Pagoda Blog

How to Encrypt Your Internet Connection and Why Encryption Matters

April 21, 2022

Wi-Fi is readily available almost everywhere, from public parks and gas stations to coffee shops and co-working spaces. We’re accustomed to staying connected wherever we go, especially with the rise in remote work, but this doesn’t mean that all internet connections are safe to use. Especially when conducting business online, it’s important to use an encrypted internet connection. This layer of security helps ensure that both your data and your customers’ is protected. But what exactly is encryption and how do you ensure your internet connection, whether at home or working from a hotel room, is encrypted?


What is encryption?

Encryption refers to the process of taking plain text and scrambling it to make it unreadable. The only way to decipher the encrypted text is with a decryption key. Many platforms use encryption to protect their users’ data including What’s App, Signal, Apple Messages, Google Messages and Samsung Messages. When you send a text message through your iPhone, for example, the message is encrypted until it reaches its designated recipient. The data or message is then unscrambled or decrypted into a readable format. This security precaution helps protect sensitive data from being intercepted by third parties during the transfer.


Encryption or cryptography has been used in most major early civilizations, dating as far back 1900 BC. In the earliest known form of cryptography, the scribe replaced some standard hieroglyphic symbols throughout the inscription on an Egyptian tomb with more unusual symbols, presumably to make the text appear more dignified. A more familiar use of historic encryption is fromWorld War II, when German armed forces used a manual device called the Enigma Machine to send encrypted messages between Berlin and army commanders in the field. While the tools used to encrypt data have changed significantly (from a 26-pound typewriter to cloud-based computing), the end goal remains the same: to keep data from falling into the wrong hands.      


Why should you encrypt your internet connection?

The fact that a third party can intercept your data as it travels through a Wi-Fi network can seem almost like something from a sci-fi movie. The threat is unfortunately very real, however, and letting your data fall into the wrong hands can leave you vulnerable to a data breach

With that in mind, let’s take a more in-depth look at why you should encrypt your internet connection. 


Related reading: Are You Doing All You Can to Protect Your Customer Data?  


To protect your identity 

Encryption helps protect you and your business from identity theft. It prevents hackers from stealing your personal information  and third party advertisers from linking your online activity and habits to you. (They can still collect data on your online activity but without knowing who is conducting that activity.) Encryption allows you to remain anonymous online and greatly reduces the risk of a data breach or other form of cyberattack. As a small business owner, a breach can cause significant long-term damage, resulting in hefty fines and damage to your brand’s reputation if the exposed data belongs to your customers. 


It’s the law

There are many online regulations that require companies to use encryption when handling sensitive information. HIPAA requires it in order to protect personal health information and personally identifiable information. 


Related reading: Does Your Business Need a HIPAA Seal of Compliance? 


The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) also requires companies to encrypt personal data. The California Consumer Privacy Act (CPRA) utilizes encryption to help meet tougher security standards around how businesses collect and handle personal information online.  


Related reading: What the California Privacy Rights Act Means for Your Business


Other regulations that include encryption requirements are the Family Education Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) to protect student records and the Fair Credit Practices Act (FCPA) to protect consumers. 


Encrypted Wi-Fi is faster

Lastly, you should encrypt your internet connection to avoid slow load times. When you leave your Wi-Fi unencrypted, anyone can connect to it, significantly slowing down your internet speed. 


Best ways to encrypt your internet connection 

There are three primary ways to encrypt your internet connection and shield your identity and data from unwanted third parties. These methods are a Virtual Private Network, securing your Wi-Fi router, and using an internet browser that masks your identity. 


Use a VPN

A VPN or Virtual Private Network creates an encrypted “tunnel” between your local network and the intended receiver. Any data sent through the VPN tunnel is encrypted making it unreadable to anyone except the intended receiver. When using a VPN your IP address is associated with the VPN rather than your personal device, making it challenging to trace back your online activity to your personal identity. When you’re working remotely and can’t connect to a secure Wi-Fi connection, using a VPN adds an extra layer of security protecting your online activity and data from third parties. 


Secure your Wi-Fi router

Your Wi-Fi router is only as secure as you set it up to be, so make sure you follow these simple steps to encrypt your internet connection at home or at work. To ensure your Wi-Fi connection is encrypted, you will need to select the most updated security protocol (currently WPA2) available. Check out this step by step process for enabling WPA2 on your router from LifeWire.


Switch to a secure browser

The only browser that offers full encryption, allowing you to conduct online activity completely anonymously, is Tor. This browser provides an unmatched level of security and anonymity for users but the steps required to provide this level of security result in slow load times and some websites won’t work at all through the Tor browser. 


A slightly less secure but more user-friendly browser is Brave. Brave secures unencrypted sites with HTTPS by default and prevents third parties from tracking your activity. Check out our full breakdown of Brave, Tor and other top web browsers here.   


Avoid websites that don’t use HTTPS

If you’re not using an internet browser like Brave that automatically encrypts sites running on HTTP, you should avoid these unsecured sites. Most sites now use HTTPS anyway because it not only protects users’ data but also helps sites rank higher on search engines. 


Just how secure is your internet connection?  

After following the above steps to encrypt your internet connection you can double check its security by ensuring you have all the following boxes checked: 


- You have control over the connection

- You trust the other devices connecting to it

- You have a WPA/WPA3 wireless password setup


- Your connection is encrypted using a VPN


Check out our free network security checklist for more information on securing your internet connection. Still have questions about internet encryption and security? Get in touch for your free consultation with one of our IT experts. 


Feature photo by Dan Nelson on Unsplash

Related reading: 

Do You Need Cyber Liability Insurance and What Does It Cover?

How to Secure Your Smartphone for Remote Work

Why You Should Download the Latest Security Patches and Software Updates 


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