance programs.
In many countries around the world, humans’ right to privacy is being compromised rigorously. Government divisions such as the U.S. National Security Agency (or NSA) and the U.K.’s Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), together with private tech giants like Google, are storing information that users generate when they use messaging apps and other common social platforms.
Users’ right to a free, uncensored internet is being debated as nations and companies block access to specific applications. In these cases, users must know how to get a new IP address and use encrypted messaging tools.
But, to know how to encrypt your internet traffic, you must first understand why internet encryption is essential.
Why Is Internet Traffic Encryption Important?
The internet is definitely not a secure platform; it is open to everyone for doing anything. This open invitation poses a significant risk to the legitimate users of the internet who just want to freely access news and information.
Users can encrypt their internet traffic to hide their online activities from monitoring by their internet service provider (ISP) and protect sensitive data such as passwords and credit card details.
By encrypting your internet traffic, you’re making yourself immune to several types of online threats, including ISP monitoring, hackers with malicious intent and even government organizations that collect data from citizens. To ensure privacy, it’s necessary to have your internet traffic encrypted.
How To Encrypt Your Internet Connection
Encryption is everywhere around us. From bank account numbers to passwords, everything is encrypted—so why not encrypt your internet traffic as well? Digital footprints can identify individuals from each other.
If you learn how to encrypt your internet connection, you can easily hide your activities from prying eyes and surf the web safely while using messaging apps without any privacy concerns. This way, even if a hacker tries to spy on you, they can’t read the actual content of your communications, only gibberish pieces of information.
How Do I Encrypt My Internet Connection? – 5 Tools To Use
There are many ways to encrypt your internet connection. You can use encrypted browsing apps and get your WiFi encrypted with the help of special apps that also encrypt network traffic. In short, there’s no single best method on how to encrypt your internet traffic.
1. HTTPS Everywhere
HTTPS Everywhere is a browser extension that functions for Opera, Android, Chrome and Firefox. It was introduced by the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a nonprofit that’s widely respected for its efforts to advance digital privacy. When the extension is installed, it automatically redirects the unencrypted websites that you visit to encrypted websites, if that website supports encryption.
Pro Tip:Once the HTTP is switched to HTTPS, all interactions between you and the website will become encrypted. However, the name of the website that you visited will not be hidden from your ISP. This will only work for websites that are supported by HTTPS and only on browsers where you’ve installed the extension.
HTTPS Everywhere isn’t the only way to encrypt online traffic, but it’s better than having nothing. Google Chrome and some other browsers often flag websites that don’t have a secure HTTPS connection, but this isn’t always reliable on its own. As such, we recommend that you use HTTPS Everywhere to add an extra layer of security to your web browsing.
You can download the extension using these links, depending on which web browser you’re using:
2. Use a VPN
An unsecured Wi-Fi network poses a great risk to your data. Hackers can intercept the data that’s going to and from your device over the Wi-Fi network, which is why outgoing and incoming internet traffic should be encrypted. The easiest way to encrypt your connection is to use a VPN.
Web-based VPNs are available for a monthly fee. These VPN services are easy to set up for business or personal use. Once you’re connected to a VPN server, your real IP address is changed to a different IP address that corresponds to another location. This way, no third-party can identify you, as your digital footprint and location are encrypted.
The VPN service that we recommend for Wi-Fi network security and encrypted messaging is NordVPN. There are a lot of privacy services out there, but NordVPN sets itself apart by offering advanced security features such as double hop (which doubles the security of your Wi-Fi network connection) and extra secure servers for more privacy.
To keep your connection to the internet secure, NordVPN uses the AES 256-bit encryption algorithm, which is the highest standard of its kind. If you use HTTPS Everywhere along with NordVPN, you’re guaranteed to protect your online information and guard your Wi-Fi network from cyberattacks.
3. Tor Browser
The Tor browser is an online routing system that routes a user’s traffic by encrypting their IP address from where it came. At each hop, only the last and next IP addresses are available to enable routing. The other hops, including the real one, are encrypted and can only be decrypted by a Tor router.
Tor is a powerful encryption browser that hides your activities from ISPs. When you’re connected to the Tor browser, your ISP will only see that you’re connected to a Tor network, but they won’t be able to guess your destination, similar to VPNs.
It should be noted here that the Tor browser isn’t entirely free from threats. In the past, the NSA has attempted to target specific Tor users by cracking the platform’s security protocols. So, while Tor is safe for anonymous browsing, remember that government agencies can still use their resources to spy on users. To ensure maximum privacy, we recommend that you use a VPN and the Tor browser together.
Click here to download the Tor browser from its developer, the Tor Project.
4. Privacy Extensions
There are plenty of privacy extensions available for users to modify and enhance their browser’s security. These browser extensions let you control your internet experience by blocking intrusive ads and killing third-party scripts that might send your data to a third-party without your knowledge.
This is important:However, you can’t fully rely on these extensions to do everything for you.
Again, they’re just extra tools you can add to your overall security arsenal, including the use of a VPN, the Tor browser, end-to-end encryption apps, and more tools.
5. Encrypted Messaging
Users can protect their interpersonal and business communications by encrypting their messages. Applications such as Signal, WhatsApp and Telegram are designed to deliver end-to-end encryption, which protects your data from prying eyes.
Organizations use sophisticated algorithms to suggest ads and search engine queries. The information that you share with your loved ones should be kept confidential with end-to-end encryption. This is why encrypted messaging applications come in handy.
We should note here: These applications do not support cross-platform messaging. For example, if your friend has WhatsApp and you want to message them through Signal, you won’t be able to send/receive messages unless your friend uses the same platform you’re using. You can only receive/send messages on WhatsApp and vice versa with other applications.
What Is Encryption?
Encryption is a method of securing data as it travels from a sender to a receiver. With end-to-end encryption, a sent message’s contents are scrambled and can only be unscrambled when it reaches the desired destination. When you send a text through an encrypted messaging platform, your message will be converted to ciphertext and modified so that no one can read it.
This raises the question: How does the recipient read and understand the data that has been encrypted? Well, whenever an app encrypts data, it has to generate an encryption key as well. These keys are numerical values that only the recipient and the sender have access to.
You can also understand these keys as an extended character string used by an algorithm to transform data into random codes and numbers. Think of the encryption key as a physical key that can be used to unlock encrypted data. Using these keys, you can encrypt and decrypt data. Only the right key with the right data will combine to present the data as it was intended to consume.
Even though the end result of encryption is randomness, the process itself is not. It’s actually very logical and predictable. As mentioned above, the only party that can receive the encrypted data and then successfully read it is the party who has the exact key that the sender used to encrypt the message. Without that key, the data cannot be decrypted. Once the recipient uses the key, however, the scrambled ciphertext changes into readable plaintext.
Of course, hackers and other cybercriminals have the opportunity to either guess the key or brute force their way into finding the right key, which would decipher the sent ciphertext. This is where the different standards of encryptions come into play.
With that said, one can also encrypt data even when it isn’t moving from one place to another. The process remains the same while the data is stored on a hard drive.
What Are the Different Types of Internet Encryption?
There are two types of encryption: Asymmetric and symmetric.
Asymmetric encryption uses two keys to process information between a sender and receiver. The sender uses one key to encrypt the sent message, while the other key decrypts the message. If the sender has encrypted data with one key, the only way the receiver can decrypt the data is with the corresponding key. The sender and receiver are free to use either key for encryption or decryption, but once a key has been used for encryption, it cannot be used for decryption and vice versa.
The second type is symmetric encryption, which uses a single key for both encryption and decryption. Both the sender and the receiver have access to this key.
With the asymmetric method, the sender has to share one of the two keys with the public and keep the other private. Anyone can use the public key to encrypt any message they want to send to the provider of the public key. Once the message is encrypted with the public key, the receiver can use their decryption key to see the message. The most widely used form of encryption is asymmetric, which is implemented in common technologies such as TLS and SSL.
Now that we’ve covered the two types of encryption, we’ll outline five encryption standards that are used for securing data. While these aren’t the only standards used, they’re currently considered the best.
Twofish is considered a more powerful version of Blowfish (which we will describe below). Even though this cipher uses a symmetric key, there’s an option to change the length of that key. It can be as long as 256 bits and as short as 128 bits. The key structure itself remains sophisticated enough to make Twofish among the highest performing encryption algorithms, which makes it suitable for software and hardware applications.
When in use, the Blowfish encryption key length can be as long as 448 bits or as short as 32 bits. Readers should take note that when data is in transmission, it goes in blocks that are 64 bits. These blocks are things on which encryption and decryption processes are performed.
RSA or Rivest-Shamir-Adleman
RSA is the oldest and most reliable public-key algorithm that makes use of one-way asymmetric encryption. It can use an encryption key that reaches 2048-bit, but most applications use the 1024-bit version. As you can see, the length of the encryption key that RSA uses is high, making it one of the toughest ciphers to crack for hackers and cybersecurity researchers alike.
AES or Advanced Encryption Standard
The AES variety is the most popular right now if you look at the VPN industry closely. And the reason is its reputation. It is so secure that even governments use it. This encryption algorithm uses symmetric encryption that takes its current form from the Rijndael algorithm. It can either use an encryption key length of 256-bit or go as low as 128 bit, even though the shorter version is very secure as well.
If you’re looking for the best and the most popular encryption algorithm in town, AES is it.
Triple DES or Triple Data Encryption Standard
The TDES or Triple Data Encryption Standard is based on the older Data Encryption Standard (DES), which is why developers find it easy to implement in their applications. It’s also fairly straightforward to modify an application with the Triple DES algorithm.
Triple DES is one of the most reliable encryption algorithms around. It uses a long encryption key, which helps it to thwart cyberattacks that would typically break DES in a short amount of time.
With that said, even though the Triple DES encryption algorithm is very powerful, its reign as a great encryption algorithm may be coming to an end because of the small block size it uses. Most security researchers say that small block sizes can cause problems when you want to protect your data at a high level. This is why you don’t see modern applications using Triple DES for data protection. It is obsolete.
In fact, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) replaced DES with AES a long time ago. And in between the time it took to complete AES, the institute recommended Triple DES. You will hear a lot of debate about which encryption algorithm is the clear winner between AES and DES.
Most agree that both Triple DES and AES offer more or less the same level of protection under the right conditions. But the area where AES leaves Triple DES behind is that of speed. AES is very fast. Since some systems require security while others require speed (some want a bit of both), you will see applications supporting both encryption algorithms.
Triple DES uses 192-bit encryption keys, making it more secure than regular DES. As mentioned, Triple DES may be slower than DES since it has to perform the encryption process three times instead of just one, as in DES.
Why Do You Need To Encrypt Your Internet Traffic?
The internet is not exactly a private place anymore. Websites, services, apps and ISP are all trying to collect data about you. And in the online world, nothing is off-limits. Every click you make, every position you shift your cursor, every word that you read (as recorded through your device’s camera) on the screen is being recorded by someone somewhere.
Here are some of the benefits of keeping your information encrypted online:
Encryption Keeps Hackers at Bay
Hackers can’t go away, and they never will. As long as there is a single person (or a robot) using any kind of computer, hackers will try to compromise its security, steal critical information and sell it. Hackers have millions and millions of soft targets in front of them. You may think you’re not an important person and that a hacker would want nothing from you. But you are deeply mistaken.
Recent studies have shown that hackers tend to target middle-income people and small- to mid-sized businesses more than they target rich or important people or corporations.
Chances are that a rich person will be able to fight the hacker legally, for every last dollar they’re worth. They’re also more likely to have advanced security systems to prevent hacks in the first place.
So, hackers end up targeting regular people who can afford to pay anywhere from $1,000 to $5,000 for a ransom payment to get their data back. And if they hack 1,000-2,000 people, they’ll make well over $1 million.
The internet makes it possible for hackers to reach as many regular folks as their infrastructure allows.
If your data is encrypted, though, hackers will look elsewhere for targets who haven’t used encryption for protection.
Block ISP Throttling and Monitoring
Your internet service provider has a lot of interest in collecting your data, and it does collect a lot of data, whether you know it or not. ISPs can sell customers’ data to advertisers or cooperate with law enforcement agencies and provide them with a user’s internet history. Let’s not forget that ISPs can contact copyright trolls to let them know if you used their network to download something illegally.
To combat this, you need encryption. And the best way to get encryption is to get a VPN.
Stop Government Agencies From Spying on You
Governments want to protect their territory, and for that, they need to know what’s going on. That’s why they have surveillance programs like PRISM put in place to record everything everyone does online. This supposedly allows them to catch terrorists before they strike. The only problem is that they are way more likely to infringe upon the privacy of regular internet users than terrorists.
But if you encrypt your data, they won’t be able to see what you’re doing online. With your data scrambled up, all they will get is gibberish.
It has become essential for users to encrypt their internet traffic to avoid spying from government surveillance agencies and hackers. As we explained, you can easily encrypt internet traffic with little effort. Also, many of the tools you can use to do this—such as the Tor browser and encrypted messaging apps like Signal—are completely free to use.