All of your files; your pictures, music, emails, documents, spreadsheets, tax information, financial records, passwords, internet browsing history… all of it is stored on the hard drive of your computer. Technically, if someone could gain access to that hard drive (a small device only a few inches in size), they could also gain access to all those private files. Ordinarily, this isn’t something most people have to worry about, but sometimes you may have information stored on a computer that absolutely has to stay protected, no matter what. This is where drive encryption comes in. Encryption is a technology that protects your data by scrambling the ones and zeroes on the hard drive in a specific way so that no one can easily access your data without a specific key that can unscramble the files. Users who work for government organizations need encryption. All of the branches of the U.S. military use encryption regularly. In fact you’re already using encryption, it’s everywhere; the text messages on your iPhone, your internet traffic while accessing bank accounts, and while making purchases online. These are specific instances of encrypting data, but modern computers allow you to encrypt your entire hard drive. In this blog post, I’ll show you how to do it on a Mac and in Windows.
Mac OS X
FileVault is Apple’s drive encryption system that was introduced to the Mac in Panther (10.2) back in 2003. Originally, FileVault only encrypted the user’s home folder, not the entire disk. However, in OS X 10.7 (Lion) FileVault was upgraded to now encrypt the entire drive.
- To enable FileVault follow the steps below:
What to expect if you lose the key or the password to FileVault
When enabling FileVault you will need to create a master password, in turn a recovery key will be made with it. The recovery key can be automatically sent to Apple for safekeeping as long as you’re okay with them possessing this key. It is best, however, for the user to write down the recovery key and the password and store them in a safe place! This will allow you to recover the data from your hard drive if ever necessary. FileVault will encrypt your drive in the background, and you won’t even notice it’s happening. Once the encryption has completed, the drive is unlocked and until the system is shut down. Anytime you reboot your computer, it will ask you for your password to unlock the hard drive before it even loads the operating system. Other than that, you shouldn’t even notice a difference that FileVault is running. WARNING! If you ever forget that password, and you can’t find the recovery key, all your data is lost and gone for good. Even Apple can’t recover your hard drive unless you’ve given them a copy of the recovery key. I have seen this first hand. A client brought in her Mac with FileVault enabled, and couldn’t remember the password, and she didn’t have access to the recovery key. There was nothing I could do, and I had to wipe the whole computer, reload the system, and start from scratch.
Windows also has a drive encryption which is called BitLocker. BitLocker has been around since Windows Vista, through Windows 7 Ultimate and Enterprise, Windows 8 Ultimate and Enterprise, and now in Windows 8.1, and even in the current technical preview of Windows 10.
To enable BitLocker follow the steps below.
This is a search from Windows 10
The above screen shot indicates that Microsoft has some of the same features as Apple.
Now the drive is encrypted.
The password for logging into Windows 10 technical preview with BitLocker enabled.
Once BitLocker is done encrypting your hard drive your data is safe. Here you can see the lock on the drive icon, indicating that the drive is encrypted. These screenshots I took from my Windows 10 technical preview, which I’m running on my MacBook Pro in Parallels. The drive was pretty empty, and so the encryption did not take a long time to run.
For any user who needs secure data encryption either on Windows or Mac, it is pretty simple to set up. I would recommend drive encryption to any client who has sensitive data stored on their computer. If you own or operate a small or medium size business, encryption is a vital part of keeping your data secure. We are happy to help you make a plan just give us a call!