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How to encrypt your digital life

From your smartphone to your hard drive, we show you how to encrypt everything!

We don’t really need to sell you on the benefits of encryption. But if you still need convincing, its sufficient to say that encryption helps you stay anonymous and it protects your data. Let’s start your encryption  journey with the thing you use most often:

Your smartphone

To set up encryption on your Android phone, go to Settings > Security and tap ‘Encrypt phone’. It’s a fairly long process so be prepared to wait. Do note, the only option to recover is to factory reset your phone. On an iPhone, go to Settings > Touch ID & Passcode > Turn Passcode On. You can add longer numerical passcodes by selecting Passcode Options > Custom Numeric Code. You can also a custom alphanumeric code from the same menu.

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Your calls

Whatsapp calls are end-to-end encrypted by default, meaning that no one else, not even Whatsapp can listen in. If you prefer something with a bit more of security focus, Signal from Open Whisper systems is a great alternative. As a bonus, both of these apps support video calls as well and are available on both Android and iOS devices.

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This small unassuming message is actually one of the biggest milestones in digital privacy

Your texts

Unlike calls, regular cellular texts can be encrypted using Signal, only if the other party has it installed. You can set it up to be your default SMS app its encryption algorithms automatically apply to your texts to other people without you having to do anything. iPhone users have nothing to worry about as iMessage has encryption built in. Moving onto IMs, most major applications like Whatsapp, Telegram (secret chats are more secure than regular chats), Signal and BBM, all have end to end encryption baked in. You can also set autodestruct messages on platforms like Facebook Messenger, Telegram and Signal to achieve even more privacy, if required.

Your hard drive

If you have sensitive information of any sort on your hard drive, you should really take the time to encrypt it. We highly recommend Veracrypt. It’s based on one of the stalwarts of the encryption business, TrueCrypt. If you are a Windows 10 Pro user, you should also take advantage of Window’s built-in encryption tool, BitLocker to do a standard full drive encryption as well for more security.

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You gotta keep tabs of all your drives to encrypt errrrything

Your WLAN

Log on to 192.168.0.1 (or 192.168.1.1 if that doesn’t work) and refer your router’s manual for the authentication details (or just use a wired connection) and navigate to the security settings page. If it’s just a confusing jumble of words, here’s a general rule of thumb: WEP, WPA, TKIP are all outdated and aren’t as secure as WPA2-AES. Also, use a six letter password at the minimum. For added security, you can also make the SSID not broadcast which means you have to manually enter in the SSID and password on mobile devices (search for an add network option), while Windows shows the network as Hidden Network. Disable WPS, disable Guest Networks, disable Remote Administration and if you are sure that only a select few devices are going to be connecting to your network, disable Dynamic Host Control Protocol or DHCP (you’ll have to manually assign an IP to each of your devices from your router’s DHCP range). As a last step, change your router’s internal IP to something more obscure than 192.168.xxx.xxx.

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Please do remember that there’s a tiny magic ‘I messed up button’ on the back of your router

Your email

If you use your browser as your mail client, all your mails are automatically encrypted by your email host (mostly) and have an HTTPS layer on top. But continuing in our pursuit for better security, you should consider switching to standalone mail clients like Outlook or Thunderbird. Do note that the other person needs to have your digital signature to decrypt your messages, so look up your client’s documentation to find out the specifics.

Your internet traffic

VPNs are really helpful to hide who you are and where you are from literally everyone, making your browsing more secure and private. There are tons of options to choose from (read Agent 001’s article on his hunt for a robust VPN). We recommend BolehVPN that even has a free trial you could try out. And add in another layer of security by downloading Tor Browser. It is essentially a browser that obfuscates your browsing data by using other TOR nodes so that no one can essentially pinpoint to your data.

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Your files

If other alternatives such as encrypting a drive aren’t feasible you consider Axcrypt that offers 128-bit AES encryption for the free version and integrated shell support for Windows so that it is extremely easy to use.

Your documents

You can encrypt your documents right from your word processor. In the Microsoft Office Suite, go to File > Info > Protect Document > Encrypt with password to encrypt your presentations, datasheets and docs with a password. In Open Office, go to File > Save as and search for Save With Password in the box near the bottom of the dialog.

Encrypt Everything
Drag it, thwarted by a simple password

Your .zip archives

Alternatively, you can add your files, documents, pictures to a zip file and encrypt it using your archiving manager. If you have 7-zip, right-click on a file and click Add to Archive. Set up your security options (AES-256 is the most robust) and set your password. You can then add further files to this particular archive and it’ll be automatically secured.

This article was first published in May 2017 issue of Digit magazine. To read Digit’s articles first, subscribe here or download the Digit app for Android and iOS. You could also buy Digit’s previous issues here.

Prithvi Sudhan

Prithvi Sudhan