“With the increasing popularity of smartphones, tablets, laptops, wearable devices, and other connected devices that are constantly transmitting information to servers, it is tempting to think that sooner or later someone will come up with a way for law enforcement agencies to intercept them,” writes security expert Bruce Schneier. But in this article, you’ll learn how you can defeat data spies with simple tricks.
Without sacrificing performance or convenience, you can defeat data spies with simple tricks.
Hackers and other attackers are after our data, and they exploit a variety of vulnerabilities to do so. These can range from poorly chosen passwords to a flaw in some software. Unfortunately, there is no such thing as perfect security, but a few simple tricks can significantly improve our defenses and scare off or even stop many attackers. And we don’t even have to sacrifice comfort in return. A single mouse click is all it takes to log in to web services or encrypt your data securely with the right tools.
Login codes are the gateway to our data. If this door is open, anyone can get them. Here’s how to make logging into both Windows and web services more secure with the correct settings.
Close a Windows account
In Windows 7, logging in is done locally on the computer, with no access to Microsoft. The situation is different for Windows 8 and 10, as users can use an online account to log in. But if someone hacks this web account, they can also access our computer. Therefore, it is better to use a local account. To do this, click on ‘Accounts’ in the main menu, then ‘Login with a local account’ in the E-mail and accounts menu.
However, even a local account is not 100% secure against intruders. If attackers have physical access to your computer, they can bypass the local password with a few tricks. If you want to prevent this, you need to encrypt your data – more on this in a moment.
Using Password Manager
The basic rules for password security are simple: enter at least eight characters, but preferably more, with a mix of upper and lower case letters, numbers, and special characters. In addition, create a separate password for each account and change them as soon as you suspect that your provider has been hacked. The best and most convenient way to do all this is to use a password manager, which requires only a single, brutally strong master password. A local password safe is safer, as it is not present on the net, but if the hard drive fails, so do your passwords. It’s better to use an online solution like Last-Pass, where your login details are also uploaded to the company’s servers but encrypted multiple times. And the unlock key is only held by us and is never passed on to the company, as the encryption and decryption are done on our computer.
However, after creating your account, there are two settings you should change. By default, LastPass uses the US data center. You can easily make the change at https://lastpass.eu. To find out which region your data is stored in, log in to the app on iOS or Android, and you’ll find the information under the Storage entry on the Advanced page of the Settings menu. Second, in the Account Settings of the computer or web app, on the General page, select Show more settings at the bottom of the page, then find the Security section and restrict logins to the countries from which you are using the service.
Emptying password stores
Browsers store passwords and other information in separate databases. The database is encrypted, but encryption is often only basic. The best solution is to get rid of these instead. If you don’t want to get too deep into browser settings, the full version of GoogleClean is a great solution. It not only deletes stored passwords from your Chrome browser but scans all of them and gets rid of Google’s various web cookies, as the name suggests. It also allows you to turn off background data sending to Google in Chrome. For the other browsers, you should use AntiBrowserSpy, which works with all the major versions.
Now that the way you log in is more secure, as is the login information, let’s look at the content itself to provide another line of defense against spies.
Protecting local data
Our data on hard drives, USB keys, and external drives are best encrypted with VeraCrypt. It’s based on the well-known, tragically fated True-Crypt, only more feature-rich than its predecessor.
If you want to use an external hard disk, you must first create an encrypted data container. Such a container appears to be a single file, the contents of which can only be viewed using VeraCrypt and, of course, the password. To create it, click on the Create Volume button in the main program window, then select “Create an encrypted file container” and follow the software’s instructions. But it would be best if you also encrypted the disk devices in your computer, including the system drive. The latter option has a major benefit: even if attackers have physical access to your computer, they cannot change the password and gain access to your data. This operation can also be started by clicking on the Create volume button, but you have to select “Encrypt the system partition or entire system drive” in the pop-up window.
For quite a while now, our data has been privy to the eyes of unknown third parties. Big companies have had their hands on our data for years, but with the advent of the internet, things have taken a turn for the worst. Nowadays, it seems impossible to find any device which does not allow third-parties to intercept your data. But this is not true! There are some devices out there – both old and new – known for being secure.