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Best Secure Email Providers of 2019

Best Secure Email Providers of 2019

Sending emails is part of society’s daily routine. There are an estimated 5.5 million email accounts open, with the average email user sending and receiving 246 emails a day, according to an Email Statistics Report.

How secure are those messages? Research shows up to 80% of emails sent aren’t secure. In other words, hackers can get their hands on two out of ten emails.

It all depends on what kind of email security you have in place.

Whether you’re a company protecting product development, a consumer safeguarding personal data, or a doctor tasked with abiding by privacy laws, there is a way to keep data safe. To do so you’ll need a secure email provider – and there are a lot to choose from.

Before we help you narrow your search for the most secure email providers, we’ll explore why emails need to be secure, what kind of protection common email providers like Gmail have, what makes a provider secure, what to look for when searching for the most secure email providers, and finally, a list of providers that take security very seriously.

Why email needs to be secure

Email was designed back in the late 1960s as a communication tool. Back then, security wasn’t a concern because emails were only sent to various users of the same computer. Once computers were networked and could talk to one another, emails could be sent to people using different computers. Even then security wasn’t a big concern, and for some, it’s still isn’t.

Decades later, email hacks are common. Earlier this year, Microsoft announced Outlook, Hotmail and MSN accounts were breached and accounts compromised. It’s just one of the many hacks that exposed personal information.

For some, the reason to send secure email is obvious. Employees exchanging emails while developing a new product or a doctor’s office forwarding medical records to a new physician do pose a security risk. If that information fell into a hacker’s hands, a product idea could be stolen or a patient’s home address could become public.

Others assume secure emails aren’t necessary for their mundane messages that include meeting notes, lunch schedules, and promotional offers. After all, who would want to steal that? The truth is, even the dullest inbox is a treasure trove of information for a hacker.

Your inbox could contain pictures, contracts, invoices, tax forms, password reset links and sometimes even credit card information. Your email account might serve as your login in for other accounts, like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. With your email credentials, a hacker can easily steal your identity or worse. For those reasons, every email should be secure.

What is a secure email and how does it work?

Secure emails are protected against hacks mainly through encryption. A hacker can get to your email from four points: your device, the network, the server, and the recipient’s device. Secure email is disguised at every point during this process making it difficult for anyone to read or intercept it.

When the message is delivered, the recipient can only read your message with a key to decipher the encryption.

A secure email provider offers encryption tools, which cloak the email using behind-the-scenes tools.

Are Gmail and other popular email providers secure?

Gmail has one billion active monthly users worldwide, making it the most popular email provider out there. While Gmail ranks high in popularity, how does it rank in security?

Gmail and other popular providers like Hotmail and Outlook do take steps to protect your email privacy, but not to the level of a secure email provider.

Gmail’s standard method of encryption is called TLS, or Transport Layer Security. This security measure encrypts your messages as it’s traveling from your device over the network and to Google’s server. At this point, the email isn’t disguised anymore.

Google even scans your messages for several reasons. For starters, Google looks for spam words to drop unwanted emails into a separate folder. Google also checks your text for keywords to trigger the Smart Reply feature, and to show you relevant ads later on. Other mainstream email providers offer similar features.

Google does offer a more advanced security option for paid G Suite users, but it’s still not the kind of security used by the best secure email providers. Other providers have ways to increase security measures as well, but again, secure email providers specialize in this field.

What makes a provider secure?

Why are the best secure email providers classified as “secure?” What gives them this distinction. Secure email providers offer advanced protection measures that mainly focus on encryption.

By using the most secure email providers, you should be able to:

  • Send and receive end-to-end encrypted emails
  • Encrypt the subject line, body and attachments automatically
  • Utilize encrypted cloud storage for contacts
  • Access encrypted email storage for archived messages
  • Prevent automatic image loading for further privacy

In addition, the most secure email providers should also offer all of the familiar features you’ve come to expect when crafting and sending an email, including:

  • Spam protection
  • Folder management and organization
  • Draft creation
  • Contact import
  • Noticeable unread emails
  • Offline usage
  • Group email delivery
  • Out-of-office notifications

Security features to look for

If you’re decided that email security is a priority, you should investigate the best secure email providers. To help narrow your search, you can look specifically for these safeguards:

End-to-end encryption

The most secure email providers offer end-to-end encryption, which is a fancy way of saying your email message is scrambled so it can be read by anyone other than the intended recipient, who is able to unscramble the message with an encryption key.

While the process might sound complicated, encryption tools set up by a secure email provider take care of the process in the background.

Two-factor authentication

A two-factor authentication process has two layers of security. It relies on something you know like a password and something you have like a smartphone.

You might use two-factor authentication already. When you enter your login credentials and a specific code that’s sent directly to your phone, that’s two-factor authentication.

Since the process requires two pieces of information, it’s harder for cybercriminals to hack. Even if hackers did get ahold of your username and password, it’s useless without the code that’s messaged to you.

Scrubbed metadata

When you send an email, you actually send more information than you think. Every email contains metadata, which are small snippets of information that could be mined by hackers.

Metadata could include information about your web browser, network and the person you’re sending messages to. While these tidbits seem fairly useless, to a hacker, it’s the first step toward learning more. For example, hackers can use metadata to search your browser history and learn more about the person you’re communicating with.

The best secure email providers remove metadata to limit the amount of personal information that’s vulnerable.

IP stripped

Just as secure email providers strip metadata from emails, so should your IP address. With an IP address a hacker can learn which internet provider you use, and more importantly, your physical address. It’s another small piece of data that seems mundane to users but is quite valuable hackers.

GDPR compliance

Europe passed a massive privacy law last year that aims to protect the digital privacy of its citizens. The law ensures that data is collected legally and under strict conditions, holds companies accountable for the storage and misuse of any data, and gives consumers the right to regulate the information shared.

A secure email provider can help you create comply with this law, which entails privacy policies and strict data collection and usage rules.

A list of the best secure email providers available

Ready to secure your emails? Now that you know what you’re looking for, it’s time to find an email provider to work with. As you might expect, there are many options to choose from. To help narrow the search, here’s a list of eight of the most secure email providers:


 CounterMail

CounterMail logo 1

CounterMail offers end-to-end encryption and is transparent on how their security systems work. The company stores encrypted emails on diskless servers, which provides an extra layer of protection against data leaks. Those servers are based in Sweden, a country that first implemented data privacy laws in the 1970s.

CounterMail is one of the few providers to offer an additional layer of protection in the form of a USB key. If you enable this feature, you use a secure USB drive to access your email.

While CounterMail is one of the best secure email providers, it’s not cheap. The service costs about $60 a month with additional fees for increased storage space and domains.


 

ProtonMail

ProtonMail logo

ProtonMail makes the list of best secure email providers for several reasons. For starters, ProtonMail is as popular and as easy to use as Gmail. It offers a simple user interface and all of the ordinary email functions, but with more security.

ProtonMail takes security quite seriously. Its encryption is so strong the company itself can’t see your emails. The data centers that enable emails to go from one computer to the next is in a nuclear bunker under 1,000 meters of granite. And, ProtonMail is a free email service.

The service works best between ProtonMail users. To send an email to a non-ProtonMail user, you can choose to send an unencrypted email or send an encrypted message that’s only readable via a password that you share.


 

Hushmail

Hushmail logo

Hushmail shares similarities to ProtonMail. It’s also easy-to-use and has both smartphone and desktop applications. However, if you’re a Mac lover, you’re out of luck Hushmail doesn’t work on its operating system.

Like ProtonMail, users within Hushmail can send and receive secure emails. To send to an outside user, the recipient receives a link that takes them to a secure site to read the message. The recipient will need a password. If you’d like to add an additional layer of protection, the recipient can also be required to answer a security question.

Hushmail also offers integrated forms that you can add to your emails, like a survey or patient intake form.

Ready to try Hushmail? The company offers a free version, but the company also offers niche applications for certain industries. You can choose from Hushmail for personal use, small business, healthcare, law, nonprofits and enterprise. Pricing hovers around $10 a month for each application.


 

Tutanota

Tutanota logo

Tutanota, which means “secure message” in Latin, offers end-to-end email encryption that works with all devices and browsers. The company is based in Germany, a country known for some of the toughest privacy laws in Europe, which includes GDPR compliance.

The encryption method implemented for Tutanota users has received some criticism. The company uses AES-128, which has one layer of protection, instead of PGP, which uses two layers of protection and therefore is considered more secure.

Tutanota also offers a free encrypted calendar that works alongside your email service, which is handy for anyone in the business world.

Tutanota offers a free package that comes with one email address and one gig of storage. If you continue to use the service you’ll likely need more storage, which can be a bit pricey.


 

Runbox

Runbox logo

Runbox makes the list of best secure email providers because of its unique features. Unlike its competitors, Runbox has complete integration with more common email providers like Gmail and Outlook. What does that mean for users? You can safely transfer your email data to Runbox with a few clicks.

Customers of Runbox also rave about the company’s customer service. If you have a question, you can reach out for help seven days a week. The support team can be reached via email, on the web or through Twitter.

As you might expect, Runbox uses all of the encryption methods possible and even stores data inside a vault with electromagnet protection, fire suppression and manned security.

Runbox offers a free trial, but after that time ends you’ll have to select a package. The company offers several pricing packages, which can be explored on the Runbox website.


 

Kolab Now

Kolab Now logo

Kolab Now is a secure email provider for small and medium businesses. If you work in an environment with sensitive information that can’t fall into the public’s hands, this service is for you.

The Swiss-based company bills itself as more than a secure email provider though. Kolab Now “provides email, contact and file sharing functionality that fuels enterprise communication.”

While the company does take measures to protect your emails, it does not offer end-to-end encryption and doesn’t specify what kind of security measures are taken.

However, users rave about the easy-to-navigate software and all of the added features, like an integrated calendar, contact list, shared folders, and notes app.

The cost of Kolab Now is on the high end, but since it’s protecting businesses that’s not surprising. It’s about $5 a month to use Kolab Now with additional fees for storage and other advanced features.


 

Mailfence

Mailfence logo

Mailfence believes privacy is a right, and the company not only works hard to provide the most secure email service possible but also donates to pro-privacy nonprofits.

The provider offers end-to-end encryption to protect the information inside emails, and also gives users the ability to turn the encryption feature off.

Mailfence also puts a lot of emphasis on its anti-tracking tactics. Unlike Google, Mailfence isn’t tracking your emails and searching for keywords in order to show you advertisements. On its website, the ‘no tracking policy’ reads: No ads, no spam, no solicitations, no backdoor and free from government surveillance.

The company has almost 20 years of experience, which in an ever-changing digital landscape is a long time. Their commitment to email security for so many years offers many users reassurance that the service will be around for years to come.


 

Posteo

Posteo logo

Posteo boasts that its company is “green, secure and ad-free.” The company is powered by green energy, offers secure email services, and will not scan your emails with the intent of advertising to you.

Posteo also gives its users the ability to sign up and pay anonymously, which is another layer of privacy protection. While the company gives users the ability to send secure email, it doesn’t offer end-to-end encryption, which is considered the strongest form of security in the email world. There are other protections in place including encrypted access and transmission, encrypted storage and two-factor authentication.

The Berlin-based company also offers a great support team, so if you have questions about your account or aren’t sure how to work certain features you can always reach out with questions.  

Wrap up

Email has become a communication necessity, and while it’s a great way to exchange ideas its security is lacking. Common email providers like Gmail simply don’t provide the security that’s required to protect against hacks and data leaks. As a result, more companies are searching for the most secure email providers on the market.

Secure email providers give you the ability to send and receive protected messages without knowing a thing about encryption. Once you’re committed to sending secure emails, research the features needed and review the companies that meet your needs.

How to Unblock Netflix in 2019

How to Unblock Netflix in 2019

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Getting Error "m7111-5059" when try to Access Netflix? Does Netflix give you a bizarre message that says something like this:


You seem to be using an unblocker or proxy. Please turn off any of these services and try again.

If that's the case, you need a VPN that works to properly unblock Netflix. Most VPNs don't work properly when trying to stream Netflix. You can read on for more details, but our top 3 VPNs that make Netflix work are above. We use them regularly ourselves!

Netflix began as a service for people to rent DVDs which were mailed directly to their homes, which eliminated the need for physical video stores by offering a greater level of convenience, coupled with better pricing. As technology advanced, Netflix pivoted quickly to become a video streaming service that now dominates the streaming market with a staggering 118 million users and counting.

Netflix isn’t a service that’s available to everyone, everywhere. Subscribers in various locations around the world have access to different libraries of content based on where they live. This means that the hottest new movie may make it to the Canadian Netflix library, for example, but not be available in the United States. This has resulted in many subscribers trying to circumvent Netflix’s location blocks in order to access the complete range of Netflix content.

This guide will show you how to unblock Netflix in your country so that you can access a greater selection of content from around the world.

Why does Netflix block content?

You may be wondering why Netflix feels the need to block content to certain users based on geography.  After all, wouldn't it make more sense just to make the entire library of television shows and movies available to everyone?

The truth is, Netflix isn’t necessarily the culprit behind blocked content. The real reason content is blocked has to do with licensing agreements.

While Netflix has been steadily creating its own content, which can be made available in every country around the world, much of the content that people watch is created by movie studios and television networks that Netflix purchases licenses from in order to host and stream the content. A television network in one country may be happy to license their new hit show to Netflix in other areas of the world, but refuse to offer that license locally so that people are forced to watch the show on cable or satellite where the network can sell advertisements.

Netflix also competes for content licenses with other streaming services like Amazon Prime and Hulu. In some countries, Amazon Prime may have an exclusive license to the programming. As a result, Netflix is unable to make that program available in the library in that country. If Netflix were simply to ignore these licensing agreements, it would upset movie studios and TV networks, and potentially even be subject to legal action.

unblock netflix 2

Will Netflix ever unblock content?

If Netflix is such a powerful company, why don’t they just throw money at the problem or simply refuse to block content for users?

While this would be a short term benefit for users, it would be disastrous for Netflix in the long run. Content creators would refuse to license to Netflix, and the library would begin to dwindle quickly.

In an attempt to curtail this, Netflix has started to crack-down on things and block content even more effectively than years past. Some subscribers that used to circumvent regional blocks have recently discovered that the services and hacking methods they were using no longer work. That’s because Netflix found ways to identify these black-hat methods and disable streaming for users who were accessing content that's not available in their home country. Again, this was largely done to appease content creators who wanted to ensure that their licensing agreements in certain countries were being honored.

As a result, subscribers have had to look for new ways to get around regional blocks to access Netflix, and the most common solution is to use a Virtual Private Network (VPN).

How VPNs bypass Netflix blocking

There are many uses for a VPN, like ensuring privacy by encrypting data between your device and the server you are communicating with. Another important feature of many VPN services is the ability to unblock region locked content on Netflix and other streaming services.

So, how is this done?

When you connect to a VPN server, you are connecting to a remote server that passes on your request to the server of the company or service you are dealing with. As a result, the remote server appears to be you in the eyes of Netflix and, if that server is located in a different country than where you are located, the Netflix library will change accordingly.  

So, for example, say that you are in France, but you want to access the US Netflix library.  You would use a VPN service to mask your French-based IP address, and choose a US server through the VPN.  Once you do this, you would then login to your Netflix account, and from there, be able to access Netflix's American based content library of TV shows and movies.

And since data is encrypted, there is no way for Netflix to check incoming data to see if it was originally generated in a certain country. So, in layman's terms, a VPN makes Netflix believe you are sitting in a completely different location watching their content.

The best VPNs for unblocking Netflix

While most VPNs offer a similar range of services, not all will work to unblock Netflix. Some VPNs are able to be detected by Netflix and users will encounter errors asking them to turn off their VPN service before streaming.

Here are the top 3 VPNs to use to unblock Netflix.

1. ExpressVPN

ExpressVPN is one of the most highly rated VPNs on the market. The company has over 160 servers in more than 90 countries, which gives users access to Netflix content from an almost limitless number of places worldwide. Best of all, Express VPN offers the fastest speeds of all VPN providers. This means that subscribers won’t notice significant buffering or quality reduction when they try to stream television shows and movies.  Plus, with one-click connections, Express VPN is simple and extremely user-friendly, even for people who are not technologically savvy.

2. NordVPN

NordVPN is another popular VPN provider that can be used to circumvent the geo blocking put in place by Netflix. The company is constantly adding new servers to try and stay ahead of Netflix, and has one of the largest selections of servers available. While NordVPN doesn’t offer the same fast speeds as Express VPN, the service is still very good and subscribers can consistently rely on it to assist in accessing Netflix libraries from around the world.

3. TorGuard

TorGuard is one of the most trusted names in the VPN industry. It's important to note, however, that their approach to unblocking Netflix is a little more complex than the previously mentioned providers. When subscribers sign up, they can pay an additional fee for a dedicated streaming IP address in the country of their choice.

Since the IP address is dedicated to a subscribers TorGuard account, it makes it very difficult for Netflix to recognize the address as a VPN service that's being used specifically for unblocking Netflix content. This is because there aren’t hundreds or thousands of people on the same IP address, which keeps it under the radar of Netflix, who is well-known for blocking VPN servers.

Unblocking Netflix while traveling

A common reason that users may encounter for wanting unblock Netflix is simply to be able to access the library of content available in their home country while traveling abroad. It can be very disappointing to settle into your hotel room only to find the show you have been binge watching at home is no longer available for streaming.

A VPN service allows you to connect to a server back in your home country, which will then give you access to the same library of content that's normally available to you. No need to wait until you travel home to continue watching new episodes of your favorite shows.

Another problem encountered while traveling is the fact that many hotels block Netflix completely. Sometimes this is done to prevent people from using all of the hotel’s available wi-fi bandwidth for streaming. In other cases, the hotel simply wants people to purchase content through the hotel’s entertainment system, which can be expensive. Connecting to a VPN encrypts the data and makes it impossible for the hotel to see what content is being accessed. As a result, the Netflix block is rendered completely ineffective.

Unblocking Netflix at school

Many schools feel that Netflix is a distraction to students, and that it prevents them from learning.  As such, many school wi-fi networks completely block access to Netflix to try and keep students on task. Unfortunately, however, this blanket blocking of Netflix can have unintended consequences.

For example, this means that students can’t enjoy Netflix during lunch breaks or empty class blocks. It also prevents students from watching content like educational documentaries that may pertain to their learning. In both of these cases, a VPN can get around this block.

All VPN providers offer a variety of software options for devices including Windows, Mac, iOS, Android, and browser extensions. This means that students can use desktop computers, tablets and even use their smartphones to watch Netflix, as long as they are connected to the correct VPN server.

unblock netflix 5

Unblocking Netflix at home (to stop your ISP from snooping)

Internet service providers can see everything you are doing on the internet if you do not use a VPN. Why does this matter for streaming Netflix? It’s not like you need to hide the fact you enjoy binge watching television shows on the weekend.

It boils down to the quality of your stream. Many internet service providers offer vertically integrated services. This means that your internet provider may also be your television provider and they may even have a streaming service of their own. In some cases, these providers may choose to throttle Netflix streaming in order to point users toward other streaming options or traditional cable television. When they throttle the stream, you may get buffering while streaming or be unable to stream in the highest quality resolution.

However, if you are using a VPN, your ISP can’t see what you’re doing online. They don’t know that you’re watching Netflix and, therefore, can’t selectively throttle your internet activity in order to subtly promote their own products or services.  You can use a VPN and ensure that you get the best Netflix performance possible.

A step-by-step guide to unblocking Netflix

Even for people who aren’t very tech savvy, unblocking Netflix is a fairly easy task. This step-by-step guide breaks it all down for you.

1. Choose a VPN provider

The VPN providers referenced above are all great options to consider, although it's important to note that other VPN services can also unblock Netflix. When evaluating your options, consider your budget and look for a service that is reliable, delivers fast speeds, and is an overall great value. 

2. Install VPN software

Download the VPN providers software onto your preferred device(s) and log into the service. If you're a more advanced user, you may be able to access your wi-fi router’s admin settings and enable VPN services for your entire network rather than installing VPN software on each device you plan to use.

3. Connect to a VPN server

This is the most important step for unblocking Netflix and accessing the content you want to watch. Once the VPN software is installed, you will be able to browse the available servers. Some services may only have certain servers set up to handle Netflix streaming, so you should look into this to avoid a lot of trial and error. Once a server is selected, simply click the option to connect to it. With services like Express VPN, the connection process simply requires one click.

4. Start watching Netflix

Now that you’re connected to a VPN server, it’s time to sit back and relax. Choose the video you want to watch and enjoy!  In some cases, it may be necessary to clear your browser history and cache, or possibly even restart the device to ensure Netflix recognizes the new VPN server you are connected to.

Accessing Netflix isn't impossible if you know what you're doing

Blocks put in place by Netflix, governments, and/or network owners can prevent subscribers from streaming the content they truly want to watch. A VPN service is the easiest way to circumvent these types of blocks. Plus, VPN's offer additional benefits, like the ability to secure your privacy and maintain your anonymity.

How to Identify and Remove Android Viruses

How to Identify and Remove Android Viruses

The growth of the smartphone industry has been nothing short of amazing. Just a decade ago, mobile phones – and smartphones in particular – were luxury items owned by a small group of early adopters. Today, 5 billion people around the world own smartphones and these powerful devices have become intertwined with our lives. Everything from banking to emails to online shopping can be completed on a smartphone.

The popularity and usefulness of these devices have also made them targets for hackers who want to take advantage of the opportunity to access the information we store on our smartphones. Many smartphone users are lulled into a false sense of security, often incorrectly believing that their Android device cannot get a virus in the same way a home computer or laptop could. This misconception has been driven by marketing efforts and the perceived security offered by the official app stores. But make no mistake, your Android phone is just as much a target for hackers as your computer and there are countless Android viruses that could infect your phone, compromise your privacy, and ruin your experience.

In this article, we will outline some of the most common Android viruses, how to identify them, and how to remove them so you can take back control of your own device. In addition, we will also provide some helpful tips to improve your smartphone’s security so that you can feel confident using your device in the future and avoid many of the reasons users find their device has been infected.

Are Android devices more prone to viruses?

There is a sense among many that Android devices are more prone to viruses than iOS devices. Part of this is rooted in an effective marketing campaign by Apple that advertises iOS devices like the iPhone as being more secure than their competitors. It is also true that Android viruses are more common than iOS viruses. Much of this is due simply to the market share enjoyed by Android devices worldwide. 75% of smartphones currently in use run on the Android operating system which makes targeting Android devices a much more fruitful endeavor for hackers. A viruses designed for the Android operating system has the potential to infect many more devices.

The freedom offered to Android users is also another reason it’s more common to see viruses on Android devices. Apple provides a very locked down ecosystem whereby users can only download approved apps through the official app store. If you’re an Android user, however, you have the ability to install and uninstall apps from outside the official Google Play app store which increases the chances an app may contain malicious code. It’s also important to recognize that download apps from official channels are not immune to viruses, either. There have been many examples of popular apps being hijacked by hackers to distribute code to users.

It’s definitely possible for Android users to be disproportionately affected by viruses but much of that boils down to the popularity of the app store and the freedom given to users rather than a flaw in the design of the operating system. Regardless, if you’ve been infected with a virus, your sole focus becomes identifying and removing the virus to take back control over your device.

Identifying and removing ransomware on your Android device

Ransomware is a particularly devastating form of Android malware that has become much more common in recent years. Users are left feeling helpless and hackers use that emotional response to force users into paying money. So, what does ransomware on an Android device look like and how can you manage it?

A ransomware infection may go largely undetected until a hacker chooses to launch the attack. After the malware has been installed on the device, hackers have the ability to encrypt and lock a smartphone’s data. This will display a message to you on your screen with payment instructions and render your device entirely unuseable. In many cases, you won’t even be able to power off your device or turn down the volume if the message is playing a loud tone to grab your attention. Unsurprisingly, in their panic, many people choose to pay the hackers in order to gain back access to their important information. If they don’t pay, the hackers have the ability to wipe the device and cause the loss of all data.

If you have been infected by ransomware, here are some steps you can take to resolve the problem:

  • Try performing a soft reset of your device to see if it clears the message, if only briefly. The method for doing this will vary from device to device but usually involves holding the power key along with another key like the “volume up” key for 10 seconds. Your phone should reboot after doing this. However, some hackers are able to disable this function and it may not work.
  • The next thing to try is booting your device into recovery mode. Again, this method will vary from device to device but many devices will then allow the option to boot into “safe mode.” Using safe mode, you can power on your device as normal but it will prevent apps from automatically launching. This gives you the opportunity to delete any recently downloaded apps that may have infected your device. Once done, try powering on the device normally to see if the ransomware message has disappeared.
  • If this fails, you will likely need to wipe your device and start from factory settings. This will cause the loss of all data on the phone which is why you should regularly be backing up important things like photos, contacts, and more. Booting into recovery mode should allow the option to restore data to factory settings. This cannot be undone so be sure to try all above methods before proceeding. Once the reset is complete, your device should function as normal and you will have to set it up again as if you had just purchased it from the store.

Is adware interrupting your day?

Nothing is more annoying than unwanted popup ads. If your phone has been infected with adware, then you may find constant popups on your display, even when not using an app. These ads often advertise adult content like gambling websites, pornographic websites, or dating services. Not only can they be annoying and embarrassing, they can make using your phone normally a nightmare. If you suspect you are a victim of adware then there are some steps you can take to remove the virus.

  • First, try installing a well-known Android virus scanner security app. Avast Mobile Security and Kapersky Mobile Security are both popular choices that have been trusted by countless Android users. These apps can scan your device for malicious software, identify the culprit, and help you remove the infection. If the anti-virus scanner does not find anything, however, it may be more challenging for you to identify the source of the problem.
  • Your next step is to work backwards through the Android apps you have installed. Begin uninstalling new apps to see if the problem fixes itself. When you feel you have found the offending app, you can begin installing other apps to see if the adware infection has been resolved. Take note of where you downloaded the app, the creator of the app, and file a report against the app if possible.
  • In some cases, apps are able to install malware directly onto the phone’s system storage which means deleting the malicious app will not actually remove the virus. In this case, you may need to consider a complete factory reset of the device data. This should only be done if the above steps have not worked. Luckily, unlike with ransomware viruses, adware viruses still allow some usability of your device. Use this opportunity to back up any important data before wiping the device. This can be done through the recovery mode function or the settings menu. On an Android device, you can tap on the “Settings” app, then select “General,” then tap “Reset,” and finally select the “Factory Data Reset” option.

Spyware snooping on your stuff?

One of the most difficult to identify forms of virus on an Android device is spyware. This type of malware lurks behind the scenes and steals your valuable information like passwords and messages. Since this type of malware isn’t in your face like ransomware or adware, it can be difficult to realize that your device is infected. One red flag that spyware may be present on your device is if you find that accounts like your social media profiles or email addresses are being accessed without your knowledge or consent. In some cases, these services will send an alert email if they detect an unusual login. This could be the sign you need to tip you off that something is wrong and your device needs spyware removal. If this happens to you, here’s what you need to do:

  • Like with adware, one of the first steps to take is to install a mobile virus scanner on your device. Choose a trusted name with positive online reviews. These apps can often find and remove malware from your Android device and, in many cases, this single step will solve the problem.
  • If the virus scanner fails to detect anything, you will want to begin deleting any new apps that you may have installed, especially ones that weren’t from the official app store. The challenge with this is that you may not be aware the spyware has been removed because it’s not immediately clear that it was present in the first place.
  • The sure fire method of removing spyware is to do a complete wipe of your device. Before doing this, you will want to backup any important information that you don’t want to lose. Then, to wipe the device and reset it back to factory settings  you can tap on the “Settings” app, then select “General,” then tap “Reset,” and finally select the “Factory Data Reset” option.

Where did all of these apps come from?

If you’re scrolling through the app drawer on your device and you notice a few suspicious apps that you don’t remember installing, then your Android device may have a virus. Some malicious apps have the ability to download and install other apps without a user’s knowledge. It isn’t until you see these apps that you will realize something is wrong. Worst of all, fixing this isn’t as simple as just deleting the unwanted apps. There are a few steps you’ll need to take for virus removal to ensure your device is safe and secure.

  • As with many other Android viruses, one of the best and most simple solutions is to install a trusted Android antivirus app. Once this had identified the offending app, you may still need to delete the other unwanted apps as they may not be marked as malicious.
  • The next step to try if the virus scanner doesn’t identify an issue is to begin deleting new apps and working backwards. Anything suspicious or apps that have been sideloaded (installed from somewhere other than the official app store) should be deleted as well. Once the problem is resolved, you can test other apps by installing them again to see if they were the culprit or not.
  • Your last resort option is to wipe your entire device. Hopefully this is not necessary after removing the app that is allowing new apps to be installed without permission. However, if the problem persists then it indicates that the virus has installed itself into the system files. Failing detection by a virus scanning app means that a factory data reset is the only option. Open the “Settings” app, tap “General,” select “Reset,” and then confirm you would like to complete a factory data reset.

Prevention is the best protection

Finding a virus on your Android device can be alarming and make your privacy feel violated. Luckily, there are some best practices that you can follow to help ensure your device remains free of viruses and, hopefully, you will never need to perform the above steps ever again.

First, avoid installing apps from untrusted or unknown sources. While it’s not completely foolproof, the Play Store does an effective job of screening apps for malicious code and removing those that may introduce malicious code even after they have been initially approved. When you go outside the secure garden of the Play Store to install an app, you are taking a risk. There is no opportunity for Google to verify the quality or security of the app.

You may also wish to download a virus scanner onto your device. This is the first step we recommend for removing a virus but it can also be one of the best ways to prevent a virus from being installed in the first place. Be sure to read reviews and choose a trusted virus scanner that offers regular updates to identify new forms of malware being developed to target Android users.

Finally, never click on links or download files that you’re not sure of. If an email comes with a suspicious link, avoid it. If a file is sent from an unknown sender or if it has a strange file type extension, don’t download it. When in doubt, reach out to the person or company sending the link or file to confirm that it’s legitimate.

These small steps can help protect your Android device from viruses and save you a lot of time, headache, and stress.

How to Delete Your Google History in 2019

How to Delete Your Google History

If you are one of the people who participates in over 3.5 billion Google searches per day,then you likely rely on the popular search engine to answer a wide range of questions. With the growth of things like personal assistant devices and voice search, it’s incredibly easy to get an answer to almost any question that may enter your mind.

What happens after you have processed a search, though? Does it simply disappear into the ether, never to be seen or heard from again? It may come as a shock to many that Google search history can linger on your devices and profiles long after you have received your answer. With privacy concerns becoming top-of-mind for internet users around the world, Google search history has become a popular topic of discussion. This is especially true if you have ever searched sensitive, personal questions like medical or financial topics.

While others can’t easily see what topics you have searched in the past, if you are using a shared device then this search history is readily available for anyone to see. That can be an alarming wake up call. Luckily, there are several methods to purge your Google search history and keep your searches between you and Google.

This article will break down some of the methods you can use across various devices and browsers to clear out your Google search history and take back control of your own privacy. The good news is that these methods are very easy to follow and, with our step-by-step guide, you can delete your Google history in just a few minutes.

Clearing browser history

One of the first steps most people think of when trying to delete their Google history is to delete their browser history. This is a good first step to take but it won’t fully take care of the job if you were hoping to make your Google search history appear empty to others who may be using your device. After you have cleared your browser history, you will want to follow some of the steps further below in this article to make sure you have done a complete cleaning of your Google search history.

One of the most popular browsers is the Google Chrome browser. Here is how you can clear your browser history if you are using Chrome:

  • Near the top right of the browser window, click the three vertical dots to open a selection menu
  • Click on “Settings” to bring up some more advanced options
  • At the bottom, there is a drop down arrow called “Advanced Settings.” Clicking this will offer more options.
  • At the bottom of the “Privacy and Security” menu, there is an option called “Clear Browsing Data”
  • The window that pops up will provide several options. You can choose to clear browsing data from when you began using the browser or select a custom period of time. You can also check off which types of data you would like to be cleared. Clearing cached files will log you out of any accounts where you have asked to remain logged in so please ensure you have all logins saved in a secure password keeper before moving ahead or uncheck this option.
  • Once you are ready, click the “Clear Data” button

If you’re on an Apple device, you probably use the default browser created by Apple called Safari. Here are the details to manage your browser history with Safari:

  • At the top of your browser window there is a “History” option to click on
  • A selection window will pop up and, at the bottom, there is an option to “Clear History”
  • Another window will appear that allows you to select dates, specific browser data, and more
  • Click “Clear History” to confirm your selections. The popup window will also give you the option to delete top sites.

For Firefox users, these are the steps you will want to follow to clear your browser history:

  • Click on the “Library” button that looks like four books stacked against each other
  • Select “History” and then “Clear Recent History”
  • The popup that appears will allow you to set a date range from when you want to clear browser history and you can also select specific types of data you would like to keep or delete
  • When ready, click on the “Clear Now” button

It’s important to keep in mind that this simply deletes the local browser history which may include some searches entered directly in the address or search bar of the browser. However, this is not a clean sweep of Google search history and you will have to take a few more steps to complete the job if you want to truly secure your privacy.

Also, some browsers provide options to automatically clear history at set intervals. If you want to save yourself from regularly performing the above steps, you may wish to take a few minutes to configure your settings to automatically delete browser history as you see fit.

Deleting Google search history and data

Now that you have cleared out your browser history, you have done half of the work required to secure your privacy. The next step is removing your activity from Google. While this information isn’t readily available for anyone to access, people that share devices with you or have access to your Google account will be able to find this information rather easily. The great news is that clearing out this activity history is just as easy.

If you are using a browser, here are the steps to follow:

  • Type this into your browser: https://myaccount.google.com
  • If you are using Chrome, you can also get to this page by using the three dot menu button at the top right of the browser window, selecting “Settings,” and then selecting, “Manage your Google Account”
  • Select “Data and Personalization”
  • Under the “Activity and Timeline” menu you will see a selection called “My Activity” that you can click on
  • There will be a “More” option at the top right which is shown by the three dots
  • Now click “Delete Activity By” and you will see options where you can set a date range to delete your search activity
  • When you have your settings configured the way you want, click on “Delete” to confirm

If you’re on an Android device, you can also delete your Google account activity right from your smartphone or tablet with these steps:

  • Open the “Settings” app on your device
  • Select “Google” and then in the following menu select “Google Account”
  • Now select “Data and Personalization”
  • There will be another window that shows you the option “My Activity” which you can select now
  • At the top right, you will see three dots that offer more options and selecting this will show the option “Delete Activity By”
  • From here, you can set specific date ranges to delete your activity and confirm your choices by selecting “Delete”

If you’re on an iOS device like an iPhone or iPad, Google also allows you to manage your search history with these steps:

  • In your browser, go to: https://myaccount.google.com– Gmail users can also access this option by opening the Gmail app, tapping on the menu icon, selecting “Settings,” then “Your Account,” and then selecting “Manage your Google Account”
  • Now you will want to tap on “Data & Personalization”
  • From here you will see the “My Activity” option
  • Three dots will appear at the top right which you can tap on to reveal more options and then select “Delete Activity By”
  • Using this window, you can set date ranges to delete your Google search history and confirm your choice by tapping on “Delete”

If your Google account syncs across multiple devices, you will only need to perform the above steps on one device. As your data is synced with your account, this process only needs to be performed once. There is no need to do it on every single device you own unless each device is connected to a different Google account.

Protecting your privacy moving forward

Now that you have successfully deleted your browser history and Google search data, you’re probably wondering how you can streamline this process in the future and ensure that your data isn’t being seen by the wrong people. There are a few things you can do to protect your privacy and Google search history in the future.

First, if you want to automate the processes outlined above, Google provides options to do so. When you get to the “Manage Activity” tab in the steps for deleting your Google activity history, you can tap on the three dots to reveal advanced options and you will see “Keep Activity For.” This option allows you to set regular intervals where your activity will be cleared out. For example, you could have Google automatically delete your activity once per week if you feel that suits your needs.

If you would prefer that Google didn’t store your activity at all then there is also an option to have them stop altogether. Under the “Data and Personalization” option in the steps outlined above, you will see an option called “Activity Controls.” Within that menu there is another option titled “Manage your activity controls.” By selecting this, you can determine which types of activity you would like Google to save to your account. Turning off various options means that the data you have opted out of will no longer be stored on your Google account.

Using a VPN is also another effective way to secure your privacy when doing Google searches. Because a VPN encrypts your data between your device and the remote VPN server, no one who may be monitoring your web traffic can see what kind of information you’re sending including Google searches. This is especially important for those who tend to log into public wi-fi networks like those found at airports or coffee shops. Hackers with a little bit of know-how can easily monitor these open wi-fi networks for unencrypted data being sent over the network. Using a VPN makes this data impossible for hackers to analyze and, in turn, keeps all of your data secure. This include Google searches, banking information, online shopping history, emails, private messages, and more.

To keep hackers out of your Google account, you may also wish to enable 2-factor authentication. This is an extra step used for logging into your Google account that requires a code to be entered after logging in before any information is available for viewing. The code can be texted to your mobile device or generated using an authenticator app like Google Authenticator. Even if a hacker were to steal your password and username, they would be unable to access your information without the generated code that is delivered to your mobile device.

Sharing devices can also compromise your security. In many cases, for someone to access your search history, they would have to have access to your password. The exception to that rule is when you share devices where you may be logged in with your Google account. A family computer or shared tablet is a good example of this scenario. If you’re concerned about someone accessing your data on shared device then you may wish to create a separate Google account for the device or, if possible, use different devices entirely.

Finally, if you’re very concerned about the amount of data that Google is collecting about you then you could opt to stop using Google services altogether. This is far easier said than done due to the amount of reach that Google has online and with products like Android smartphones. DuckDuckGo is an alternative search engine that markets itself as the privacy-friendly competition to Google. They give users greater control over their own information and their website claims that, “getting the privacy you deserve should be as simple as closing the blinds.” Their search engine offers private searching and a number of privacy tips to help you take complete control over your data in our connected, digital world.

Understanding SSL and Its Importance in 2019

Understanding SSL and Its Importance in 2019

An introduction to SSL and why your website should use this important security feature

Website security has become a hot topic for businesses and consumers alike in recent years. High profile breaches and sensitive information data losses have caused PR nightmares for big names like Equifax, and the damage to their trustworthiness in the eyes of the general public will take years to repair, if ever. It goes without saying that avoiding these types of breaches and security issues is incredibly important if you have a website, especially one that collects customer data, processes online transactions, accepts payments, and shares private messages.

SSL, short for Secure Sockets Layer, is the standard for website security today. Most people interact with websites using an SSL connection on a daily basis and don’t even know it. The simple, tried, tested, and true solution is easy for website owners to implement, and doesn’t change or alter the end user experience.

Of course, while SSL may be simple to use, the technology behind it is anything but. It’s important for you to understand the features, benefits, and potential drawbacks of implementing SSL on your web server before you proceed with the process. This article will help you gain a basic understanding of SSL, as well as why you need to it include it as part of your website’s security technology, and how to move forward with implementation.

What is SSL?

Chances are, if you have done any browsing online today, you have used a website with SSL and you may not even have realized it. The simplest way to tell if a website is using SSL is to look at the address bar. Every website address begins with either “http://” or “https://” and, as you may have been able to guess, that little “s” indicates that the website is using SSL. There is no need for someone visiting the website to do anything to initiate SSL – it just happens.

But what does that little “s” in the address bar actually mean?

Simply put, it means that the data that you are submitting and sharing with the website you are visiting is encrypted and secure. That’s a very important distinction, especially if you are sharing sensitive information like you would on your bank’s website or while purchasing an item through an online store.

When data is encrypted through an SSL protocol, it means that only you and the website owner can read the information. Hackers that are monitoring open wi-fi networks, for example, will not be able to see if you’re submitting a password, credit card number, or private message. In other words, that little “s” near the beginning of a website’s address is a big deal if you’re at all concerned about your privacy online. If you’re operating your own website or multiple domains, people will feel more confident when it comes to sharing information with you if you use SSL. If you don’t use SSL, people may look elsewhere since they won’t feel as though their visit is a secure session.  

2 other ways you can tell if a website is secure are if there’s a green address bar and/or a padlock icon.  And newer versions of popular web browsers like Google Chrome now tell people when a domain name isn’t secure. In fact, a warning message pops up that specifically states that the site they are about to visit is not secure. In order to proceed, people must confirm that they understand they are visiting an unsecure website and wish to proceed anyway. Even if someone has no idea what SSL is and what it does, that warning message can be enough to scare them away and potentially prevent them from ever returning. For you as a website owner, that means lost clicks, lost revenue, and potentially even a damaged reputation.

There are three different types of SSL certificates that you can get depending on your needs and the size of your business. Domain Validation is the first, and most common, type for small businesses. Essentially, this type of certificate just verifies that the website owner is the actual owner on record according to WHOIS information. The simplicity of this certificate may not be enough for high-volume websites but could be the perfect solution for blogs or smaller e-commerce stores. It’s also very easy to obtain this type of certificate, and may even be included in your web hosting plan.

Organization Validated SSL is the second type of certificate available. This certificate goes beyond a basic check of searching WHOIS databases and extends to government databases. What this ultimately does is provide greater assurances to customers and visitors that you are, in fact, the owner of the website and that has been verified with available records. People visiting your website will also be able to hover over the Trust logo site seal and see more information about your organization that they can verify with the information they already have. For security-conscious visitors, this may be the level of SSL required if they plan to do business with you.

Finally, there is EV SSL. This certificate takes longer to obtain and costs more money but offers visitors a very clear indication that the website is safe and secure. The green address bar is the main indicator that a site is using EV SSL and this is typically what you would find on the website of a major corporation or government agency. Verification is done to ensure the business exists physically, and documentation about the business must be provided. For most small to medium sized businesses, this might be an unnecessary level of security and cost but it is good to be aware of all SSL options available.

Why is SSL needed on your website?

Now that you understand what SSL does, it’s important to understand why it’s needed. At its most basic level, SSL is necessary to prevent hackers from monitoring the information your visitors send you, as well as the information you send back to your website’s visitors. Without SSL, customer credit card information could be stolen, passwords could be compromised, and personal information could be leaked.

While this would not directly be your fault, who do you think the average user will blame if their credit card is compromised after shopping on your website?

SSL is about more than just security for website owners, though. While its basic function is to encrypt data and provide that confidence to people visiting the website, it can also have a huge impact on your search engine results. Since search engines like Google have identified SSL as an important feature for websites to have, they put a significant emphasis on promoting websites with SSL in their search results. After all, Google wants to be a trusted search engine much like you want to have a trusted website.

The algorithms that search engines use are based on proprietary information that is not available to the public. We do know, however, that websites using SSL are more likely to appear near the top of Google’s search results. This means that by simply introducing a basic security feature, you could also improve your search engine rankings. And the importance of ranking highly on search engines can’t be understated. In fact, as many as 92% of search engine users click on results they see on the first page.

This is especially important if you’re trying to build a popular website that ranks highly on Google. Many website owners put a tremendous amount of effort into using the right keywords, building effective content, and designing eye-catching modern websites in hopes of organically ranking in one of the coveted top 3 spots on Google. Unfortunately, all of that hard work, time, and money will be a complete waste if your website security is not up to Google’s standards. In this context, that means integrating SSL into your website.

Is SSL available for phones as well?

One of the most common questions about SSL is how it integrates with mobile devices. After all, about half of all web traffic comes from mobile devices. If your website doesn’t consider these potential visitors, then you could potentially alienate an awful lot of people.

The good news is that SSL certificate are valid for both desktop and mobile devices. By integrating SSL into your website, you are ensuring that both desktop and mobile users enjoy an industry standard of Internet security while browsing.

Some web hosting providers have had challenges in the past with SSL certificates not working properly on mobile devices. In situations like this, visitors see a message that says the website is not secure. Thankfully, this can usually be fixed quickly simply by contacting your hosting provider. Most reputable providers have already stepped up to address this challenge so that it’s not longer an issue.  If you want to be sure that your SSL certificate is working on mobile, you can quickly and easily perform an SSL check using any number of free services available online.

How to get an SSL certificate

There are several ways to get an SSL certificate based on your unique needs. One of the easiest ways to do this is to ensure that your web hosting provider includes SSL as a feature. This is one of the most common ways for small businesses and e-commerce stores to acquire and activate an SSL certificate. If your web host does not provide SSL certificates as part of your baseline hosting package or as an add-on, you can easily purchase one through an outside 3rd party.  Cloudflare and DigiCert are two of the most popular and reliable digital certificate providers.

If you are considering a third-party SSL certificate provider then you may want to do some research to see the various price levels available, the reviews for the companies in the market, the level of support offered including managed or self-installation, supported browsers including mobile browsers, whether a site seal is offered to display to visitors, and more.

There are free SSL certificates available and these may meet your needs but there are some notable downsides to choosing a free option over a paid service. For example, free certificates usually only offer Domain Validated SSL rather than the higher tier options. In addition, these free certificates will have to manually be installed and implemented which may require more technical know-how than some website owners have. Plus, support tends to be lacking as the free SSL certificate providers leave much of the work up to the user.

If you’re looking for an Organization Validated SSL certificate or an EV SSL certificate then you will likely have to opt for a paid service and, in that case, you should consider all other included features like support, and the level of security provided if you are planning on putting down your hard-earned money. If you need to cover more than just one domain name, that should also be a consideration as you compare the various options on the market as some certificates may only be valid for a single domain and a multi-domain certificate may be more costly up-front but end up saving money in the long run.

How to integrate SSL into your website

Now that you understand the importance of SSL, you need to actually integrate it into your website.  The good news is that the process is simple and, in many cases, you may not have to do much at all.

First, you’ll need to have a dedicated IP address for hosting your website. This is usually a nominal extra cost on top of your basic website hosting plan, and higher tier plans often include this as a standard feature. If you are unsure, reach out to your webhost’s customer service department to clarify if this feature is included in the plan you already have, or are thinking about purchasing.

Next, you’ll need to purchase an SSL certificate, and depending on the certificate type, submit all the required information to the Certificate Authority. Be sure to reference all of the guidelines outlined above as you’re evaluating your options. 

Once the certificate is purchased, you’ll need to activate it. Typically, if you have purchased an SSL certificate through your hosting provider, then the activation process will automatically be done for you. You’ll want to check with customer service to confirm this, however.  If this isn’t a standard service that’s offered, you can usually activate your certificate through the advanced security settings tab in the administration panel of your hosting provider.

Installing the certificate is the final step. If your hosting provider did go ahead and automatically activate your certificate, then this step is likely already completed for you as well. If not, the installation can be done through the administration panel for your website as well. It’s important to note that this step cannot be completed until the certificate has been activated.

While that may seem like a lot of work, the reality is that many hosting providers do a lot of the legwork for you when you purchase a hosting plan from them. In fact, in most cases, all you will have to do is ensure that SSL is a part of the plan you are purchasing, and then sit back and enjoy improved website security.

WordPress plugins for SSL

If you are like the millions of website owners that use WordPress, you may be wondering if there are any helpful plugins that can make enabling and integrating SSL into your website quick and easy. And the good news is that there are several plugins you can use that’ll make your WordPress website more secure.

Really Simple SSL is a plugin that eliminates the most common challenges associated with SSL implementation. With just one click, you can enable SSL on your website and and take advantage of basic settings that make it easy to manage the certificate itself, as well as your sites security. A Pro version of the plugin is also available, which provides additional features and options for advanced users that need more control over their website security.

Easy HTTPS Redirection is another WordPress plugin that simplifies the process of SSL integration and configuration. Since many of your website’s pages may not need SSL, this plugin allows you to pick and choose the pages that do, and quickly enable SSL on them as needed. Examples of pages where you would want SSL protection would include login pages, webstore checkout pages, and contact pages.

WP Force SSL also makes adding SSL a breeze. With a few clicks, you can have your website’s pages redirect to a secure connection. It’s important to note, however, that this plugin does lack many advanced options, and may not be the ideal choice if you’re looking for a lot of control, as well as customizability options.

SSL Insecure Content Fixer doesn’t actually provide an SSL, but makes important fixes and quality of life improvements to ensure that the experience users have on your website is not negatively affected by SSL encryption. It’s a great addition to your arsenal since it works seamlessly in tandem with other SSL plugins.

Better security, better search results, better customer experiences

SSL is an essential tool for website owners. The experience provided to your visitors is directly affected by whether or not you have enabled SSL. Plus, with search engines placing a greater emphasis on SSL, the success of your online marketing efforts may be directly linked to whether or not you have SSL.

As security concerns become more top of mind for the average Internet user, basic features like SSL implementation are quickly becoming the industry norm. Your client experience and your reputation as a business will soon be dependent on addressing security concerns and providing a secure, encrypted browsing experience from start to finish.