Wait, what, why…?
A Hard Drive Disk (HDD) or Solid-State Drive (SSD) is the central data storage for in all sorts of computers i.e., personal devices, work desktops, laptops, servers, etc. HDD uses disk platters, disk heads, and a physical motor to spin the drive. In contrast, SSDs are less mechanical and use microchips instead. There are no moveable parts in the SSD. The speed in which data can be written or read makes SSDs the device of choice in a computer. In recent years, the reduction in SSD price has help the adoption of this technology.
Due to portability and size, laptops and tablets provide the convenience of working from anywhere and at anytime. With popularity of work-from-home (WFM) and hybrid working model in some organisations during the COVID-19 pandemic, usage of laptop increased dramatically. Of course, the drawback is that a laptop can be lost or stolen in the process of your daily commute to and from work, leaving your personal and organisation’s intellectual property out in the open and at risk.
One could argue that laptops could be protected with a password. However, bypassing and removing a local account password is an easy task for a tech-savvy person. Furthermore, after successful login, one can access the data on the laptop easily once they gain access to it. One of the secure ways to prevent this is by encrypting your laptop’s hard drive.
What is a Hard Disk Encryption?
Encryption technology changes your data to unreadable format that cannot be deciphered easily by anyone else. This prevents unauthorized access to your data. How much does this cost? You are in luck; you don’t need to purchase extra software to encrypt your data. Windows 7, 8.1, 10, and the latest version of Windows (Windows 11) support and include this feature. It is called BitLocker. BitLocker is a Microsoft’s strong encryption program that protects your hard drive by encrypting the entire content with Advanced Encryption Standard (AES) algorithm. It uses the hardware based Trusted Platform Module (TMP) and Unified Extendible Firmware Interface (UEFI) to securely protect your data. Data is automatically decrypted when you login to your computer. Data on a lost or stolen computer is protected from unauthorized access even after if the hard drive is transferred to another computer or a software-attack tool is used to access the data. Of course, BitLocker does not prevent against phishing attacks (see the protect your email article) since you are already logged in.
Like Windows, MacOS also offers disk encryption to protect your data. It is called FileVault. It provides 128bit AES encryption. This helps to prevent unauthorized access to your Mac, requiring the password on start before the computer and data can be accessed. FileVault helps increase protection of your data from brute force attacks.
How to Encrypt a Drive?
If your data is not important to you then you don’t need to enable disk encryption, otherwise continue reading. Windows by default enables BitLocker for Windows 8.1, 10, and the new Operating System, Windows 11. You can verify this by going to Windows Explorer and select This PC. You should be able to see a lock icon under the local C:\ drive.
However, if BitLocker is not enabled, enabling BitLocker is super simple. In Windows 10 or later, simply click the Windows Start icon and type BitLocker in the search bar. Open BitLocker Manager then select Turn on BitLocker. Create a Recovery Key in an event if you forget your password. It is important to backup your Recovery Key. You can save your Recovery Key to your Microsoft Account, a USB flash drive, save it to a file, or print the recovery key. For security reasons, print your Recovery Key and store it safely with other important documents.
In Windows Home edition the encryption works with Microsoft account, this way you can backup a recovery key in OneDrive. On PCs running the Pro and Enterprise editions of Windows, you can enable BitLocker Drive Encryption. You can also encrypt any external disks like USB or external hard drives.
You can use FileVault on Mac computers to encrypt your hard drive. Mac Operating System (macOS) version 10.3 or later, provides strong encryption for files and data that protects the entire drive. It works like BitLocker for Windows. You can store the recovery in iClould or locally. To turn FileVaul from Apple menu on top left go to System Preferences. Then select Security and Privacy and seelct the FileVault tab. Click on the lock icon (lower left) of the menu then click Turn On FileVault. Choose how to unlock your desk and reset your login if you forget your password. You can either choose iCould account or create a Recovery key. Record your Recovery key and keep it somewhere secure.