What is encryption?

Encryption involves a number of steps you can take as an individual to ensure safe browsing online. You can take steps to protect your identity and secure any interaction (such as an email) or a transaction (such as a payment). There are a number of groups and individuals such as hackers and businesses who look to benefit from your personal information.

What kinds of information is considered sensitive? Think back into your own life. Some of the information you wouldn’t want people to see might be credit card information, identity numbers, health records or your address.

How does encryption secure my information?

The process of encryption works by encoding or converting your information into codes. When you encrypt information, the process generates a key, which quite literally unlocks the information. Only you and the person you are sending the information to have what is called the encryption key. When encoded, your information is hard to understand, which is why it is secure to transfer.

How do I encrypt my information?

Some of the methods described in this guide qualify as encryption methods. The easiest ways by which you can ensure you have some level of encryption setup are:

  1. Ensuring you have a secure WiFi connection.

  2. Your email is encrypted

  3. Your documents are encrypted and you have passwords set up for access

  4. Any portable storage such as your USB have encryption set up.

  5. You don’t download any files or software from websites you don’t trust.

Hard-drive Encryption

New versions of OS X and Windows 8.1 will encrypt your hard-drive by default. However, if you have an earlier version of Windows, you can use the software Bitlocker or DiskCryptor.

Make sure to remember your encryption password! If you were to forget this, all of your computer's data would be irretrievably lost.

If that is your concern, you'll want to manually encrypt your most important files with PGP.

Hard-drive encryption is effective to protect you from someone that could have physical access to your computer. It does nothing to protect you against virus, or against any other form of surveillance.

Cloud-Based Encryption

Cloud computing involves storing data in third-party data centres. Unless that data is encrypted, there’s a possibility of it getting hacked (think Celebgate 2014 when someone hacked Apple’s iCloud). Cloud storage\/encryption is risky but there are companies like SpiderOak and Peerio that take security and privacy seriously.

How To Encrypt Your iPhone

Most modern Apple devices encrypt their contents by default, with various levels of protection. But to protect yourself from someone obtaining your data by physically stealing your device, you need to tie that encryption to a passphrase or code that only you know.

See how to encrypt your iPhone

How To Encrypt Your Android Phone

Google introduced full-device encryption back in Android Gingerbread (2.3.x), but it has undergone some dramatic changes since then. On some higher-end handsets running Lollipop (5.x) and higher, it’s enabled out-of-the-box, while on some older or lower-end devices, you have to turn it on yourself. Most newer Android phones ship with encryption already turned on by default. If this is the case for your phone, there is no way to disable encryption.

See how to encrypt your android phone

Protect Your Text Messages on your Phone (Source: safehubcollective.org)

Signal and TextSecure are free, open-source apps for encrypted texting by the security gurus at Open Whisper Systems. When you send a text to your friend through or Signal, it is encrypted so only you two can read it on your phones: no one else can see its content! The only information a person monitoring the mobile network can access is the identity of the sender, the receiver and the time it was sent.This happens automatically without any effort on your part! And the only information available to people monitoring the cell network is who sent the text, who received it, and when it was received: they cannot see the contents of the text.

Texts sent to friends not using TextSecure or Signal will be unencrypted, but having the option makes these apps perfect as your general purpose texting app. If someone ever got control of your phone, they would still need to decrypt your app (and your phone!) to see your stored messages (which the vast majority of thieves and hackers could not do).

Download Signal and TextSecure.

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