34.Key AbstractDigital

In today’s world, almost every part of our life is directly or indirectly linked to the Internet. As cyberattacks grow increasingly more advanced, sensitive data continues to be at risk. Knowing how to protect your online identity is now a necessity.

One of the best online protection tools is utilizing encryption. It helps us protect our data against confidentiality-based attacks and malicious hackers. This article will explain how to build an encryption strategy to protect your online identity, and how Linux and open-source tools can help with this.

How Can Encryption Help Protect Your Online Identity? 

Encryption protects data by converting plaintext into ciphertext, which looks like gibberish and requires a key to decipher. So, by converting your data into unreadable text, cybercriminals would not be able to read it. This is why encryption strategies are an important component in protecting sensitive information. 

There are two main types of encryption: 

Symmetric encryption is the simplest and fastest form of encryption. It uses the same key to encrypt and decrypt data. The key must be kept secret and shared only between the sender and receiver. Symmetric encryption is best used for small amounts of data, such as secure file transfers or encrypting and decrypting hard drives. 

Asymmetric encryption uses two different keys, a public and a private key. The public key is used to encrypt the data, while the private key is used to decrypt the data. This type of encryption is best for large amounts of data or to secure communication between two parties, such as email or instant messaging. 

How Do You Build an Encryption Strategy?

When building an encryption strategy, use both symmetric and asymmetric encryption to achieve the highest level of security. By using symmetric encryption for small amounts of data and asymmetric encryption for large amounts of data, you can protect your online identity and personal information from cyber threats like malware attacks or phishing scams.

Data Classification and Data Medium 

It is vital to classify the information you are trying to protect. Data classification provides the right classification level for each data type, which then helps apply protective controls like encryption. 

Below are a few examples of classification levels:

  • Confidential: Online banking information 
  • Private: Email subscription to a news website 
  • Public: Social media profile picture 

Each level of information requires different protective controls. For example, the encryption method you apply to your emails would not be the same for your hard drives. Thus, ensure you are using the correct encryption medium.

Key Management

Another important aspect of building an encryption strategy is key management. This involves generating, storing, and controlling the distribution and usage of encryption keys. 

Always keep your encryption keys safe and secure, as they are responsible for decrypting your encrypted data. If a hacker gains access to your encryption key, they can decrypt your data. 

Here are some ways to keep encryption keys safe and secure:

  • Use a key management vault that is specifically designed to keep encryption keys safe
  • Rotate the keys after every 60 days
  • Use separate keys for different data types and mediums
  • For extra protection, encrypt the encryption keys

Use a Virtual Private Network

Using a virtual private network (VPN) is a great cybersecurity tool to protect your online identity. VPNs route the traffic from your endpoint (e.g., computer, laptop, mobile devices) to an intermediary server before forwarding it to the end server through an encrypted channel. 

So not only is your personal information protected, but it also makes it anonymous. Your IP address remains hidden, and the end server only sees traffic from the intermediary server.


Two-Factor Authentication

Two-factor authentication (2FA) offers a dual authentication option to add more security to your online identity. Some examples include answering a security question, inputting a code received via email, and accepting access via push notification.

A popular 2FA option is a one-time password (OTP). Once you provide your initial credentials, you get a text message, an email, or a notification through an authentication app containing a code (numerical, alphabetical, or both). You then enter the code to confirm your identity. This is a one-use-only code that typically has an expiration date. 

While strong passwords may be effective, they do not provide the same level of protection as dual authentication. The purpose is to protect your online information even if someone has access to your credentials. 

For example, if someone gets access to your Facebook credentials and you have 2FA, they would still not be able to log in. After entering the username and password, they would be required to enter the 2FA/OTP. This immediately ends their infiltration attempt, as the 2FA would be sent to your phone.

Security Testing Tools

One of the most effective and quick ways to advance your online protection is through security testing tools. They allow you to test for vulnerabilities within networks, applications, websites, and operating systems. 

Also known as penetration testing, these tools provide valuable information regarding the current security of your system. The detailed reports and recommendations help you spot potential gaps before cybercriminals get to them.

How Can Linux and Open-Source Tools Help Protect Your Online Identity?

Linux and open-source tools provide a multitude of encryption possibilities. 

One of Linux's most well-known open-source encryption tools is GnuPG (GNU Privacy Guard). It is a free implementation of the OpenPGP standard for encrypting and signing emails. GnuPG uses both symmetric and asymmetric encryption to give your online communications the best level of security possible. GnuPG is available to download from GnuPG.org

Some of the key benefits and features of GnuPG are as follows:

  • Open source and freely available 
  • Works on various platforms, including Windows, Mac, and Linux
  • Protects important data from unauthorized access via encryption techniques
  • Uses digital signatures to verify the authenticity of data
  • Uses a command line interface, making it flexible for integration with other applications
  • Provides a key management system for generating, storing, and managing encryption keys
  • Compatible with OpenPGP and S/MIME standards for email encryption and signing

Linux Encryption

VeraCrypt, an open-source disc encryption program, is another well-liked encryption application for Linux. It can encrypt full hard discs, external hard drives, and USB devices to safeguard your data from online risks. Vercrypt is available to download from GitHub

Some of the key benefits and features of VeraCrypt are as follows:

  • Customizable encryption settings to meet users’ needs
  • Allows users to create hidden volumes for confidential data
  • Can run from a USB drive without installation
  • Uses strong encryption techniques for data protection
  • Runs on Windows, Mac, and Linux
  • Requires strong passwords to access encrypted data
  • Data is encrypted and protected using symmetric encryption techniques like AES

In addition to GnuPG and VeraCrypt, there are many other open-source encryption tools available for Linux, such as dm-crypt and LUKS. Each of these tools offers different levels of encryption and security, so it is important to research and choose the right tool for your specific needs.

Encrypted Communication Using Signal

One of the fundamental elements of our online internet usage is communication. Unlike traditional messaging apps like Facebook Messenger, iMessage, and WhatsApp, utilizing open-source and secure communication applications offers added protection. 

Signal, for example, is an open-source communication app that uses encryption to protect messages during transit and at rest. It is one of the most secure messaging apps available, resulting in its quick rise to popularity, especially for privacy- and security-conscious users. 

Below are some of the advantages of using Signal:

  • End-to-End Encryption: Signal uses end-to-end encryption, meaning your messages and calls are encrypted from your device to the recipient's device, with no one in between having access to the content of the communication. This makes it difficult for anyone to intercept or eavesdrop on your conversations.
  • Open-Source Code: The source code of the application is available to the public. So, anyone can examine the code for security and privacy issues. It also gives users confidence that nothing dishonest is happening behind the scenes. 
  • Verification of Contacts: Signal verifies all contacts. This confirms that you're talking to the actual person and protects you from man-in-the-middle attacks. 
  • Privacy-Focused Design: Signal is privacy-focused, meaning they don’t collect any metadata or other information from the users. This also means that it is impossible to track your activity or identity online.

Final Thoughts on Building an Encryption Strategy to Protect Your Online Identity

Protection and privacy will always play a significant role in the online world. We store and send personal data online so often that we sometimes forget about the dangers. Credit card information, social security numbers, bank account details, and contact information can all be compromised without the right cybersecurity measures.

By using and implementing the encryption tools and techniques discussed in this article, individuals and companies can secure their data and online identities.