How to encrypt internet (connection) traffic

Today, most modern software and applications come with dedicated encryption in order to ensure security and privacy.

Protecting yourself online is important. That’s why there are several ways to encrypt your internet traffic (not connection). We’ll discuss them all below! But first, let’s get tech semantics out of the way.

Why you cannot encrypt your internet connection but can encrypt your traffic

To put it bluntly, you can’t encrypt your internet connection because the internet itself is connectionless. 

The internet is a packet network where internet providers handle all data travel. And since there’s no connection, then you cannot encrypt it!

However, your internet traffic is different because you establish connections with sites and services through your internet service provider (ISP). For this reason, your internet traffic can (and should) be encrypted!

What is encryption?

In simple terms, encryption is a process of encoding your data. It is an effective way to prevent unauthorized users from accessing your internet traffic.

When you encrypt a data packet and send it over, you ensure that only you and the recipient can see its contents.

Sounds intriguing? If you want to encrypt your internet traffic, check out the following encryption solutions.

5 ways to encrypt your internet (connection) traffic

1. Use a Virtual Private Network (VPN)

Pros

  • Bypasses censorship and restrictions
  • Encrypts your internet traffic for apps and websites
  • Offers safety and increased privacy

Cons

  • Can slow your connection down

A Virtual Private Network (VPN) is arguably the easiest and most holistic solution to encrypt your internet traffic. It is the best and most popular privacy tool across the globe. At its core, a VPN hides your real IP (Internet Protocol) address and masks your web traffic.

First, you connect your VPN client to a VPN server. This creates an encrypted tunnel for your internet traffic. If anyone even tries to track down the communication, they will just see scrambled encrypted data.

But a good VPN offers more than just protection. In addition to encryption, Surfshark VPN allows you to block malware and ads, hide your original location, unblock content and ensure public Wi-Fi safety.

2. HTTPS on browsers

Pros:

  • Encrypts your website traffic
  • Already comes on most sites
  • HTTP sites will not be supported by Google

Cons:

  • Doesn’t encrypt the rest of your internet traffic

Another way to encrypt your internet traffic is to use an HTTPS connection on browsers like Tor, Firefox, Chrome, Opera, and Safari.

HTTP (Hypertext Transfer Protocol) is what allows your device to communicate with websites.

But HTTP is outdated and unsecure. Its successor HTTPS (Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure) offers encryption for your connection to the website.

In general, I’d advise you to never access HTTP websites. To avoid that, you can do two things:

  1. Use a browser extension that would automatically turn your HTTP links into HTTPS pages. It doesn’t always work, but it’s secure!
  2. Use the Mozilla Firefox browser with an HTTPS-only mode. You can find it under Mozilla’s privacy settings.

2.1 How to check if a website is encrypted: check its certificates

When you’re visiting websites, make sure you check whether they’re certified. This can be done with a quick click on the lock icon next to the site’s URL.

You should see a box drop down when you click it. How it will look, depends on the browser you use.

If the site is certified, then it will be encrypted!

3. Use SSL proxies

Pros:

  • Improves your privacy
  • Encrypts your traffic

Cons:

  • Is a worse version of a VPN
  • If free, it doesn’t provide good server coverage

Practically, most proxies are HTTP proxies and they’re not secure. An HTTP proxy will yield similar results as a VPN in terms of privacy but doesn’t come with strong security.

If you want to encrypt your traffic, make sure to use an SSL proxy. It comes with an added layer of security that reduces the available information about your internet connection to any potential snoops.

4. Use DNS over HTTPS and DNS over TLS

Pros:

  • Encrypts your DNS requests

Cons:

  • Doesn’t encrypt the rest of your internet traffic.

DNS (Domain Name System) allows you to use the internet as you know it today. Technically, you send DNS queries every time you access a website.

These requests are not encrypted like the rest of the website’s traffic. They create new risk windows like ISPs (Internet Service Providers) spying and MITM (man-in-the-middle) attacks throughout the browsing.

You can set up your DNS requests to run over HTTPS or TLS. This feature can be enabled on most browsers. Check their security and privacy settings, it’s usually there!

5. Turn on Wi-Fi encryption

Pros:

  • Encrypts your internet traffic

Cons:

  • Is a lot easier to crack than a VPN
  • Doesn’t improve your privacy
  • Slows router performance

Last but not the least, you should make sure your Wi-Fi router has encryption on. In comparison, this is easier and simpler than other encryption solutions.

You simply need to make sure that your Wi-Fi router uses WPA2 or WPA3 for encryption. You can find it in your router’s settings.

However, it’s difficult to check whether a public Wi-Fi hotspot is encrypted or not. So if you plan to use an internet connection on an unsecured public Wi-Fi router, better use a VPN.

Encryption doesn’t protect you from malware or careless browsing

What encryption protects you from
What encryption doesn’t protect you from
Snoops
Ad brokers (if using a VPN)
Accessing malware websites
ISP surveillance (if using a VPN)
Opening malware-ridden attachments and files
Hackers
Being careless with your credentials

It is true – encryption doesn’t make you invincible to online threats. As an example, let’s take a look at a MITM (man-in-the-middle) cyberattack.

In a MITM attack, the cybercriminal relays and changes the communication between multiple parties. In this case, these parties think they’re communicating directly. As a result, it allows the attacker to convey, alter, and listen to the information flow between the parties. 

The worst thing about it is that this hijacked communication line can be encrypted.

At the same time, even the most secure encryption solution might not help you. You can still catch malware, viruses, or get phished. Clicking on malicious links, opening suspicious attachments or files in your emails, and ignoring browser warnings have nothing to do with encryption.

So, be careful what you click! Encryption won’t save you from poor browsing habits.

Does Tor encrypt your internet traffic?

Tor browser is a useful tool to keep your privacy. But users often forget the fact that Tor does not encrypt their entire internet traffic. Instead, Tor encrypts the traffic just within the browser’s network.

It is the exit node that decrypts your data. Once it leaves the exit node, your traffic is clear-text data. So, if a government agency or cybercriminal decides to check the node, they will be able to monitor your internet traffic.

But if you still want to secure your internet traffic via Tor, use a VPN on top of Tor. However, it will significantly slow down your internet speed.

There’s more to digital security than encryption

If you want to encrypt your internet connection, there are more than enough tools, applications, and online guides you can use. Even if you’re new to the realm of encryption tools and software, take comfort in the fact that it is not rocket science.

As the world moves to the online landscape, it makes sense to opt for a reliable and robust encryption solution to secure your internet traffic. Besides, data is the new currency and it is your responsibility to make it safe from thieves, spies, profiteers.

Remember that encryption works but it doesn’t leave you invulnerable. So, keep an eye on privacy and security issues and opt for a reliable all-in-one solution. And speaking of one, try Surfshark and enjoy its wide range of features that enhance your digital well-being.

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