There has been an increased uptake of remote working following a global pandemic that disrupted normal office-based work methods. Currently, at least 16% of organizations worldwide are fully remote, whereas experts predict that 73% of companies will allow employees to work remotely by 2028. In a remote working setting, employees not only require a strong and stable internet, but it must also be secure and encrypted. Remote working means that employees use their preferred internet connections to access or transmit sensitive information. An encrypted internet connection is also crucial for office-based setups, home networks, and other networks that individuals use to gain internet access.
Additionally, end-to-end internet encryption has gained popularity due to increased reliance on online-based solutions, applications, and software programs. In response to the proliferating technological use for business use, pertinent regulations, such as the GDPR require organizations to adopt strong encryption measures to ensure customer and employee privacy. Also, IBM estimates that a single data breach can cost companies more than $4 million, an unwanted result that may lead to more dangers, such as the closure of a business within six months after the breach has happened.
One of the leading causes of cyber breaches is the use of an unsecured, unencrypted internet connection. For instance, connecting to websites that lack the recommended hypertext transfer protocol secure (HTTPS connection) can enable exposure to various online risks, such as man-in-the-middle and data theft attacks. Also, unencrypted internet connections mean that malicious cyber actors can hack the networks and intercept data transmitted through the networks. At least 69% of security professionals believe that attacks are more targeted nowadays. Hackers target high-value data assets, such as personal information, credit card data, and network data packets transmitted through websites lacking HTTPS encryption. Therefore, companies need to understand the best ways they can ensure online privacy by encrypting internet connections.
Understanding Internet Encryption
Encryption is a mechanism used to encipher or scramble data such that only users with the correct decryption keys required to transform it to its original form can access it. At the very least, internet encryption is a process used to make data shared between a client and an online server unreadable or unusable to unauthorized parties. Thus, Internet encryption provides a secure communication channel to enable users to access and use online traffic without worrying that a malicious Internet user can intercept or read the data. In a more technical definition, internet encryption utilizes cryptographic methods to scramble data transmitted online such that only the legitimate parties can access and use it.
Encrypted information, commonly called ciphertext, is an ideal strategy for sharing personal data with the intended internet users or remote servers. Internet encryption plays a pertinent role in reducing the possibility of a data breach and protecting business or user privacy. For example, sharing information via an encrypted internet connection would require hackers or other malicious parties to access the correct encryption keys to hack the network and access the data. Therefore, all users need to use encrypted networks to share sensitive data, whether in plain text or encrypted.
Benefits of Internet Connection Encryption
The internet is full of marauding cybercriminals trying to hack networks and computer systems to gain unauthorized access to protected information. That said, using the internet makes users vulnerable to multiple cyber threats that can cause massive data breaches, data theft, damage to network or system components, and disrupt critical business operations. The following are some of the primary reasons why individual users and organizations must ensure to use only encrypted internet connections when sharing data with third parties:
1. Secure Multiple Sevices
Accessing the internet requires an individual to use any internet-enabled device. These could be laptops, desktops, or smartphones. Cyber adversaries can hack and access data stored in those devices when users transmit data through an unencrypted internet connection. As such, unencrypted connections pose a threat to data in transit and data at rest stored in the internet-enabled devices. Therefore, regardless of the device used to access the internet, using an encrypted internet connection is a necessary security measure required to maintain the security of those devices.
2. Privacy Protection
As opposed to the perception of most internet users, everyone has something of value that can attract nefarious internet actors. Internet-enabled devices are a rich source of private information, such as credit card information, passwords or usernames, email addresses, social security numbers, home addresses, among others. Hackers target such information to use it in other criminal activities like phishing scams and identity theft attacks. Therefore, it is pertinent for all users to share such information through encrypted internet connections to protect their privacy from adversarial cyber actors.
3. Compliance with Data Protection Regulations
Nearly all current data protection regulations require organizations to encrypt sensitive information. For example, the GDPR stipulates mandatory encryption requirements for personally identifiable data. Also, the Health Information Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) imposes encryption requirements for companies that deal with health data. In this regard, encrypting an internet connection is an effective way for assisting business owners in meeting various compliance requirements. Besides, encryption is a suitable way for preventing unauthorized data access, which is also a key requirement for most data protection regulations today.
4. Enhance Customer Confidence
Most businesses today are data-driven in that they collect, process, and transmit a certain amount of customer data. Most of the data contain sensitive information that can harm customers if it falls into the wrong hands. Hence, most customers are often concerned if organizations lack sufficient safeguards, such as encrypted internet connections. Lack of strong encryption schemes may cause some customers to be unwilling to allow businesses to use their data. Therefore, business owners should apply strong encryption schemes to maintain their current customers and acquire new ones.
Recommended Internet Encryption Methods
1. Connect to the Internet Using a Virtual Private Network
A virtual private network (VPN) is the first thing that comes to mind when internet users want to communicate securely through an insecure network, such as a public Wi-Fi network. A VPN provides an encrypted network tunnel that permits users to share sensitive information with the intended recipients. Besides providing an encrypted tunnel that can’t be monitored or intercepted, VPNs also encrypt the transmitted information to protect it from prying eyes. As a result, if a cyber-attack breaches the network and enables attackers to intercept the data, it remains unusable unless they possess the correct decryption keys. Due to this, VPNs are among the most renowned internet connection encryption methods known today.
Using a VPN connection service to encrypt an internet connection provides additional benefits that can assist users in browsing the internet anonymously. For instance, connecting to the internet using a VPN hides the users’ location and IP address, which prevents governments, internet service providers, or organizations from spying on their online activities. Thus, a VPN not only encrypts an internet connection and shared data but also protects a user’s identity from malicious online adversaries. Multiple VPN providers claim to provide the best internet connection encryption practices but are vital for users to conduct due diligence before settling on a specific provider.
Once an organization identifies the desired VPN provider (an internet service provider can offer VPN solutions), the process of establishing an encrypted internet connection is fairly simple. All a user needs to do is initiate a connection from a list of available VPN servers using an internet-enabled device. Some VPNs provide multiple VPN servers spread across different regions such that a VPN user from the user would appear to be connecting from a different country. Once the device establishes a connection, the selected VPN server establishes an encrypted tunnel that further encrypts the transmitted data. VPNs are among the most widely used internet encryption tools since they provide full data protection. Even governments that have access to state-of-the-art resources cannot pinpoint a VPN user’s location or identity.
2. Browse the Internet Anonymously Using TOR Browser
Most internet users are conversant with the Tor browser, which is designed to provide anonymous internet browsing. Tor browser is an internet connection protocol capable of anonymizing information shared between a user and the internet. A Tor network provides the same functions as other popular web browsers, including Microsoft Edge and Google Chrome, despite the enhanced encryption functionalities. However, the Tor browser has the edge over other internet browsing applications. It is primarily built to enable user privacy and encrypt web traffic shared through an insecure wireless network. Tor browser specializes in enabling private communication and, therefore, is one of the best methods for encrypting internet connections.
When a user connects to the internet using the Tor browser, it bundles the transmitted network traffic into encrypted data packets before leaving the computer and entering an online server. Additionally, the Tor browser identifies and removes some information from the data packets’ header that cybercriminals can use to reveal information about a user. Such information includes the user’s operating system, IP address, and other types of system information. Then, the Tor browser encrypts the remaining addressing data and routs it through multiple servers placed in different geographic locations. As a result, the mechanism secures internet users and encrypts all their transmitted data t ensure they are fully anonymous when browsing the internet. o
3. Connect to the Internet Using Encrypted Wi-Fi Networks
Wi-Fi encryption is one of the easiest methods used to protect data shared through the internet. The process entails using a strong password to prevent unauthorized or unauthenticated users from connecting to the Wi-Fi network. Encrypting a Wi-Fi network only allows trusted users to access it and protect them from malevolent users who connect to unsecured Wi-Fi networks to listen to and intercept transmitted information. Therefore, before connecting any Wi-Fi networks, users should ascertain that it is encrypted, which is fairly easy since it requires a password or displays a password padlock icon beside the network signal.
An organization may choose to encrypt its Wi-Fi networks using Wi-Fi protected access (WPA), WPA2, or WEP encryption protocols. Most security professionals consider the WPA2, an update of WPA encryption protocol, to be more secure than other Wi-Fi encryption methods. WPA2 provides a secure layer enhanced by the Counter Mode Cipher Block Chiang Message Authentication Code Protocol, which makes it almost impossible to hack and compromise the security of the Wi-Fi network.
Due to the increased online risks, Wi-Fi encryption is a critical requirement for transmitting and sharing sensitive data. Users can encrypt their Wi-Fi networks through an easy router setting configuration. While some wireless routers require users to navigate a sophisticated process to encrypt their Wi-Fi networks, the encryption process of most Wi-Fi routers is fairly simple since they require users to log in, enable the WPA2 encryption mode, and set a strong password.
4. Send Messages Through Encrypted Messaging Applications
Internet advancements have resulted in multiple messaging applications that enable users to send messages through the internet. However, with the internet rife with security risks and threats, it is essential to use encrypted messaging apps to prevent unauthorized access to the sent message content. The advantage of using encrypted messaging apps is that they provide end-to-end encryption, which essentially means that only the legitimate sender and recipient can access sent messages. Some of the most popular encrypted messaging apps include:
- Apple messages: TheApple messaging application has an encryption scheme based on Apple’s iMessage secure service. The messaging service has one of the strongest encryption schemes, such that even Apple cannot decrypt sent messages. Fortunately, Apple pre-installs the messaging app on all Mac and iOS devices.
- Signal: Signal is a messaging application that permits users to share encrypted messages, videos, audio, or files to a single user or several users. Additionally, Signal enables users to make video and voice calls via an end-to-end encrypted platform. The messaging app is available for almost all operating systems.
- Wickr Me private messenger: Wickr Me is a private instant messaging application that applies end-to-end encryption to secure all messages and protect them from unauthorized access. The application provides an encrypted and secure method for sending videos, messages, and different types of attachments.
- WhatsApp: WhatsApp is among the most widely used messaging applications today. Facebook, the largest social media platform, operates WhatsApp, which may turn off some users due to various Facebook data breaches and privacy issues. However, WhatsApp implements an end-to-end encryption scheme for audio, videos, messages, and other forms of shared media.
- Encrypted email services: many email service providers offer end-to-end encryption that help both businesses and individuals to keep their information secret. Sending a message over encrypted email services means that the plain text content is scrambled, making it impossible for hackers to read an email without an encryption key.
While the encryption messaging applications discussed above are recommended for sharing encrypted data, they require both the sender and recipient to install them on their devices. In addition, the applications do not support cross-messaging, which implies that only a WhatsApp user can share and receive messages with other WhatsApp users, and so on.
5. Only Use HTTPS Websites
Encrypted messaging applications, routers, and VPNs are great tools for achieving encrypted internet connections. However, if users cannot use them for any reason, the best way to stay secure is to ensure they use web-based applications that use the encrypted HTTPS protocol. An HTTPS website means that users transmit information through an encrypted internet connection. While an HTTPS browser extension does not mean that you are immune to hackers, it efficiently minimizes unauthorized access to sensitive information.