We are living in what’s been called a Wild West of online activity, characterized not just by Fake News influencing national elections, but data breaches affecting major players such as political parties and multinational corporations. Tools such as SMS instant messaging and email make everyday life easier and more convenient, but they come with vulnerabilities that need to be addressed.
Whatever the size of your organization, nobody is free to ignore these threats. While large companies present a good target because they possess great stores of wealth and data that can be used against them, smaller businesses are also appealing because they have a smaller security budget — they might yield less of a reward, but they’re easier to victimize.
The basic modes of communication are not sufficiently secure. There are too many examples of Gmail being hacked. In an illustrative case of a person understanding these shortcomings, but taking a novel though insufficiently secure way to remedy it, former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort tried an interesting work-around to improve the confidentiality of his Gmail account.
Manafort would write a draft of an email, but wouldn’t actually send it. The intended recipient already was in possession of the password to this email account, and could log in and read the draft, and even respond with another draft. This method allowed them to bypass sending the email, so there was a diminished paper trail. Manafort also used the Facebook-owned encrypted messaging app WhatsApp to communicate privately. Sadly for Manafort, his communications were less private than he thought — he is now in jail on charges stemming from Russia’s meddling in the 2016 US election.
What is the solution for everyday people? Beyond simple communications, most North Americans use their phone to do online banking, shopping, to connect and collaborate with work colleagues, and things like that. Most of us send out large volumes of information every day, and it needs to be kept secure.
Private Citizens and Business Agree: Cyber Security Matters
A PricewaterhouseCoopers survey of 1,378 CEOs in 13 territories reveals that cyber security was the largest concern for North American CEOs in 2019.
According to another report from 2018, the US had by far the most incidents of cyber crime of any country in the world, with Canada taking the third spot. Whether you’re a private citizen or a big or small company, everyone agrees that cyber security matters.
This is reasonable, as there are cyber crimes such as phishing emails which seek to harvest personal data so it can be used against ordinary people. Similarly, there’s also a relatively new kind of crime called “whaling,” which is a similar mode of attack as phishing only it targets CEOs, high-profile bankers or other executives or other very powerful people.
There are too many other kinds of online scams and hacks to name, but the point can be made without cataloguing them all — cyber crime matters to everybody. So if we all agree that more security is needed, then what’s the next step forward?
Air Tight Encryption
One of the words in wide circulation today is “encryption,” which is not actually very well understood. In the example above, Paul Manafort thought that communicating on WhatsApp communications would totally be secure because they are “encrypted.”
While it is undoubtedly the best path to guarantee security, there is not simply one thing called “encryption.” It’s important to understand what kind of encryption is required.
There are lesser digital security tools like firewalls, which prevent unauthorized access to networks. Encryption does something different: it makes it impossible for hackers, government or third-party surveillance agencies to read your communications even if they did somehow manage to intercept them.
Encrypted messages are scrambled before they are sent, and the only person who can unscramble them is the recipient, who will have the right electronic key. There are different levels of encryption, too: low-level encryption codes like substitution ciphers don’t offer reliable enough security. The kind you need uses advanced math to generate encryptions codes so sophisticated that they can’t be cracked by even the most powerful computers.
But there is still a potential weakness: it’s wrong to assume that a powerfully encrypted message can’t be intercepted after it has been decrypted. Again, encryption only scrambles the message; it does not prevent third-parties from getting their hands on them. You can see the hacker protection ChatMail Secure offers as an example of what the most comprehensive and robust security measures are taken by industry leaders.
Encrypted messages become readable after they’re decrypted, so it’s important to have other security measures in place to prevent the wrong people from accessing them at this stage. Phones need to be password protected, and be free of spyware, or it can be easy for bad actors to access encrypted messages. The essential thing then is to use a provider that offers the right encryption, and the right supplementary features to ensure security is in fact air tight.
If you’re looking to get the most comprehensive protection for your personal and business communications, you need a provider that specializes in encrypted smartphones that use all the latest technology in their designs to ensure the device is fully impenetrable.
A sceptic may wonder, in a marketplace where everybody is looking for total security, wouldn’t every provider claim to deliver the best protection? How can non-tech experts tell the real encryption specialists from the pretenders? There are qualities that define end-to-end encryption, and if you’re looking for an encryption provider that offers the best protection on the market, here’s what you should look for:
- Specialized Software: Most total encryption solutions transcend apps; they come with special protocols that reduce a smartphone’s functionality to the sending and receiving of messages. This guarantees that hackers can’t install malware on your phone that can undermine your encryption program. Look for a company that offers proprietary encryption protocols that use Android phones to truly offer end-to-end communication.
- Self-Destructing Messages: Messages that can self-destruct prevent the recipient from saving the message content, and prevents them from forwarding this content to another user. In other words, self-destructing messages prevent the possibility of things like blackmail.
- No External Storage: Many phones rely on external storage in this age of cloud computing, but this inevitably means that there is information stored somewhere other than the phone itself. However tight the security, storing your data externally means there is just one more vulnerability. You can make your messages even more secure by finding an encryption provider that does not store your confidential information on an external server.
- Tamper Proofing: While encryption does protect your messages from being read by third parties, once they’re decrypted there’s nothing to stop people from reading them if they get their hands on the phone itself. Sometimes devices get stolen or lost: look for a provider that offers tamper proofing and secondary storage encryption, as well as duress password options, that ensure your sensitive information will be wiped if someone tries breaking into your phone.
- Make Sure Keys Never Leave Device: The cryptographic keys are the main component of effective encryption, so finding encryption designed to generate private keys on the device itself using random generated entropy is a great way to ensure that your key stays as safe as possible.
- Usability: Your phone should maximize safety, but it shouldn’t be any harder to use day to day. What good is a secure phone you never want to use because it’s too slow or frustrating? Look for a provider that delivers encryption protocols with advanced security features designed to make chat, image sharing and voice messaging easy to operate.
Security and Easy Connectivity: Enjoying the Best of Both Worlds
There are no shortage of hacks and online scams being perpetrated today, with more forecast to come in the months and years to come. One prediction supposes that cybercrime will cost the world $6 trillion annually by 2021.
There is a very clear and ongoing need to keep both your personal and company’s data secure. The internet has become so ubiquitous that it’s basically an essential service, with people using it for everything. In the years to come, it’s going to become even harder to live without.
Whether you’re running a multinational business or using online devices for your humble personal needs, cyber criminals target victims large and small. There’s nothing better than knowing you can surf, shop, and communicate online with impunity, certain that you’re not putting you or your business at risk of any cyber threat.
Sometimes people get blasé around their online security, and only after their personal data has been compromised or their finances drained do they realize that they were tragically negligent. Nip this in the bud before you have a major problem on your hands. When it comes to being safe online, be pro-active, be informed, and be discerning when you choose your security. Don’t settle for anything but the truly state-of-the-art end-to-end encryption.