Cybersecurity issues are growing on a global scale, if the U.S. election and its aftermath are any indication.
Cybersecurity—the behaviors and actions meant to protect users in the online world from theft, fraud and other crime aimed at stealing information and data—is a serious personal issue, too. After all, it has been shown that a credit card can be hacked online in six seconds.
Navigating it all can feel daunting to individuals aiming to safeguard their online selves from privacy violations as well as crime, especially when it comes to using public Wi-Fi and managing financial transactions.
What’s more, companies are forced to stay several steps ahead of violators, but their vulnerabilities can become end-user vulnerabilities.
The Guardian this week reported that Tobias Boelter, a cryptography and security researcher at the University of California, Berkeley, detected a security vulnerability that allows Facebook FB, +1.36% and others to intercept and read encrypted messages within its WhatsApp messaging service. The vulnerability calls into question the privacy of messages sent across the service, which is used around the world, including by people living in oppressive regimes, the article noted.
NordVPN, a virtual private network service provider, offers a handful of approaches to improving personal cybersecurity:
Ditch the cards? Using a decentralized cryptocurrency, including bitcoin and its rivals, instead of your own credit or debit card can help users stay anonymous to some extent. Still, bitcoin, arguably the best known among the cryptocurrencies, is still operating a largely fledging market with growing pains that any user should be mindful of. Plus, not all merchants accept cryptocurrencies.
A step ahead with password changes: In cases when using a credit/debit card is the only option, extra security steps can include using strong passwords and updating them often. Ensure the websites are trusted (double check for https), be wary of any suspicious redirects and use trusted encryption services (i.e. VPN service) to protect one’s internet traffic.
Encrypted email: Emails might contain private and sensitive information that could be easily intercepted by hackers or any unwanted snoopers. One solution is to use an encrypted email service, including Tutanota or the Gmail-like ProtonMail. They offer automatic end-to-end encryption and no personal information is required to create a secure email account.
Encrypted messaging: Everybody uses their mobile devices for instant messaging, but how safe are regular communication apps? For example, WhatsApp has received some harsh criticism for tracing user chats even after their deletion. Instead, there are encrypted messaging and voice calling apps on the market that provide end-to-end encryption by default to secure all communications. The app can also verify the identity of people one is messaging with and the integrity of the channel they are using.
PGP (Pretty Good Privacy): If a user is looking for an advanced option to secure their communication and personal files, it might be wise to turn to PGP, one of the most popular encryption softwares used worldwide. OpenPGP is used to encrypt data and create digital signatures and could be used to encrypt personal files or to exchange encrypted communication. It protects all communication with a digital signature and is available for all operating platforms.
VPN (Virtual Private Network): A VPN encrypts all user’s internet data into a secure tunnel and creates a secure connection between a personal device and a VPN server. All the information traveling between the user’s internet-enabled device and the secure server remains invisible to any third party. Some VPN providers, although it remains rare, offer an option to encrypt all the data twice for extra safety, while a kill-switch feature allows a user to select internet programs that would be terminated if the connection dropped for any reason, to make sure that no unprotected internet activity was exposed.