Working in Coffee ShopWhat is drive encryption?

Drive encryption is a way to keep your data private by encrypting (or scrambling) the data on your hard drive. It can only be read with a key. The key decodes the data, making it readable (also known as decryption).

Why you should encrypt?

We all want to keep our data private. What happens if your CEO leaves their laptop on an airplane? The computer’s password will keep someone from logging in. However, you can get to the data by accessing the drive from a different computer.

Drive encryption gives you peace of mind. Once the drive is encrypted, the data is useless without the key. So keep the keys stored in a safe place! There’s no way to recover the data without it!

With a heavy focus on privacy, many industries must abide by laws and regulations that aim to protect sensitive data. Most either require or promote drive encryption. Here’s a few:

  • PCI DSS – credit card data
  • Sarbanes-Oxley Act (SOX) – financial reporting in public companies
  • Health Insurance Portability & Accountability Act (HIPAA) – patient healthcare and personal information
  • Family Educational Rights & Privacy Act (FERPA) – student records and personal information

What do I use?

While there are 3rd party tools available, Windows 10 and Mac OS X already have encryption software installed – Microsoft BitLocker and Apple FileVault. You just need to turn it on in order to encrypt your hard drive.

You’ll also want a tool to manage the encryption keys. Make sure they are available when you need them! A cloud-based management tool like Sophos assists with this while making it easy to deploy and manage the encryption of multiple devices.

Just like laptops, you’ll want to encrypt external storage like USB devices. You can use BitLocker to Go or buy USB drives that come encrypted (IronKey and Kingston have good options).

What’s Next?

Drive encryption helps to keep data private.  However, it does not protect against online cyber attacks. Therefore, you should use layers of security tools, policies, and security awareness training to best protect your company.