A guide to Cyber-Security

Cyber-security should be a concern for everyone because we are all at risk. Individuals and small businesses often put cyber-security at the back of their mind thinking "it won't be me". Unfortunately, your data is almost certainly already out there; breaches are commonplace and it is highly likely that you will have already been caught within one. However, it's never too late to make positive changes. Now is the time for you to be proactive and make some simple changes. I've put together a list of some really simple and inexpensive tools that you can implement into your own security measures to help protect you.


Virtual Private Network (VPN)

A Virtual Private Network masks your true IP address by changing it to a secure server, owned by your VPN provider. This means that your activity online is hidden from your Internet Service Provider and therefore, everyone else.

Proton VPN is a security focussed VPN provider and is our go-to recommendation. Proton maintains no-logging policy, currently permitted by Swiss law. There's also a free limited version that allows you to try out Proton's service. Proton VPN starts with free usage and increases through $4, $8 and $24, depending on your requirements. However, $4 should meet the requirements of most users.

Private Internet Access is a great affordable option. There are certainly faster alternatives available, but PIA is a strong option that can cover you for up to 10 devices. If Proton VPN is too expensive for you, try out PIA. With an annual subscription, PIA is available for between $2 and $3 per month, depending on the current sale.


Email

Encrypted email mailboxes provide you peace of mind for all your email-based communication. A compromised email account would mean anyone who gains access to your account can read all of your private messages. That's why ProtonMail erases all previous emails when you have to reset your passwords. This means anyone changing your password maliciously cannot read your messages. ProtonMail also encrypts the contents of all emails that you send using end-to-end encryption, so that even when intercepted, the contents are unreadable. Only the sender and recipient of any email can read the contents. The only item unencrypted is your email subjects line, so make sure to keep this free of confidential information. This is because ProtonMail allows you to send encrypted emails to none ProtonMail users using OpenPGP, an encryption protocol. This allows for easier communication with none encryption focussed individuals, rather than Tutanota mail, which requires a password to have been previously shared with a none Tutanota recipient. However, all content within a Tutanota email is encrypted, so use this if you want your subjects line encrypted too. Both ProtonMail and Tutanota mail are available for free, with a paid-for version available for those of you with greater memory or several accounts.

Another great email offering is disposable email addresses. Disposable email addresses allow you to have temporary email accounts that you can shut down when no longer needed. Options like tempail give you limited access, however, you have no control beyond the set time period. Meanwhile, 33 Mail and anonaddy allow you permanent control and forwarding to your main email inbox. Place any word at the start of your unique 33 Mail or anonaddy domain and you can create a new disposable address on the fly. This means you can track which providers sell on your contact details. 33 Mail and anonaddy are both available for free, with paid-for versions available for those of you with further requirements.


Phone

Secure collaboration is available via Wire. Wire is a security focussed alternative to Skype, that allows for chat and call based communication. End-to-end encryption is offered over this open-source system, which can be used in a corporate environment. Wire is also available on your computer, allowing you to maintain contact no matter where you are. Wire is available for $4 per month.

Threema is a swiss based Encrypted Messaging app for your phone. It offers anonymous ID’s for each user and has no requirement for any phone number or email address, which provides far more anonymity than WhatsApp. It also offers a second level of encryption, where if you have someone scan a QR code, it guarantees that any future message comes from that individual and isn’t spoofed, preventing man in the middle scams. Threema is available for a one-off cost of $3.

Signal is an open-source encrypted messaging app that rivals Threema and is completely free. Personal preference will dictate your choice between open-source and a security focussed company that relies on your trust as a business model.


Calendar

Keep all of your meetings to yourself with the Encrypted Calander offered by Tutanota. Your calendar will be encrypted so that only you can read the contents, with apps guaranteeing access from all of your devices. Preventing leaking of your calendar ensures that the reason for all of your business meetings remains confidential, and also ensures that thieves do not know when your home is unoccupied. Tutanota's calendar is available for free.


Two-factor authentication (2fa)

2fa provides an extra level of security to all of your accounts. After successfully entering a correct username and password, access to your accounts will also need a unique pass-code provided by an app or device. Thieves collecting both your password and 2fa is highly unlikely and so 2fa offers you peace of mind for all of your online activity. Authy offers an app-based 2fa option, to allow you to secure your Social Media and Online Marketplace accounts to prevent unauthorised access. Authy is available for free from the app store.


Password Managers

Password managers allow you to set strong unique passwords for all of your accounts without having to remember them all. The old advice of a random word and number as a password has long since been proven as poor advice, with dictionary attacks focussed on passwords like this. Using any word at all places you an increased risk. The strongest password and hardest to crack are those made up of a random sequence of number and letters. Brute force attacks on accounts use dictionaries, so random sequencing provides some form of delay. As does length, so setting a random 25 character string of numbers and letters is the perfect way to secure an account as best as possible. Lastpass and 1 Password both allow you to create and store passwords for all of your accounts within their servers so that you can access them from any device. Just make sure to keep your financial accounts free form password managers; when money is at stake, it's best to keep your passwords to yourself. Lastpass offers a free version of their service, so there is no reason not to start using it today. Alternatively, a premium version is available for $3 per month, the standard price for 1 Password.


Breaches

Have I Been Pwned allows you to check if your email account has ever been included in any previous breaches. If, upon searching your email address, you find any breaches or pastes, make sure to change all of your current passwords to ensure the security of your accounts as someone has seen the password linked to the breach. Dehashed allows you to go one step further and will show you any passwords that were included within the breach, however, this comes at a cost, $10 per month.


URL Shortener

Anoni is a URL shortening service that allows you to pay the favour forward with regards to security. Most services allow you, the owner of the shortened link, to monitor the traffic the link that you have set up, seeing the IP address of every device that clicks the shortened link. Anoni, on the other hand, is a security focussed provider, that maintains no logs. Therefore, there is no record of which devices have clicked the links that you have set up. This allows you to share links with even your most security-minded friends and contacts.


*Please note that I am an affiliate for Proton, Private Internet Access and LastPass. Purchasing these services via the links in these articles will result in me receiving a small financial reward, however, none of your data will be shared with me. I have carefully chosen to affiliate with these providers because I believe in the services that they offer.


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