We all own precious family photographs, health and legal documents that are private to us. Once upon a time you could simply lock your home or build a wall of physical security around your business in order to keep your personal information safe. Over the last 20 years, our lives have increasingly moved online. A bolt on the door doesn’t protect our online data. That is why encryption matters.
Online digital security matters to us all
When it comes to the internet and networking, it’s not just our own personal computer or business ethernet which needs guarding. The very society we live in, including national databases of medical records and research, life-saving emergency and rescue operations, and global financial and economic transactions, all rely on encryption to keep the cybercriminals out. Every now and then a hacker manages to infiltrate the intranet of a large public organisation or government department, and we shiver when we realise the damage that an online breach like that can do.
How does encryption work?
These days it is almost impossible to go about our daily lives without inputting personal information into a networked online system or storing it on the cloud. We walk into a shop and wave our contactless card or mobile at a machine on the counter and - hey presto! - our purchase has cleared. When we entrust our finances, words and images to our text messages, emails and social media we need to know they are going to stay safe from prying eyes. Encryption essentially scrambles our personal data using a code which cannot be read by anyone else unless they have the 'key' to it.
What to look out for
Reliable websites use a form of encrypting data called Secure Sockets Layer (SSL). Look for a green padlock icon in the URL bar or for the ‘s’ in 'https://’ if you want to ensure that your online transactions are being securely encrypted. Enable VPN (Virtual Private Network) by going into your computer network or mobile phone security settings and clicking to add VPN to your connection type. If you are considering network-attached storage (NAS) remember that hackers can reach it too, via PCs and routers, so protection is just as important here.
Know your rights
Hacking is a huge problem. Multi-national criminal gangs are constantly searching for new ways to undermine online security systems. If you want to ensure your personal or business information remains protected, always look for SSL encryption when sending an email message. Subscribe to a reliable online data security provider and always contact the official data holder straight away if you think that your sensitive healthcare, financial or other online information is being compromised. National data protection legislation is constantly being updated in order to stay useful and up-to-date. Take a moment to check it out and make sure you understand encryption and know your rights.