There are many basic security measures one can take to protect the privacy of their data in both devices and online, however, if you’re looking to take it a step further, encryption is the ultimate tool to keep your information fully secure.
The way that encryption works is by simply scrambling your files and information to the point where they are unreadable by anyone without the proper software and password to access it.
Although we all handle tons of information through our emails, messaging apps, and devices, people in charge of particularly sensitive data, such as bank information, tax documents, private photos or any other type of files that must remain private, should be the ones most concerned. If you consider yourself one of these people, or you simply wish to be extra careful about your security, then the best thing to do is to encrypt and protect your data.
The way that you encrypt and protect your data will all depend on where it is stored, so, up next, we will go through each item separately and point you towards the best tools for each one.
Our email accounts are one of the places where we are left the most vulnerable to a breach of data.
We use them to exchange important business information, financial data, and personal data of all sorts, so you should do everything you can to protect your email account, including strong passwords and two-factor authentication.
As such a vulnerable medium, it’s a wise decision to take things a step further by using an encryption program to render the content of your emails unreadable.
While the easiest and more direct option would be to choose an end-to-end encrypted mail service, such as ProtonMail or LavaBit, which are free to use and ensure anything that’s stored in your account is only viewable by you, you may not want to give up on your current email server so, there are other ways.
For Gmail accounts, Google has been providing free encryption for a few years, meaning that if you’re using the official Gmail apps or accessing Gmail through the Chrome browser, your email is already encrypted. However, said encryption only works if the recipient is also using Google apps, as once your email leaves the Google servers to land on an Outlook account, for example, the encryption is no longer applied.
In this case, plugins such as Snapmail work by not just encrypting, but destroying your messages 60 seconds after they’ve been opened. So, if you’re sending particularly sensitive information this option could work.
If you’re an Outlook user on the other hand, you’ll be glad to know it comes with a built-in feature for encryption, as long as you have an Office365 subscription. To set it up, first you’ll need to exchange digital signatures with your recipient so that both are able to unencrypt the messages. Once this is done, you can write your email and hit ‘Options > More Options > Message Options > Security Settings > Encrypt message contents and attachments’ once you’re ready to send it.
Cloud services, such as Google Drive and Dropbox, can be just as vulnerable as your email account because they could also get hacked. In this sense, the best way to encrypt and protect your stored would be to use a file compression tool that supports encryption and password protection features, such as zip, before uploading any files to your Cloud server.
Tools, such as Boxcryptor or Whisply, can also be used in integration with Cloud services, adding an end-to-end encryption layer to your files. Another alternative available comes in the form of encrypted storage services, such as Tresorit or Cryptobox, which already come with end-to-end encryption.
While many messaging applications come with encryption, some of them will only add this layer of protection to messages in transition, but not in storage, leaving your data still vulnerable in the event of a data breach or account hacking.
So, the best way to encrypt and protect the data sent through your private messaging apps is to use tools such as Whatsapp, Wicker or Signal that come with end-to-end encryption by default. Telegram and Facebook Messenger also provide this option, however, it needs to be enabled manually before you can use it.
Considering the security of your online data is important, but protecting your devices is equally, if not even more important. Phones, laptops, memory cards and USB drives all contain tons of important data that needs to be encrypted and protected as well, as they could easily be stolen or lost.
Fortunately, most desktop and mobile operating systems support full disk encryption. If you own an Apple phone, iOS8 and its later versions all come with encryption by default, as long as your device has a passcode. To make sure this option is working, go to System Preferences > Security & Privacy > FileVault. If encryption is not enabled, this is the place to start. Apple can provide you with more information on its official support page.
For Android devices, every one of them running Android 6.0 or later is also encrypted by default. If your device isn’t automatically encrypted, you can find out more by tapping the Security link in your Settings app and seeing the available options.
When it comes to Windows, some PCs with Windows 10 have the Device Encryption enabled, but you must have a Microsoft account. If not, BitLocker allows you to encrypt your files in both PCs, laptops and removable media through nothing but a few clicks, while VeraCript is another good and free option to turn to.
For MacOS, FileVault is enabled on OS X Lion or later, requiring you to log in with an Apple account password and encrypting data as you use your Mac, saving all encrypted files to your startup disk.
HTTPS sites provide encryption by default, and adding a strong password to your Wi-Fi network encrypts the data moving across it. However, if you wish to keep your internet browsing even more secure or regularly use a public Wi-Fi network, installing VPN will be your best choice, as it works by protecting your online activity and keeping it confidential to anyone trying to access it.
While using encryption to protect your information can be a powerful tool, this doesn’t mean you should skip basic security measures, such as keeping your devices, software, and applications up-to-date and with strong passwords.
As long as you keep your private encryption keys secured, this should be the best way to keep all your data away from those who are not supposed to have access.
When a handset is locked it means it can only work with the network provider that you purchased it from, which can be quite an inconvenience if you want to switch carriers for better rates or even give your old phone to a friend or family member.
In the case of U.S. cell phones, legislation and the Federal Communications Commission have recently made the process of unlocking your device much easier. Now it is not only legal to unlock your device, but you can also avoid third party contractors and in most cases, go directly to your provider and request to unlock your phone.
We’ll go through the basics of the process necessary to unlock your device, allowing you to take your equipment to the carrier of your choice.
Before you unlock your device, be aware that the process may require a certain amount of time and phone calls to your carrier, so it’s definitely best to unlock it before you leave your current carrier. While different carriers come with different restrictions and requirements, they all require you to know your IMEI number to unlock your device.
The IMEI number, or International Mobile Equipment Identity number, is used to globally identify your phone. It is a 15-digit number used to check various bits of information, such as the country of origin, manufacturer, and model number of your phone. Any network provider you call to have your device unlocked will ask for this number.
For most phones, the easiest way to find the IMEI number is to dial *#06# on your keyboard. If you own an iPhone, you can go to the Settings App > Generals > About to find it, and in the case of an Android phone, it can be found through Settings > About device > Status.
As of now, if you decide to unlock your phone through your network provider, you will need to learn their specific guidelines either from their website or by making a phone call to their customer service center.
In the case of Verizon’s 4G LTE devices, the carrier admits that most of them are already unlocked, however, specially branded World Devices and prepaid handsets do demand that you make a request to unlock them. Most of the time this will be necessary to do with the assistance of a store tech.
In the case of AT&T, T-Mobile and Sprint, they all come with their own set of requirements that can be checked on their websites. Most of them require you to be a subscriber to their service, and that your current contract or installment plan is fully paid off. A call to customer service or a visit to their official websites will provide you with the full guidelines on unlocking your device.
According to the standardized unlocking policies provided by the Cellular Telephone Industries Association (CITA) for cell phones and tablets, all carriers in the U.S.A. are required to unlock a phone that’s paid in full if the customer requests it. Also, carriers are required to unlock the phones of U.S. military personnel upon request.
Third-party unlocking services are another way to unlock your device. While you will find that many of their online prices range from a few dollars to $60 on average, most of them work by paying upfront in exchange for an unlock code that arrives via email.
While they differ mostly by name, it’s important that you check comments on the website and reviews before committing to any, as you could be running into a scam. Reputable unlocking services will offer a customer service line to assist with code issues, a few of the most popular are: DoctorSIM, Release My Code, MobileUnlocked, UnlockBase and Cellphone Unlock.
Most companies available in the U.S. offer unlocked phones on their websites. Huawei, Sony, Google, Apple, HTC are a few of the most popular companies who do this, and while they’re usually more expensive than a regular phone, some companies may offer payment plans to alleviate the burden.
You can also find unlocked phones at Amazon and Walmart. Although prices may be high, buying an unlocked device can be worth it, as it gives you the opportunity to pick the plan with the best terms, allowing you to save money in the long run. If you plan to travel overseas often, having an unlocked phone will make it easier for you to get a new SIM card and start using it immediately regardless of where you are.
So you’ve decided to upgrade your computer or the one that you have right now simply isn’t living up to expectations? Choosing the right computer for you can be a tricky process, one that needs careful attention so that you can be certain to get your money’s worth while finding something that really adjusts to your technology needs.
With all of this in mind, we’ve developed a quick and helpful guide for choosing the right computer, providing a few key questions to ask yourself before making the final decision.
The number one question on this guide for choosing the right computer for you has to do with the type of device you need. Getting to an answer is pretty simple and can influence the final price widely, as it all depends on your portability needs. Generally, if a laptop and desktop come with the same specs, the desktop will most likely be cheaper, since the ability to cram a lot of components along with a battery in a smaller device is what boasts the price for laptops.
If you plan to have a fixed workstation, a desktop might be the right choice for you, while if you prefer to have more freedom of mobility and change your place of work often and on the go, a laptop will definitely be better suited to your lifestyle.
If your need for portability is only occasional or you’re an avid gamer, then a desktop will be the right purchase. Additionally, it’s easier to change and add extra components to a desktop device, so keep that in mind.
When it comes to operating systems, you should probably just stick to what you know, as adjusting into a new OS might not be worth the hassle. For an easy-to-use system that keeps everything in the fairly basic field, Mac will probably be the best choice, while if you’re into having a little more control over your computer’s essentials, then Windows will be better.
If you know what Linux is then you probably already know the answer to this question, and if you don’t, then you most likely won’t even need it, but just for the sake of information, Linux is an open software OS best suited for developers or people looking to customize as many aspects of the system as possible. If this is something that interests you, here’s an article referring to the reasons why you may want to choose it.
While some laptop and desktop manufacturers offer devices with Linux installed, the choices are still very few and either way, you could probably get away with a Windows based device in which to install this specific OS.
When it comes to Mac vs Windows though, choosing the right computer for you will depend on what you will use it for. Unless you’re editing video, photography or graphics constantly and are very familiarized with this OS, you probably won’t need to go for the heftier price tag that’s put on Mac devices.
If like most users, you simply want to browse the web, check your emails and use a word processor, you won’t need such a high-powered machine and a regular Windows netbook or desktop could be your best bet.
This all brings us to the most essential question on the guide for choosing the right computer, which is figuring out precisely what you need it for. Knowing the answer to this question will help you choose between more specific components, such as the processor, RAM, hard-drive capacity and peripherals.
Let’s start with the basics. As we mentioned earlier, if you’re simply needing a device to check your emails, use a word processor and browse the internet, there aren’t that many high level specifics you require so it’ll be relatively simple to choose the right computer as one with a cheaper price tag and more basic features. Windows carries plenty of netbooks and desktops that adjust perfectly to this and if you prefer MacOS, there will probably be a good Macbook Air or basic iMac ready for you to buy.
However, if you’re looking for something more specific let’s get to it.
For those often working with visual elements, i.e. editing video, photos or playing lots of computer games, a good graphics card is mandatory. Many devices will come with an integrated graphics card, meaning it’s built into the computer’s processor and relies on the computer’s memory, being a typically lower performance component than a dedicated graphics card that comes with its own processor and memory.
When it comes to the processor, this is basically the brain of your machine. For a fast computer that doesn’t keep you waiting, boots up programs in a flash, handles plenty of applications and processes lots of data in a short amount of time, the higher the number of cores and speeds – measured in Gigahertz or GHz -, the better, keeping in mind this will also mean a higher price tag.
If on the other hand, you don’t need that many programs running at the same time, one or two cores might work ideally, and you won’t need to worry about raising your budget to fit a few more. This in turn brings us to the question of RAM or Random Access Memory, signifying how much more data is stored at hand. Basically, multi-taskers will need more RAM, and the same goes for hard-drives, a larger hard-drive will be best fit to hold large amounts of data storage and apps running. But, if you don’t need that much processing power, you also don’t need to pay so much money for it.
As for peripherals, consider if you regularly use your computer for entertainment and want to hook it up to an outside monitor, in which case you’ll be glad to opt for a computer that comes with HDMI capacity.
If you regularly need to do big data transfers, a fast USB port will be necessary, but regular users will be just fine working with standard ones, while SD card slots will probably only be necessary for those working with photography or needing more memory. Built in Wi-fi or Bluetooth will be best suited for a more wireless experience, meaning you won’t have to be constantly worried about needing a wire to get internet and can make your connections to external devices easier.
There’s a reason why PC gamers need a special consideration when it comes to choosing the right computer. Modern games specific requirements will require you to look for a truly high-performance machine, as they take up a lot of space, processing power, VRAM and dedicated graphics cards in order to work optimally.
First of all, if you want to be able to play the latest games, a laptop is probably out of the question as those dedicated to gaming tend to be much more expensive than desktops. Also, it’ll probably be wiser for you to go for a Windows OS as there are much more games available for this operating system than for Mac or Linux.
Because games take up a lot of space, you will want to look for a big and fast hard drive, so that you can install more than one at once and keep them running at the right speed, while dedicated graphic cards will keep the visuals running on proper quality.
The final question on this guide for the right computer is how much money you’re willing to spend. Computer prices vary widely depending on the type of tasks you expect them to handle, the operating system running on it, etc. So now that you’ve figured out your needs, calculate your budget accordingly and make sure to do the proper research between providers and brands in order to find the best deal out there.
As technology evolves fast, if you buy a new computer today you may not have noticed that a newer model was set for release tomorrow and would have likely cost the same as the one you just bought, or make yours less expensive. Check refresh cycles for products and be aware of the times when your chosen manufacturers are releasing new gear, this way you may enjoy a good discount on an older model or get the latest technology once its released to the market.