Do Home Users need to Encrypt?

With an escalation in cyber-attacks and personal digital data theft in recent years, many home users are wondering whether they need to encrypt their data.

While passwords stop unauthorised access to our accounts, encryption prevents unauthorised access to your data by keeping it secure between the parties involved. Data stored on a hard drive or solid-state drive can be encrypted, but so can things like emails and WhatsApp messages. Encryption entails scrambling the original information and rendering it into an unreadable format for anyone attempting to access it. Only those with the decryption key can “unscramble” the data and render it readable again.

Even if we don’t realise it, most of us use encryption. If we take WhatsApp as an example, this service uses something called end-to-end encryption. Every message sent and received has its own unique decryption key that only the sender and receiver can access. For everyone else, these messages are gibberish. Back in 2017, Home Secretary Amber Rudd famously tried to outlaw end-to-end encryption, arguing it plays into the hands of terrorists.

If you’re a business, you should absolutely encrypt your data – that goes without saying. It’s likely that you’ll have some sort of private or confidential information stored on your servers, and if it gets into the wrong hands, you’re in big trouble. But what about the humble home user, who perhaps just uses their PC or Mac for light, personal use? The short answer is – it depends.

What type of data is being stored on your machine? In this digital age, it is not uncommon to store scans of important documents like bank statements, wage slips, scans of passports, and so on. Would you really want these in the hands of an unauthorised hacker? Another aspect seldom remembered is that, while we may be out of the thick of the Covid-19 pandemic, many of us are choosing to work from home permanently, or in a hybrid manner. While you’re likely to be using a company computer or laptop which – we would hope – is encrypted, if you have to use your personal PC or Mac for whatever reason, this could open you up to a whole host of issues.

Overall, unless you’re not storing anything remotely personal on your computer or laptop, we’d recommend home users always encrypt their data. Windows 10 Pro, Enterprise and Education versions come free with BitLocker, perhaps the best-known encryption tool, pre-installed. For Mac users, FileVault comes as standard.

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