When it comes to securing your data, there are many variables to keep in mind. Most measures can be taken by anyone with a working knowledge of how to use a computer. Here are three ways to ensure your information is secured.
Use Encryption Wherever Possible
Everything that can be encrypted should be encrypted. That means your hard drive should be encrypted using a feature like File Vault on Mac. Your computer and mobile devices should obviously be password protected. And when it comes to communications, use end-to-end encrypted apps as much as you can.
There are several options for encrypted communications involving email, phone calls, video calls, and text messages. For email, Protonmail is a popular alternative to most mainstream email clients. Free accounts start with 500 MB storage. Protonmail allows for end-to-end encrypted emails to be sent to users outside Protonmail. Emails sent between Protonmail users are end-to-end encrypted by default. Hushmail is another option that is similar to Protonmail, and there are many others that can be easily researched as well.
For phone calls, video calls, and text messages, there are even more alternatives. WhatsApp is a commonly used end-to-end encryption communications app. But the security of the app has been called into question in the past, and the company is managed by Facebook, who also owns Instagram. There is talk of Facebook integrated the messaging services of all three of these, which would raise privacy concerns.
Another option for encrypted messaging is Signal 2.0. Widely revered by security experts, Signal are less popular than WhatsApp but more likely to be secure and private. The app allows for crystal clear phone and video calls in addition to disappearing text messages. Texts can be set to expire in as little as five seconds and as long as one week.
Install All Software Patches and Upgrades
It seems self-evident, but this tip is essential. Many major hacks have occurred not as the result of some new hacking method, but because someone failed to conduct routine software maintenance.
Because hackers are always improving their methods, software needs to continually be patched with the latest security fixes. Custom software development is the work of security professionals. Routine updates, however, are the responsibility of all software users. Automate your software updates wherever possible.
Use Virtual Machines and VPNs
Virtual machines and VPNs are slightly more advanced and lesser-known security measures. Still, they can be employed by almost anyone with basic computer knowledge.
VPN stands for a virtual private network. A VPN creates an encrypted tunnel to send all of your web traffic through. Your computer only communicates with the VPN server, which then processes your web requests. This allows the VPN to mask your IP address and geolocation identifier. In other words, you remain anonymous and private when accessing the web through a VPN.
Virtual machines are the most advanced method mentioned here but are not all that difficult to use. Applications like Virtualbox make it simple and easy for anyone to run any operating system on their host device. Using Virtualbox or any number of similar applications, a user can run Linux on a Windows machine, for example. Why would anyone want to do this?
Using a virtual machine isolates your activity from the rest of your device. So, if the operating system inside your virtual machine becomes compromised, the rest of your data will likely remain safe and out of reach.
These are not the only steps necessary to ensure your information is secure. But they are an excellent start. Begin with these steps and do your own research or consult with a cyber-security expert in order to maximize your security.