Laptops have revolutionized the way people use computers, for business and for pleasure. Valuable and irreplaceable documents, photos and other confidential data reside on nearly every laptop hard drive. Having your data readily available makes it easier to remain productive even when you’re away from your desk.
However, the main drawing card for laptops is also a major drawback. Because laptops are portable, they are easily stolen. And in more than 70 percent of cases, lost or stolen laptops are never recovered by their rightful owners.
If you’re among the majority of business owners that keep sensitive data on your laptop, encryption is a must. Even if you purchase a laptop equipped with remote wiping capabilities, laptop encryption software adds an extra layer of protection. Fortunately, effective software encryption is often easy to use and reasonably priced.
Nearly all encryption software programs allow you perform full disc encryption. This function scrambles your data onto your hard drive as you save it to your hard drive. Look for encryption using the AES-256 algorithm, which is fast, reliable and well established.
Encryption works in the background, allowing you to open, close and save your programs and documents as you normally would. You enter a password once each time you power on your computer. Do not set the computer to automatically mount the encrypted files when you boot your computer, which defeats the purpose of installing such protection.
Encrypted Virtual Disc
If you share documents and programs between a laptop and a desktop computer, or if you work with several colleagues on joint programs, look for encryption software with encrypted virtual disc capabilities. This function allows you to encrypt portions of your hard drive within segmented partitions, rather than encrypting your entire hard drive. Encrypted virtual discs can be forwarded to other computers or users, even if the other computer or user does not have the same encryption software installed.
Some encryption programs allow you to choose multiple passwords – one for the entire disc, another for different sectors. This feature could be valuable if there are files that are especially sensitive present on your hard drive. If a thief cracks your main encryption password, the secondary password would keep that data out of harm’s way. That said, choosing weak passwords will reduce the effectiveness of your data encryption software.
You an also enable a BIOS password along with a password that you enter when you boot up the computer. These safeguards do not replace encryption software, but they do add an extra layer of protection that might discourage amateur thieves from attempting to access confidential data on your laptop. These passwords should be different from one another, and also different from any password that you use in association with documents protected by encryption software.
Keep the password or passwords associated with your encryption software in a safe place – not stored on your computer’s hard drive. If you lose your password or passwords, your computer’s data can be inaccessible. On the other hand, installing encryption software is of little use if your encrypted documents or files exist elsewhere on your computer in unencrypted form.
For Further Reading
- Computerworld: Review – Data Encryption Products for Your Laptop
- Networking Exchange Blog: Automated Encryption Protects Small Business Laptop Data
- Small Business Computing: How to Protect Data On a Laptop
- Tom’s Hardware: Wipe or Kill Your Laptop, On or Off, if Stolen
- Top Ten Reviews: Keyloggers
- Top Ten Reviews: 2012 Encryption Software Product Comparisons
Author Bio: David Kendall contributed this guest post on behalf of Alertsec – Encryption Software. David is a freelance writer with extensive experience with encryption. His articles mainly appear on software websites.