The Value in Encrypting Your Hard Drive

Photo by Vincent Botta on Unsplash

Encryption is a very hot topic that many people are interested in given the current events. Most people are aware of the security vulnerabilities of the Zoom conferencing service. The media has honed in on the fact that Zoom conferences are being hacked by bad actors and the fact that Zoom has poor security features has become evident. One of the biggest criticisms against Zoom is that they advertise that they encrypt your meetings. But what exactly does it mean when something is encrypted? First, let us explain plain text, which is the opposite of encrypted text. In a plain text world, everything you send over the internet is visible. But not only is it visible, it’s plain, as in whatever you are transmitting can be seen for face value. Encryption scrambles things around. So, even if someone gets a hold of your transmission, it will not make sense because everything is scrambled up and unless you have the decryption key, you can’t really know what the contents are/contain. So, what does this have to do with your hard drive. Let us explore how encryption works on your hard drive.

When you store something on your hard drive, the data can be retrieved very easily. Even if you delete something from your hard drive, the contents are not really deleted unless you go through a rigorous deletion process. There are a couple of different ways to protect your data from falling into the hands of the wrong people. First, you can encrypt just a folder on your computer. This allows you to pick your most important and sensitive data and encrypt that folder. In order for someone to access the contents of that folder, they need to know your password for that folder which is and should be different from your login password. If they get a hold of your hard drive, they can’t read the binary contents either because those bits are also scrambled without the decryption key. The other method is to encrypt the entire hard drive. Most consumers do not do this, even though MacOS and Windows 10 support it by default. Most businesses do encrypt the entire hard drive because losing sensitive business information could be detrimental for a company. The benefits to encrypting your entire hard drive is that all the contents are protected, not just the items in a particular folder. The downside is that performance becomes a little sluggish and it takes longer to boot up and shut down your computer.

If you are not encrypting some or all of your hard drive, you should seriously consider it. Even if you don’t have sensitive data on your computer, it’s your data and it should remain private. The process is not that complicated and it’s always better to have your data safe than in someone else’s hands. As a final note, if you ever sell or get rid of your computer, not having an encrypted drive means that people can potentially still access your data. If you are not going to take the advice from this article, at the very least, destroy your hard drive. Other than encrypting it, destroying it is the only way to make sure no one else accesses your data.

I’m an engineer working professionally in San Diego, CA. I’m trying to improve every day and use this space to document. Connect: apetech.me/social