Puma Press

Secure your digital self

Back to Article
Back to Article

Secure your digital self

Illustration by Austin Bell

Illustration by Austin Bell

Illustration by Austin Bell

Austin Bell, Online Editor

Hang on for a minute...we're trying to find some more stories you might like.


Email This Story






One of the most paradoxical situations about technology is its ability to solve a singular problem at one moment and then create another right after. Cryptography or the use of codes and ciphers have a long history of being used to hide secrets. Today most password storing is done digitally and with the use of better algorithms. Just as algorithms and different password protection skills have been improving, techniques to break through passwords and obtain sensitive information has improved as well. Having information stolen, taken or deleted can range from a minor headache to incredible damage that takes months or years to fix.

Even in the midst of voting, Americans, are still prone to manipulation due to the high volatility of electronic voting machines and foreign attackers. Also, another moment of vulnerability is shopping, specifically online shopping. The two things these events have in common are that they happen often and will be happening soon in the coming weeks. Dr. Michael Wulf is a software engineer and the National Vice President of the Black Data Processing Associates, a leader and pioneer in technology and STEM training for IT professionals and High School students since 1986.

Interviewing him over Facebook Dr. Wulf stated, “I think there are more breaches because technology literacy is higher and more data is shared than ever. People also rush to deliver solutions and don’t include the security aspects in the initial design so it’s always patch work after. Where there’s patchwork or add-on security, there are holes for hackers.” While it may seem like the odds are in the favor of someone doing something malicious, there are common practices and applications that can further protect oneself on common attacks and multiple devices.

Email

Quincy Larson, a teacher at freecodecamp.org stated, “Your inbox is the skeleton key to your life.”A person’s email is not only the foundation of privacy, but the master key to all other digital information that a person would have. Modern day email services such as Google’s Gmail and Microsoft Outlook have the ability to connect to third-party applications to use their services.

If the password is not strong enough for your email, someone with malicious intent can access more than what’s in your inbox. The solution to this problem is to use two-step password authentication. You can find out more about two factor authentication for Gmail by going to Google.com and typing in “Google 2-step verification.” Two-step authentication always asks you to enter a code along with your email to sign-in to your email from different devices. The code comes in the form of a text message or phone call from your own number. This adds a new layer of security ensuring no one can access your email and information connected to it.

 

Hard Drive

While having your information stolen digitally is a problem in itself, there could be a scenario where your device could be physically stolen. This is where setting up encryption on the hard drive can be an excellent safety net.

In a New York Times article titled “The One Thing That Protects a Laptop After It’s Been Stolen,” Dennis Stewart, a security engineer at CipherTechs states, “Encryption is a mathematical process used to jumble up data. If important files or whole devices are encrypted, there is no way to make sense of them without the key,” Stewart said.

That means if thieves try to access your information, they’ll find only a jumbled mess unless they have your password, and they won’t be able to simply reset that password if the device is encrypted. Web pages like “advocacy.mozilla.org/en-US/encrypt-hard-drive” gives easy step-by-step instructions on Encrypting a hard drive for both Windows and Mac. On Windows go to Settings > System > About and scroll down to “Device Encryption.” For MacOs the process is simple as well. Just going to the system preferences and then to Security & Privacy. Select the FileVault tab. Click the “Turn On FileVault” button to create a password and begin the encryption process. Store your key in a safe place (not on that computer) in case you ever get locked out.

Messaging Applications

Everyone now has a smartphone regardless if it’s Android or iPhone; they each share and hold exclusive apps that help us in our day to day life. Though how secure each one of these apps varies. In a 2011 report by the Pew Research Center, Aaron Smith stated, “Overall, the survey found that both text messaging and phone calling on cell phones have leveled off for the adult population as a whole. Text messaging users send or receive an average of 41.5 messages on a typical day, with the median user sending or receiving 10 texts daily.”

Sometimes the information sent over text could be sensitive and the need for something more secure could be desired. The Electronic Frontier Foundation is a leading nonprofit organization defending civil liberties in the digital world. On their website, they offer a number of tips and tutorials on how to encrypt various devices. They also offer individuals guides on how to install an app called Signal. Signal is a free end to end encryption messaging app. It is open source and available in iOS and Android app stores. Setup for the app takes about a few minutes and you can invite your friends through the app to use its services.

Browsers

Web browser applications are ubiquitous, allowing us to view information, buy products and watch our favorite videos. While traversing the web an individual should know that not all websites nor Internet Service Providers (ISP) are created equal. Also, even though most web browsers contain an incognito mode the meaning can be imprecise since ISP’s can still view what websites you’ve have been to. Tor, which is derived from the name The Onion Router, is built upon the philosophy of helping its users whether individual or organizations to share information over public networks while still maintaining anonymity.

On torproject.org’s about page, it is stated, “Using Tor protects you against a common form of Internet surveillance known as ‘traffic analysis.’ Traffic analysis can be used to infer who is talking to whom over a public network. Knowing the source and destination of your Internet traffic allows others to track your behavior and interests. This can impact your checkbook if, for example, an e-commerce site uses price discrimination based on your country or institution of origin. It can even threaten your job and physical safety by revealing who and where you are.”

Due to the way the Tor browser works they leave a little to be desired in terms of modification or features. If a user would want something a little closer to Chrome or Safari in terms of speed and customization download the Brave browser. While relatively new, first appearing in January 2016 the Brave browser has many extensions and built-in features such as faster load times than Google Chrome and blocks ad trackers when surfing the web.

 

Photo by Austin Bell
Qwant allows the whole web to be visible without any discrimination and with no bias. Our sorting algorithms are applied equally everywhere and for every user, without trying to put websites forward or to hide others based on commercial, political or moral interests.

 

Search Engines

If changing to a completely different web browser seems daunting or unnecessary it would still help to have a secure search engine. DuckDuckGo offers similar protection features to the Brave browser. According to DuckDuckGo’s about page, your searches are private and block ad trackers. Also, it takes upon a different philosophy from the Google search engine. Instead of showing you more search results DuckDuckGo shows you the most meaningful related to what you typed in the search bar. Another search engine gaining popularity recently is Qwant, a search engine created and based in Europe. On the about page Qwant states, “Qwant allows the whole web to be visible without any discrimination and with no bias. Our sorting algorithms are applied equally everywhere and for every user, without trying to put websites forward or to hide others based on commercial, political or moral interests.”

In the modern day, data has become a central part of our lives where it is collected and studied every day to make decisions that hopefully are used for good. In addition, more devices are being connected through a network everyday creating what is called the Internet of Things. Though data is not naturally concerned with good the case of it as a double-edged sword is more prevalent today. On the future of privacy and protection, Wulf stated, “Honestly it’s going to continue to exist in context. If there is wealth to be gained or a competitive advantage to be made there will be breaches. I believe we are going to see an explosion of breaches as IoT proliferates.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

Leave a Comment

If you want a picture to show with your comment, go get a gravatar.




Navigate Left
  • Secure your digital self

    Features

    Europe’s Forgotten War

  • Secure your digital self

    Features

    Fashion industry brings more diversity to shows

  • Secure your digital self

    Features

    Mnemonic devices benefit students

  • Secure your digital self

    Features

    ‘I found the brother I never knew’

  • Secure your digital self

    Features

    A Trip That Can Never Be Repeated

  • Secure your digital self

    Features

    The Keto Diet has more benefits and risks than you think

  • Secure your digital self

    Features

    Rapper Lil Peep dies due to fentanyl overdose

  • Secure your digital self

    College Life

    Aldo Marquez, PVCC’s nationally ranked athlete

  • Secure your digital self

    College Life

    PVCC hosts second debut of “Since You Asked XIV’” contributed by the Veterans Heritage Project

  • Secure your digital self

    Features

    Superheroes are among us: College faculty battle for DACA children

Navigate Right
The Student News Site of Paradise Valley Community College
Secure your digital self