GnuPG. While installing them isn’t always easy for total novices, when the system’s up and running anyone can use it. There are also a few web-mail services offering encryption under the “E-mail Made in Germany” initiative. You can also secure all your browser activities. Secure Sockets Layer (SSL), usually identifiable by the little padlock icon in the address bar, protects the data transferred between Firefox, Internet Explorer or Chrome and the node on the Internet. You just need to access a website starting with https://… instead of http://. Plug-ins for many browsers can also take care of this automatically if required, such as HTTPS Everywhere for Firefox and Chrome.
Instead of securing each application separately you can also secure all data traffic, from the start until the end of transfer, by using a virtual private network (VPN). Companies usually install a VPN on users’ devices that they use for business. Private users too can protect their privacy using a VPN. To use it, you need to have software installed on your smartphone, tablet or notebook and a node which creates the tunnel only after you have logged in correctly. Countless companies like OpenVPN and Hotspot Shield offer free or reasonably priced VPN connections. These types of connection are only one narrow type of VPN where the connection between the device and the server is secured by the provider; after that, data packets escape into the Internet unencrypted. Despite this, at least third parties (e.g. hackers) in the direct vicinity of the hotspot cannot eavesdrop on your network connection.
The risks are more manageable if you log into the Internet using a cellular network data connection. The data between the device and the cellular network provider’s base station is encrypted and not shared with other users. This means snoopers who are standing nearby won’t be able to eavesdrop on the connection. That said, as soon as the data leaves the base station, it is, in principle, freely readable again. Here too, only a VPN will protect information right from the start until the end of its transfer.
Encryption also becomes a key consideration if you use cloud services. Whether you use OneDrive from Microsoft, Google Drive, Dropbox or Wuala – in principle, all of these online storage providers have access to every file stored in the cloud. The only thing that will help here is to encrypt the data on the device itself before sending it to the cloud. In the past, it was possible to recommend TrueCrypt as a secure encryption software solution. However, after its development came to a somewhat unclear stop, it is questionable whether the software isn’t a backdoor for intelligence services. Possible alternatives, for which security questions still remain, include AxCrypt, BlowFish Advanced, GnuPT/GnuPG, and Gpg4Win. Boxcryptor even explicitly supports all major cloud storage services, making the job easy. By the way, if you don’t want to put the effort into encrypting files and emails, you should at least secure your passwords, PINs, and TANs. Password safes like KeePass are easy to use, available for many operating systems, and are the better alternative to Post-it notes kept stashed beneath your keyboard. In addition, you should always enable the firewall on your device and install the latest version of a security software solution such as Avira Antivirus Pro, Avira Internet Security Suite or Avira Free Antivirus.
Safeguarding the dilemma of small size
The sheer portability of tablets, phablets, and smartphones also has a down side: What fits easily into your pocket will also fit easily into someone else’s. The loss or theft of portable devices has been on the rise for many years owing to the value of these prestigious digital objects. You’re limited in what you can do to protect yourself against this. If you’re traveling and distracted even for a brief moment while sitting at a table, you won’t notice that lightning-fast grab which leaves you deviceless. To ensure that the most you lose is only the device itself, you should keep an up-to-date backup of your data. In this respect, cloud services are perfect – provided the data is encrypted. Other important countermeasures include adequately long log-in codes or PINs as well as software like Avira Android Antivirus Security, which helps you find and track your smartphone or tablet again, or at least wipe the data on it remotely and make the device unusable for the thief.