The first thing you should know about is a process called encryption. The surface definition is “the translation of data into a secret code. Encryption is the most effective way to achieve data security. To read an encrypted file, you must have access to a secret key or password that enables you to decrypt it.” It’s certainly much more complicated than that, but that’s the outline of what happens between my computer (or phone) and yours.
The site you’re reading this on now is encrypted and uses a security certificate (the same way Amazon or any site you’d give sensitive information to ought to be) to ensure that any information passed between the site and your computer (in either direction) is encrypted and unreadable by any third party who might try to pry. You can always check to see if you’re on a secure site by looking for the green padlock symbol in the browser window.
In addition, this site is hosted by a company in Switzerland that is extremely reputable for their security and defense of the rights of individuals to maintain their personal privacy. That’s important to me, perhaps more than to you.
Most email is reasonably secure and only someone with the password would be able to access the messages in an average account. But encrypted email ensures that even someone with the password would also need the encryption key to be able to decipher any of the messages. My email is powered by a service called ProtonMail, which is also a Swiss company that deals only in super-secure email hosting. You can read about how their service works here.
I work only on an encrypted laptop and I do not save communications to my hard drive. If someone were to obtain that laptop, aside from being unable to access or read any of the files, they would only be in possession of the programs and graphic files I used to build this site. There’s no backlog of emails, or a “little black book” of contacts that might one day spill out into the world, should my computer be compromised.
I have a private, unshared internet connection at home, and any work I do on this site, or any communications I have via my laptop or my phone, occur over a VPN, or a “virtual private network.” Meaning that even if someone were trying to track what I do and say online, they would be unable to do so without being physically next to me and reading over my shoulder (I live alone, so you’re safe – I promise). This video explains how VPNs work, without all the technical jargon. Suffice it to say, I try to leave as few fingerprints as possible wherever I go.
I use an encrypted android phone that can be turned off remotely or permanently bricked if necessary. If it is ever out of my possession, I can still track it, shut it down, or stop it from ever working again. This phone operates over the same VPN as my computer, regardless of where I am in the world.
I don’t save any contacts or names on this device, so you’ll forgive me if sometimes I need to ask who you are, even if we’ve interacted before. My brain can remember a lot of numbers, but not always right away.
The phone number that I give out is a google voice number that is associated with my google account. I use the google voice app to monitor incoming calls, voicemails, and text messages. I am careful about what I do and say over text, because while SMS (or text messaging) is reasonably secure, it isn’t foolproof.
I like the Telegram app a lot and it functions exactly the same way as most text message or chats that people are accustomed to. There’s no new interface to learn or new features to sign up for. The key difference is that Telegram offers a function called “secret chat” that is encrypted on both sides (my phone and yours – not able to be intercepted by any third parties) and does not store messages on any server or computer in the middle. Additionally, messages can be set to self destruct, leaving no trace of the sender or what was said. It’s a safer way to talk details, and share intimate information or photos.
You can download Telegram for Apple or Android for free.