Reasons for Encrypted Email

I recently wrote a review for ProtonMail, an encrypted email provider based in Switzerland. And that led to me thinking, why would your average user want to use encrypted emails. And how would they even go about it.

I personally use encrypted email for a number of reasons, I’m probably more security conscious than your average user due to my background, but this also means I regularly explain the reasons why encryption and cyber security are important to people I meet in everyday life.

Protect Personal or Sensitive Information

One of the main advantages to using encrypted email is that it can protect your personal information from being accessed or stolen. This could be anything from medical history to your social security number. With identity theft being as wide spread as it is, any effort to protect information that you might have no other option than to send is important.

Another example of this could be in regards to a business and not just a sole user. If for example your company has just created a new product or is about to file for a patent, you don’t want that information to be easy to intercept or steal.

Government Monitoring

It is no secret that government agencies such as GCHQ and the NSA  snoop on our digital lives, this could be from reading emails to tracking what web-pages you have visited. And for the most part this is completely harmless unless you feel it to be a invasion of your privacy. They would need a warrant to wire tap your house, so what makes your digital life any different.

 

Best way to encrypt emails –

  • ProtonMail
    • Swiss based email provider, that offers encrypted emails. Check out my review Here
  • Secure Swiss Data
    • Swiss based email provider, that offers encrypted emails.
  • PGP Key
    • Combined a PGP key with the Thunderbird email client and you are able to achive encrypted emails that will be slightly more secure than using a servise such as the others listed abover
  • Tutanota Mail
    • Another Encrypted email servcie, Review will be coming soon

ProtonMail – Review

I recently wrote about ProtonVPN, a VPN services from the creators of ProtonMail. And for those of you that don’t know, ProtonMail is a service that provides security and encrypted emails.
If I can remember correctly I was part of the in initial launch and was in a waiting list for a free account. And this was only due to seeing some stuff on Twitter about it and letting my curiosity get the better of me, and I’m glad it did.

So what is ProtonMail, well to put it simply it is an encrypted email client that is based in Switzerland, and by just saying that you should know that the privacy and security of its user will be fantastic. This is largely due to Switzerland having some of the best laws in place for online privacy and security. So you know from the start that they are going to make sure your privacy is protected as strongly as possible.

Creating you ProtonMail account is much the same as creating any email account these days, you chose a username and set you passwords. But unlike the likes of Gmail and setting only one password ProtonMail asks for you to set an account password and then another password for your mailbox. This is a second line off defense to prevent your account being compromised. You can also set up 2 factor authentication from the security tab in the settings later. This again adds another layer of security before you can even view your inbox. And don’t worry this isn’t just some SMS verification, you can use just about any authenticator application on the market.

The web client its self looks just like any other email client, this I feel is a great thing because it feels as natural an environment as you’d likely be use to. Before using ProtonMail I was skeptical that the user interface might have been lacking in the looks department as their main priority is the security and protection of their users. But gladly this is not the case. There are 2 options for the layout of your inbox, the first displays your emails in a column on the left and then display the selected email on the right. And then the section option is to just have the list of emails and you can open the emails you wish to view. Depending on where you are when you are using this client could depend on how you have it laid out.

Continue reading “ProtonMail – Review”

Reasons for Full Disk Encryption

To those who are unfamiliar with the concept of full disk encryption it is very simple, normal your computer or mobile devices will store data on a HDD (Hard Disk Drive) without the requirement for a password or any verification to access it bar maybe a password to log into the machine. And this is all fine and well in a lot of cases, your average user might simply use there laptop for basic web browsing or to use services such as Netflix or Gmail.

But for some users personal or sensitive information might be stored on the computer, meaning that if the devise was to be stolen then all of this information could be accessed and could potently have massive consequences. But by using full disk encryption it makes it almost impossible to gain access to the drive and therefore the information stored on it. The best part is you don’t need to be “tech-savy” or a “computer genius” to achieve this level of protection. And it is also a huge amount easier to achieve than it might sound.

Firstly there are a number off different methods to protect your computer with full disk encryption, this could be in the form of a downloaded application but most operating systems these days also allow the user the ability to use full disk encryptions.

Listed below are a few of the easiest options to secure your PC with full disk encryption

Bit Locker

Bit Locker is Microsoft Windows answer to full disk encryption, and was introduce with Windows Vista, but only on the higher tier packages such as professional and business. This could be a slight restriction to some users who have the home version of Windows.

But much it is a very effective and smooth process to encrypt your disk using Bit Locker, and with it being built it it is also very easy to set up and use. Unlike TrueCrypt this is ran through Microsoft, meaning constant updates and improvements to security and as a result making your data as safe as it can be.

TrueCrypt

Before Bit Locker was around full disk encryption was hard to come by, but there was an open source tool that gave users this ability. And this was TrueCrypt a very easy to use and secure full disk encryption software. That has unfortunately been unsupported since 2014. However your are still able to downloaded it, and even though it states on the website that you should migrate to Bit Locker I personally feel that for your average user that wants a little extra security it will still do an effective job. Largely due to the fact that if your devise was to get stolen, unless the thief was very technically able it would be incredibly challenging for anyone bar an expert to utilize the security vulnerabilities said to be within TrueCrypt.

TrueCrypt Disclaimer
Source – http://truecrypt.sourceforge.net/

 

Ubuntu Home Folder

If you are a Linux user then Ubuntu has you covered on the encrypted folder front, during the install process for Ubuntu you are given the option to password protect your home folder. If you opt to set up a password your home folder will then be encrypted requiring a password to access once logged into the system. It is really nice to see it in the installation stage as it means once your system has been installed everything is set up for you and you will not have to go and set it up after. Although if you use Ubuntu and didn’t do it during the start up, don’t worry about it because you can do it after while usng the system. There are guides to this on the official Ubuntu website.

 

In some cases there are different methods to unlock an encrypted drive, this could be done in a few different ways. One of the more popular is using a UBS drive as a decryption key. Meaning to access the encrypted drive the user will need to have access to the specific USB drive. This is very similar to using a key card to access the encrypted drive. In my opinion it is also a little bit more user friendly as you will not have to keep typing out what should hopefully be a lengthy and complicated password.

And one of my personal favourites is the use of biometrics such as a finger print scanner. These can be purchased online and with a little but of work in some cases, allows the user to have a scanner on the desk, and once a finger print is detected open the encrypted drive.

There are also other methods to be able to add secure sections to your files system, one I have a lot of experience with is use BitDefender. The BitDefender has an option to protect certain folders, Essentially setting up an encrypted location that requires a password to access, although it is not quite full disk encryption its a very easy and manageable way to secure some of your files. It also requires the user to select how much space is going to be need meaning that the area that you secure could be a large as you need.

 

Daily use of a VPN

The first time I used a VPN or DNS  services was on an iPad 1, through a website called unblock US. And this was for the simple reason that I wanted to watch the American Netflix ,at that time the UK’s was very limited. But since Netflix has caught on to people changing their DNS settings and IP address it is very difficult to gain access to the Us Netflix from the UK.

So why do I still use a VPN across most of my devices, well there are multiple reasons to use on for day to day activity. This can range from regularly using a shared network or a public network. And some of the others are less obvious but are also a very good reason for using a VPN service on a daily basis.

Public or Shared WiFi and internet –

One of the main reasons I personally use a VPN is due to the places that I regularly connected to the internet from. Due to living in accommodation that has 1 router per floor, there are multiple users on the same network. And if you don’t secure your connection it is very possible for people to either monitor your network traffic. Or depending on how you have setup your machine you might have made your Windows OS visible on the network.

So how does a VPN help to protect you in this environment? Well its simple, a VPN created an encrypted tunnel between yourself and the host server meaning that your connection is going through the VPN services before going to the internet and not directly from your machine to the router and then out into the internet. This is the simple principle for public WiFi the type you might find in a coffee shop or any other place that offers you free WiFi. This is such as risk as you never truly know who else is connected to the same connection as you are, meaning there could be a hacker that is potentially trying to intercept packets from your machine. Or gaining access to your machine without your express permission. Both of these things could have multiple effects on you, such as credit card fraud or the loss of sensitive personal information that you would rather keep away from prying eyes.

Bypass Censorship –

This next reason for daily use of VPN is a very serious and unfortunate on in the information age that we are currently living in. Thankfully in the UK there are no restrictions or censorship on what we can and cant view on the internet. But sadly this is not the case in many country’s around the world and as a result some people are either being punished for using the internet or being that heavily restricted its all just propaganda and information that has been deemed acceptable.

Some VPN services actually market themselves as being able to offer a way around these censorship. This could be very important if your are in a journalist in an area were freedom of speech is heavily limited and expressing information that the government doesn’t agrees with can land you in a heap of trouble.  By using a VPN service it restores the control and freedom that should be globally available when using the internet.

It can also reduce the risk of people using free-speech to speak out against regime that from the outside world might look as if the care about the population. This open the world to the horrors of living in these country’s. There are also other ways around this such as using the Tor network, but again when using this service there is a massive recommendation to use a VPN. As some country’s will either block access to the Tor download page or will monitor and punish people that access the site.

Government Monitoring –

We are currently in an age of government monitoring, as more and more people are using the internet the information that is passed around using it has also increased.  In some ways govement monitoring is very useful and important. But in others they are monitoring the normal users online that have no malicious intentions in the slightest. So in some cases it is not fair that the government monitors all of your internet usage. This is proven when you read story’s such as true crime writers having there house raided due to there internet search habits (As research for a new book)

The scale of government monitoring has been proven in recent years, after data leaks from the likes of Edward Snowden. But the scale is ever growing as more and more government agency’s are gaining the ability to access anyone’s information. This was shown when you look into the Investigatory Powers Bill  the amount of agency’s that have the permission to monitor your activity’s is huge. If you read the list of agency’s that have permission, you might very well question why these agency’s need such a huge amount of power. Granted the UK if thankfully not a country that censors the nations internet access, but with these law that allow monitoring it is always good practice to protect your self if you like you privacy.

Some Good VPN Options

ProtonVPN Express VPN Cactus VPN
Windows, Mac, Linux and ios and android support Windows, Mac, Linux and ios and android support Windows, Mac, Linux and ios and android support
$8 per month $12.95 per month $6.99 per month