Grundig IT Newsletter
Computing News That You Can Use – January 2022
File Encryption and BitLocker
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The biggest word in IT currently is ‘Security’. If you follow the tech world, you’re hearing a lot of variations on that theme: Malware, ransomware, spyware, firewall, antivirus, procedure, backup, etc. All of it comes down to protecting your data from those who would misuse it. Let’s focus on a particular aspect of this: Data encryption.
While anyone can use data encryption, it is recommended and / or required for some or all workstations in the following types of businesses: Medical, Dental and Financial – anyone in particular industries who works with sensitive client data or information that might be on their workstations or network. But it can benefit anyone and is particularly important for anyone who travels with a laptop. Without any encryption, if someone steals your laptop and opens it up, they can plug your drives into another device and access them easily.
While we focus here on ways to encrypt your data, don’t forget that it’s always a good idea to have a backup in case it does get stolen or deleted or a drive dies. The encryption won’t stop someone from stealing your data, just from accessing it after they do. If you have any concerns about whether you should be using data encryption or feel the need for assistance with it, you can always contact us. We’ll be glad to help or offer advice.
Data encryption is a method to protect your files from being read if someone has access to the storage media or obtains access to the files somehow. Office applications often can put password locks on files, and programs like WinZip and other archive software can add password locks to zipped files. This is the most basic level of protection. But the data is not encrypted.
Full disk encryption is what is often referred to as ‘transparent encryption’. The disk is encrypted, but you never have to deal with the encryption at all once you set it up. BitLocker is the encryption software offered by Microsoft and is available on every Pro version of Windows (so, not Windows Home). This encryption is so ‘transparent’ that it may already be activated and you don’t even know it yet! Encryption is applied automatically to files when you are logged in to your account on the computer.
Despite full disk encryption being automatic, it won’t stop someone from sitting at your computer, logging into your account and looking at your files if they gain access to your account. You still need to make sure you don’t leave your computer unattended and unlocked. Full disk encryption is particularly important for people who are using laptop computers and external disks.
As part of setting up BitLocker, it will ask you how to save your recovery key. This is a very important part of any BitLocker setup – if your computer gets damaged or you need to recover the data for any reason, you need the recovery key. It can be saved to an external drive (BitLocker refuses to let you save the key onto the disk getting encrypted, thankfully!), or it can be printed out for storage offline, or the key can even be saved to your Microsoft Account. All of these have advantages, and I actually suggest you use more than one method if you can. Save electronically and store the printout somewhere safe, and make sure you know where that is.
We recommend at least talking to us or to your IT provider prior to considering encrypting your system, even if it will be something that you plan on doing yourself. This would make it more likely that the proper procedure is followed, regardless of who ends up doing it.