Laptops, USBs and (&%739(+Z?

Protect your Laptop – Encrypt your Laptop - Don’t Pick Up that USB

Square #4

This square is all about protecting your personal laptop and encryption.

Here you can learn about what encryption is and why it’s important.

Encryption is the process of encoding information. It converts the original form of the information, known as plaintext, into an alternative form known as ciphertext. When the information is encrypted, a key is randomly generated. The encryption key can be used to decrypt the information. Wikipedia article on Encryption.

Encrypting your laptop is like locking all the files on your computer in a language that only you know. You can log in and use the laptop normally and not see a difference, but whenever you’re not logged in, the files are completely unreadable to anyone.

If someone gains access to your computer, setting a log in password on your laptop is a great first step! This will stop many people from gaining access to your machine when they turn the laptop on and are stymied by the “Please enter your password to log in” prompt. However, a password only stops someone from logging in to your laptop. For the more technically savvy, a password won’t stop the person from copying all your files and information onto their own computer. Analogy: Imagine that your personal laptop is like a filing cabinet. Setting a login password is the same as locking the filing cabinet with a key, but a locked filing cabinet isn’t going to stop someone determined from simply sawing the cabinet open to bypass the lock.

This is where encryption comes in. It’s a step above and beyond simply password protecting your laptop – it’s making all the information inside the computer completely unreadable. To go back to the filing cabinet, imagine that all the files are in an imaginary language unless you have unlocked the cabinet with the key. If someone saws the cabinet open, the files will still be unreadable.

Encryption also protects information if your laptop breaks – even if no one can log in, the information is still there. Even though you cannot delete all its sensitive files, at least they are safely encrypted.

Encryption at rest is encrypting data that is stored on a laptop, tablet, external hard drive or usb.

Encryption in transit means encrypting information when it is moving from one computer to another, or from one network to another.

Both are important to protecting the information from being viewed and used by persons who shouldn’t have access to your information.

When you encrypt your laptop, you are using special software to encrypt your information that is stored on the hard drive. When you log in to your encrypted laptop, the software uses the encryption key to unlock your information so you can view your documents and other stored information. When you log off, the documents and other information on the hard drive become encrypted again.

Tips on how to protect your laptop:

Want to Learn More about using Encryption and Protecting your Laptop?

  • Interested in learning about sending encrypted email? See Using Email Securely – Square 10.
  • See Keep your Computer Running at its Best – Square 16