Encryption 101: Tips and Tricks for Keeping Your Files Safe
With so much of our lives being conducted online, it’s more important than ever to protect our data. Whether you’re uploading sensitive documents to the cloud or just want to secure your files from prying eyes, encryption is a great way to keep your information safe. Here are some tips on how you can encrypt any file, folder, or drive on your computer.
How Does Encryption Work?
Encryption is the process of converting plaintext into ciphertext, making it unreadable to unauthorized users. It uses an algorithm and a secret key to scramble the data. Decryption is the reverse process, using the same key to convert the ciphertext back into its original form. This ensures that sensitive information is kept confidential and secure during transmission or storage.
Encrypting Entire Drives
If you want all of the data on your storage drives protected, then full disk encryption (FDE) is what you need. With FDE, all of your data on that drive — including documents, images, and programs — will be encrypted using an authentication code that only you know. The most popular software for FDE is called Veracrypt; however, there are other options such as DiskCryptor, that are also worth considering. (VeraCrypt is a free and open-source utility for on-the-fly encryption). If you’re looking for a quick and easy way to protect your files and folders and have Windows 10 or 11 PRO, you can use Microsofts BitLocker. (Note that BitLocker is not available on Windows Home editions – just Pro editions).
- Press Windows key + X keyboard shortcut to open the “Power User” menu
- Go to “Control Panel” > “System and Security” > “BitLocker Drive Encryption”
- Under the “BitLocker Drive Encryption” section, click on “Turn on BitLocker”
- Set a password and click “Next”
- Head to System Preferences > Security & Privacy > FileVault.
- Click the lock in the bottom left-hand corner of the window to make changes. Type in your password when prompted.
- Click the Turn on FileVault button. Copy down your recovery key and store it in a safe place (preferably not on your computer—somewhere physically secure like a safe). We don’t recommend storing it with Apple.
- Restart your computer when prompted.
Using Cloud Services for Encryption
- Virus scanning on download for known threats– The Windows Defender anti-malware engine scans documents at download time for content matching an AV signature (updated hourly).
- Suspicious activity monitoring – To prevent unauthorized access to your account, OneDrive monitors for and blocks suspicious sign-in attempts. Additionally, we’ll send you an email notification if we detect unusual activity, such as an attempt to sign in from a new device or location.
- Ransomware detection and recovery – As an Microsoft 365 subscriber, you will get alerted if OneDrive detects a ransomware or malicious attack. You’ll be able to easily recover your files to a point in time before they were affected, up to 30 days after the attack. You can also your restore your entire OneDrive up to 30 days after a malicious attack or other types of data loss, such as file corruption, or accidental deletes and edits.
- Version history for all file types – In the case of unwanted edits or accidental deletes, you can restore deleted files from the OneDrive recycle bin or restore a previous version of a file in OneDrive.
- Password protected & expiring sharing links – As an Microsoft 365 subscriber, you can keep your shared files more secure by requiring a password to access them or setting an expiration date on the sharing link.
- Mass file deletion notification and recovery – If you accidentally or intentionally delete a large number of files in your OneDrive cloud backup, we will alert you and provide you with steps to recover those files.
Should I encrypt USB devices?
Yes, you should encrypt your USB devices to protect the sensitive data stored on them. Encryption provides an extra layer of security and helps prevent unauthorized access to your data. To make sure files on a USB are encrypted, use software like Microsoft BitLocker To Go, or purchase USB drives with built-in encryption.Are my emails encrypted?
No, emails are not encrypted by default. They are sent over the internet in plain text, which can be intercepted and read by third parties. To ensure the privacy and security of emails, encryption must be used, such as SST/TLS encryption for email transmission and PGP/GPG encryption for end-to-end email content encryption.In today’s digital world, protecting our data should be top priority for anyone who wants peace of mind when it comes to their online security. By following these tips and tricks for encrypting individual files and folders as well as entire drives and utilizing cloud services for extra protection, you can rest assured knowing that your data is safe from malicious hackers or any unintended recipients. Best of luck!