How to Encrypt Your Internet Traffic
By Nick Anderson 6 minutes
There are several reasons why you would want to know how to encrypt your internet traffic. It gives you privacy against third parties trying to surveil your internet communication. Unencrypted communication is susceptible to theft, so encryption provides security while the data is in transit.
Much of web communication today is encrypted. But if you want to ensure that your data is encrypted at all times, here are some ways to do it.
How Does Encryption Work?
Encryption is the process of taking plain text and converting it into cipher-text. Data is passed through an algorithm that encodes it, and a key is generated that decrypts it. The receiver uses the key to convert data back to its original form. It brings us to the two types of encryption: symmetric and asymmetric.
In symmetric encryption, a key is used to encrypt and decrypt the data, also called a shared secret. The secret must be passed to the receiver, but it presents a risk if a third party intercepts the key and uses it to decrypt the communication. Asymmetric encryption fixes that by creating two keys: public and private keys. The public key is shared with anyone wanting to communicate, but only the private key can decrypt the data.
If user A wants to communicate with user B using asymmetric encryption, the user will use the other user’s public key to transmit data securely.
AES and RSA are the two most common types of encryption algorithms in use today; the former is a symmetric algorithm, and the latter is an asymmetric algorithm.
How to Encrypt Internet Traffic
Enable Wi-Fi Encryption
Your Wi-Fi router is the device that allows simultaneous connections and sends/receives communication wirelessly. A third party can easily see the communication happening between your device and the router. Modern wireless devices use certain protocols to encrypt internet traffic against exactly that kind of interception.
You must enable the highest level of encryption available in the router. Most routers today use WPA2 encryption, with WPA3 available in high-end routers. Log in to your router using the credentials stickered on its back or in the product manual, navigate to wireless security, and enable WPA2/WPA3 encryption. Use a strong password that includes a combination of uppercase, lowercase, numbers, and special characters.
Browse with HTTPS
HTTPS was created to provide encryption on the web. Hypertext Transfer Protocol is a protocol used for communication between web browsers and web servers.
But HTTP was vulnerable to attacks because data transmission was not encrypted. The “S” in HTTPS stands for secure. It denotes the presence of SSL/TLS encryption; data transmission between you and the webserver is encrypted. Most websites today have transitioned to HTTPS, with many more on the way due to how search engines favor websites that use it.
HTTPS uses asymmetric encryption. As a user, when you open a website that uses HTTPS, you initiate what’s called an SSL handshake. The public key is used to verify the web server’s identity and exchange the session key that will be used to encrypt communication throughout the session. Sessions keys are symmetric, which makes them faster against asymmetric encryption.
Due to how a website might be configured, it could show you an HTTP version or part of the website that is not using HTTPS. Install the “HTTPS Everywhere” plugin in your web browser so that you are always directed to the HTTPS version of a website.
Shift to Secure Email Providers
Secure email providers refer to email services that use encryption to deliver an email to its destination. Gmail, for example, uses TLS encryption to protect the contents of the email. But given how Google tends to allow third-party advertisers access to your inbox, it’s best to rely on secure email providers.
Email providers like Tutanota use end-to-end encryption and make your inbox private by giving you the key to access. Although your data is stored on Tutanota’s servers, it is always encrypted and inaccessible to anyone except you.
Check out our list of secure email providers to get complete a rundown.
Use Private Cloud Storage
Just like secure email providers, private cloud storage lets you store data in the cloud and ensures that no one except you can access it.
Internxt is a file storage service that uses encryption and stores data in fragments. Client-side encryption means that only you have access to the key that can unlock the vault. Services like Google Drive only use encryption for web communication; data at rest is always unencrypted and accessible by the service provider.
FastestVPN is giving its customers 1 year of 2TB Internxt cloud storage for free when they subscribe to any VPN plan.
How Does a VPN Encrypt Internet Traffic?
A VPN like FastestVPN connects you to a remote server and encrypts internet traffic. Your ISP handles every internet request, like opening a webpage, and delivers it back to you. When you connect to a VPN, you tell the ISP to deliver the data packets to the VPN server to travel to the destination. The ISP cannot see the contents of the data packets, nor can it see what websites you are visiting.
In the simplest explanation, VPN acts as an intermediary for your internet traffic, hides your real IP address from the destination, and encrypts internet traffic. FastestVPN uses AES 256-bit after the connection has been established for faster data transmission.
Unlike HTTPS, which only encrypts the traffic originating from the web browser, a VPN encrypts every type of traffic leaving your device. A VPN is especially useful on public Wi-Fi where security is weak, and a hacker impersonating as an access point can intercept your internet traffic.
Bonus: Tor Browser
Tor Browser might not be everyone’s cup of tea. But if you want to hide your identity and use encryption, then Tor is a worthy candidate. Tor is used to access .onion websites but can be used for normal web browsing. Tor stands for The Onion Router, which uses the onion network to reach the destination address. Tor uses three nodes to router internet traffic to its destination, and encryption is used at every node.
You can use Tor with a VPN to conceal your identity from the first node in the network. Learn more about how Tor works in our blog.
Significant efforts have been made over the years to make the internet more secure. HTTPS is the best thing to have happened for the web; it alone can prevent many of the privacy risks. More efforts on your part need to be made for a completely secure internet browsing experience. From protecting router communication with the best encryption to using encrypted services, all such practices can make the internet safer for you.