Data Security

IN Resources | 18/09/2012
Over time, computers or storage devices that you use get flooded with data files. These could be on computers that you use at home or at the office. Usually the data stored on personal laptops is obviously ‘personal’ and therefore not to be shared easily. The computer that you use at your office usually contains your official data and sometimes personal data as well. This data can be very critical and sensitive to you or the organization you work for. If this data were to fall in the hands of any third party, it could prove very controversial and a great loss, personally and financially as well.
 
Data like photos, videos, documents, databases and which are stored in a digital form on your electronic devices can easily be copied and deleted. Remember, a hacker can:
  • Illegally copy data from your computer online.
  • Access your sensitive personal information.
Today’s world is inextricably linked with the Internet. Therefore, you need to be alert and ready in case such issues regarding your personal data arise. Being well prepared is always better than waiting for the problem to happen. In this how-to tutorial, we will look at the ways by which you can save your data in a secure way.
 
But first we need to understand the nature of attacks:
  • Your data is at risk when you are online.
  • Hackers can hack into your system to take information and data from your computer.
  • Portable devices like laptops, pen drives, and hard drives may provide portability but that also increases their risk of getting stolen or lost. Therefore data on such devices must be looked after with more caution.
Encrypt your Data
 
One of the best ways of securing your data on your computer is encryption. You can encrypt sensitive data that you think is critical and confidential to you. You have the option of leaving out the rest of the data that you think does not need encryption.
 
Encryption does not hide your data. Your data is there and even hackers or the person who stole your device knows it. But the way encryption protects your data is by scrambling the data, making it unreadable without a decryption key. This key is generated when you start the process of encryption.
 
Encryption can be done with the help of some softwares which are both paid and free. Here I would suggest free softwares but you can go for a paid one if you can afford it. For most Windows users, TrueCrypt is the best known software for Encryption. It is free and known to be almost as good as the paid ones. It can also be used on any operating system that you may be using including Mac OS X and Linux.TrueCrypt also has a user-friendly website where you can get answers to any problems that you may be having. Here is a step-by-step tutorial of how to start using TrueCrypt. Please note that using TrueCrypt can be very difficult to crack in case you forget your decryption key. Therefore always choose a decryption key that you can remember and store because there is no way of recovering your encrypted data in case you forget the key.
 
If you happen to have the Ultimate or Enterprise editions Windows 7 on your laptop or computer, you can use software that comes free and bundled with such versions of Windows, called BitLocker. With BitLocker, you can go for full disk encryption. You can even encrypt removable drives as well using its sister application called BitLockerTo Go. Here is an easy tutorial of how to use BitLocker and BitLockerTo Go.
 
These two very helpful tools should keep you free of any worries about your private data stored on your laptop or external drives. With you as the only person knowing the decryption key, only you can open decrypted data and drives.
 
Security from online threats
 
Security from online threats is provided by tools like antivirus softwares. Most known names of such softwares would be Norton and McAfee and those who can’t afford these must know about AVG, Avast, Avira and Panda antiviruses which are free and effective. But you must remember that internet security softwares aren’t the final solution to online threats. It is also your knowledge of the Web. Your antivirus fights against attacks that happen without you knowing about them but many times users themselves let security threats occur on their systems (by clicking on interactive content like ads and games). The things to keep in mind are:
  • To understand that you must not trust everything on the internet.
  • Keeping your information personal is always a better option rather than sharing it often.
  • Attacks that an antivirus cannot warn you about, like phishing, your web browser does that for you. Always follow “recommended” options that your browser gives you.
  • Using Mozilla FireFox is the best option among browsers for those who are more concerned about security. Although there are others that provide both speed and security like Google Chrome but FireFox is much more of a secure option among browsers.
  • Another important thing for internet buffs to note here is that whenever you are entering your personal information online like applying for exams; always try to make sure that you are entering the info on a secure form. You can tell if a form is secure or not by looking at the address link in the browser which usually starts with http://www.example.com, just make sure that it starts with https with ‘s’ meaning “secure”. 
Encrypted Browsing
 
Understanding HTTP (HyperText Transfer Protocol) is very important. We usually call it the language in which your web browser talks to a web server. It governs the rules for internet communication. The information flows between a client (you) and a web server on which the website you are looking for is hosted. This is where a snooper can get into your line and play around with data that is being transferred or is present at the server or the client’s computer if the connection is a simple HTTP connection. Here is where HTTPS protects you from snoopers.
 
Simple HTTP sends and receives the data as simple plain text while as the HTTPS communication sends encrypted data between the client and the server. Take for instance the times when you are filling online forms. If the site is a plain HTTP, then your details that you just filled in can be intercepted by an eavesdropper by wiretapping using packet sniffers. There are lots of softwares for packet sniffing available online and that too for free.
 
When browsing over an HTTPS connection, it adds protocols of SSL (Secure Socket Layer) to your connection which secures your information in encrypted form. Even if the packet sniffer gets the intercepted information by wiretapping, it won’t be able to decrypt the information which only happens on the client computer. So an eavesdropper in this case cannot know what data is being transferred between a browser and web server.
 
Therefore always try to note that you are on a secure connection when transferring sensitive data over the internet because on a simple HTTP connection, your browsing habits are open to the world.
 
Here are some tips to privacy for securing your online data as well:
  • Encrypting your email is always a great idea.
  • Always try to use the most updated version of your web browser. Latest browsers are better on security.
  • Make a habit of browsing anonymously to enhance your privacy. Here are ways to browse anonymously on Internet Explorer, Google Chrome and Mozilla FireFox. For other browsers please visit their respective websites to know more.
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