THE BLOG
12/28/2012 04:10 pm ET Updated Feb 27, 2013

CryptoParties: Digital Self Defense Classes

Crypto is short for encryption. Encryption is digital security. You may have antivirus and internet security suites installed, but that's not enough to be secure these days. In addition to those programs, you need to follow the four steps listed in this guide to encrypt your digital information.

These steps are a good start toward your online security. But what do you do if you're uncomfortable installing software? You may be lucky enough to know someone computer savvy who can set this up for you. If you don't know anyone, there's another option to learn about digital security: Attend a Cryptoparty.

Cryptoparties are meetings held in communities worldwide throughout the year. Anyone who is tech savvy can sign up to host a Cryptoparty at their website. Hosts are encouraged to provide a casual atmosphere (entertainment, refreshments, finger foods, or whatever you want) and invite members of their community to learn digital self-defense. As a non-techie, just bring your computer or wifi device with you, and you'll receive help in a caring and friendly environment. You'll learn from experts how to protect your bank accounts, credit cards, cell phone, email, and more.

Digital security is more important than ever as our dependence on computers evolves. While you may not be a technically inclined person, you exist in the internet. The IRS tracks you electronically. So does the DMV, your hospital, dentist, grocery store, retail store, school, the kid down the street with a crush on you, and just about everyone else. Using a computer, smartphone, or tablet without ensuring your digital security is like wearing a hospital gown. Your passwords, antivirus, and internet security software cover you up front, but everyone can see your business in the back.

Go to the CryptoParty website to find one near you. If you can't find one, request one by contacting @CryptoParty on Twitter.

Brian Penny is a former business analyst at Bank of America turned whistleblower who spent the last two years helping regulators and attorneys uncover the largest bank and insurance fraud in history. He documents his experiences working with Anonymous and fighting the banks on his blog. He's currently in the Tampa Bay area preparing to live in a van and training to be a yogi under Ally Ford.