I had an interesting conversation last week with a potential new client regarding encryption. He works away a lot and was wondering if there was anything that could be done to protect his data should he lose his laptop. The answer was a big resounding YES. The yes is encryption.
To put it simply encryption scrambles the data on the hard drive making it unreadable. To read it you need the decryption key (password) which when entered allows a user to see everything. At the moment most types of encryption are unbreakable so as long as you choose the right type you should be fine.
Sounds good but there are some drawbacks which you should know about.
1. Lose the decryption key (password) and you lose access to your data.
2. If you don’t do backups and your hard drive fails you will lose all your data. I would never recommend encryption to a client if I wasn’t confident about their backup strategy.
3. There will be a slight loss in performance as everytime you enter your password the hard drive gets decrypted.
So which ones are best?
On a Windows system you are spoilt for choice. On a Windows 7 system I would personally go with TrueCrypt as I have use this in the past and found it to be a fantastic piece of software. On a Windows 8 system I would upgrade to Windows 8.1 and then use the inbuilt encryption software. If you buy a Windows 8.1 system and log in with a Microsoft account then encryption is turned on by default so just make sure you do backups!!
On Mac OSX use FileVault2 which following the Apple way of doing things “just works” and on Linux I would again go with TrueCrypt (unless someone has any better suggestions?).
So the question remains should you use it?
If you are a mobile worker who is away from the office quite a bit then definitely yes. Encryption will give you that added protection and piece of mind should your laptop go “walkies”. Just remember to do backups and don’t forget your password.
If you work all day, every day from a desk in an office then encryption is probably not for you.
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