How To Encrypt Your Hard Drive

Encryption is a difficult concept to grasp, but it's a crucial part of protecting your business's sensitive data. Essentially, encryption is the process of scrambling text to render it unreadable to unauthorised users. You can encrypt anything from individual files, folders, volumes or whole disk, as well as external media like USB flash drives and cloud-based storage.

So who needs to encrypt their data and why is it important to do so? The purpose of encryption is to protect data stored on a computer or network storage system. As a general rule of thumb, all organisations, whatever size, that keep confidential information, need to encrypt their data. This information can range from names, birth dates and national insurance numbers, to banking and other financial details.

But how can the data be accessed? If a desktop or laptop hard drive is lost or stolen and the files or disk isn't encrypted, anyone can easily access the information, even without the login details - it's easy to remove a hard disk drive from a computer or laptop and undertake hard drive data recovery.

There are three levels of encryption – individual file and folder encryption, volume encryption, and whole-disk encryption. Individual file and folder encryption does what it says on the tin, only encrypting items you tell it to. This is sufficient if very few sensitive files are stored on your hard drive. Volume encryption is the next step up, and this involves creating a container, with any files within it fully encrypted. The most complete form of encryption is whole-disk encryption, also known as full-disk encryption. This doesn’t require the user to store files or folders in a particular place – it simply encrypts everything. With whole-disk encryption, every time you power on your computer, you need to provide an encryption passcode, or have your computer read an encryption key, normally from a USB flash drive.

Windows and Mac systems have encryption abilities built in, and these are strong and efficient. Microsoft BitLocker is included with Windows 7 Enterprise and Ultimate Editions, and the Pro and Enterprise Editions of Windows 8 and 10. BitLocker can be enabled bu opening File Explorer, right-clicking on the C Drive, and clicking the ‘turn on BitLocker’ option if it’s available. Upon enabling BitLocker, Microsoft will prompt you to save a copy of the recovery key. You need to keep this safe, preferably by printing it off and keeping it in a safe place. If you forget it, you won’t be able to unlock your disk to access you files. Apple FileVault provides a similar service for Mac OSX users, and allows you to store the recovery key in your iCloud account. 

hard drive data recovery