Tech

What Is Data Encryption?

Encryption is the method of encoding data so that only authorised and verified users can access it. Encrypted text has been scrambled into an unreadable format and requires the use of the encryption “key” — a complex series of algorithms — to translate it back into its original, readable form.

Data encryption is essentially a security measure designed to protect your private information as it travels across the world wide web. Much of the activities that we carry out online — such as credit card payments — are encrypted to protect our personal data.

Broadly speaking, there are two different types of encryption; symmetric and asymmetric. These terms refer to the “keys” that are used to unlock information. A symmetric “key” uses one key to both encode and decode information. An asymmetric “key”, on the other hand, uses two different keys for those purposes. 

Did you know there’s a very simple way that you can encrypt all of your online activities? A handy little tool known as a VPN tunnel can secure and protect all of your data — read on to find out how!

VPNs explained

It is the role of an Internet Service Provider, or ISP, to provide a user with their internet connection. As part of this, your ISP has the ability to track internet activity via your IP address. ISPs have been known to sell user data to third parties and advertisers, who use this data to create personalised ads — the kinds that you see when visiting news sites or logging onto social media. 

VPN tunnels are therefore used by individuals who wish to prevent their data and activity being tracked by government bodies, hackers, or advertisers. 

At this point you might be wondering, what is a VPN? VPN is another term for ‘virtual private network’. A VPN works by enabling you to connect to the internet via a server located in a completely different part of the world. Not only does this hide your internet connection from your ISP, but your online activity is also filtered through an encrypted VPN tunnel. Without the encryption “key”, your ISP, government agencies, and online cybercriminals have no chance of accessing your data.

How to spot a good VPN

With thousands of different VPN options in Australia out there, it’s important that you pick the right one — your online security depends on it. A comprehensive VPN system must have the following safeguards to protect user data effectively.

1. Encryption of IP addresses

A VPNs most critical application is to protect the user’s IP address from third parties. This allows the user to browse the internet without fear of being monitored and tracked.

2. Data encryption

A VPN must protect the user from leaving traces — for example, browsing history, cookies, search history — that can be read by third parties to determine the user’s IP address. The encryption of cookies is particularly crucial as it doesn’t allow third parties to access user’s confidential data, such as social media and financial accounts.

3. Kill switch

A kill switch is a kind of “trip” that activates when the user’s VPN connection is interrupted. If this happens, the VPN provider will automatically disrupt the secure connection and terminate online activity, protecting the user from being compromised.

4. Two-Factor Authentication

Some VPN providers improve security by increasing the authentication steps required to log into the VPN service, acting as a barrier against unwanted third parties. Two-factor authentication consists of a code being sent to the user’s mobile or email address, which they have to enter when logging in to prove that they are the account holder.

Your personal information is worth protecting. Don’t fall into the trap of accessing the online world without a secure, encrypted VPN tunnel — it’s the least you can do to look after yourself online.

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