SECURITY: How do you protect your data, minimize malware and browse securely?

  • June 01, 2016
  • David J. Bilinsky

Full-Disk Encryption:
Full-disk encryption is certainly one way to reasonably ensure that our data has been secured against unauthorized access. Filevault full-disk encryption for the Mac is built into the Apple O/S X 10.3 or later operating system (you need to turn on FileVault in System Preferences). BitLocker is available on the Ultimate and Enterprise editions of Windows Vista and Windows 7, and the Pro and Enterprise editions of Windows 8 and later (again you must go into Control Panel to turn it on). There are third party encryption applications as well such as Veracrypt that works for both Mac and Windows. As mentioned, Veracrypt can be used to encrypt a volume and create an encrypted volume within an already encrypted drive. This makes the second encrypted space virtually undetectable.

There are other applications for file and volume encryption such as those listed on encryption-software-review.toptenreviews.com. Other features to look for are secure file shredding (after all, if a file is worth encrypting, you want to be sure you have securely deleted it, don’t you?) as well as “stealth mode” where no digital footprints of creating, viewing or deleting secure files are created.

You would also want to be able to encrypt a file or an entire USB flash drive or external hard drive, just in case you lose it. Better yet, use a secure USB flash drive such as the Ironkey drive. You will also want to be able to send an encrypted attachment to an email, use encrypted email (according to Forbes, the only email system that the NSA can’t assess is ProtonMail) or set up a secure client portal that avoids email entirely.

Secure and Private Browsing:
Of course you want to be able to browse the net securely and minimize the risk of introducing malware and prevent tracking cookies and ads. The Tor Browser Bundle may be part of the answer in terms of providing anonymity but remember this, according to Lifehacker:

“Available for Windows, OS X, Linux, and in portable forms for all of those, it’s a great way to surf when you’re using an untrusted system, want to keep your identity close to pocket, get around content filtering or site-specific blocks, or keep your physical location a secret from the sites downstream (or anyone who may be watching along the way.) Remember though, Tor is designed for physical and digital anonymity, not security and encryption. What you do while you’re using it may give away that anonymity (sending emails, logging on to web services, etc.), and while communications inside the Tor network are encrypted, as soon as you leave the network, your data is in the clear (if it’s not encrypted another way.)”

However, if you don’t want to move to a new browser, LIfehacker has this advice:

“If you’re not terribly keen on the idea of downloading a brand new browser, moving all of your bookmarks, extensions, and other data over to it, and starting from scratch, don’t worry – you can always just tweak Firefox or Chrome to be the browser you want it to be.

Of course, you can’t remove some basic features like Google’s built-in update engine for Chrome or Mozilla’s engine for Firefox, but you can still do a lot. For example:

© 2016 David J. Bilinsky