Data Protection Series Part 1

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In this series of blogs we are going to discuss methods, practices and equipment required to look after your data so that you firstly do not lose valuable data, and secondly stop other people from accessing your data.

Protection of data against Theft or physical loss.

We will start with the most primitive and basic form of losing data, physical theft, or loss. Carrying around a laptop or memory stick is extremely convenient for work on the go, accessing your information anywhere, or even passing on the data to someone else. Unfortunately having your laptop or storage device with you all the time leaves you open to theft or simple forgetfulness, leaving your laptop bag on the train, at work etc.

So we may lose our valuable equipment but we can at least look at protecting the valuable information on it.

Common Sense practices to securing your data.

  • Avoid carrying important data on memory cards/sticks and portable hard drives. These can be easily stolen/dropped and unless you have encrypted them are easily accessible.
  • Have a backup. Make sure your data is stored in at least 2 places at any one time.
  • Do not have all copies of your data in one place. For example do not put your backup hard drive in your laptop bag with your laptop. You lose your bag you lose everything. Try and leave a hard copy at home or store the data online.
  • Setup a password for your computer. A simple Microsoft Windows or Apple OSX password is your first line of defence against people accessing your data.
  • Do not store any confidential details on your laptop. IF you do, make sure the file or folder is password protected or encrypted.

 

Computer Passwords

As mentioned a simple Windows or OSX password is your first line of defence against people accessing your data. And in most situations a thief will mainly be interested in the device rather than the data and just wipe your computer and reinstall the operating system, but the Windows and OSX passwords can be removed within 5 minutes by someone with little know how. So here are a few options

  • Setup a BIOS password. The BIOS menu can be accessed by pressing either “F2” or “Del” on most computers (check your manual), and there you can set a password for the computer which is more secure. Each computer is slightly different so consult your manual for further details.
  • Setup a Hard Drive Password. A BIOS password does not protect accessing the hard drive on another computer. In the same BIOS menu as above a password can be set for the hard drive. Not many computers have this option but it is a very secure option.
  • Password protect individual documents. Microsoft Office has a built in password protection for its documents, it does not encrypt the data inside but it adds a level of security to the file. Any documents where important confidential data is secure must be password protected. Follow the instructions for your version:
  • Folder Encryption. Have a single folder where all your confidential information is stored. Then use an encryption tool to protect this folder. This is a very secure method of protecting data. Here are some options
      • Windows Encryption. Stops access of folder from another user. Very basic protection that doesn’t stop access if the main user account that encrypted the folder is accessed.
      • Microsoft BitLocker. Available in Windows 7 Enterprise and Ultimate.
      • TrueCrypt – Freeware. Very secure but not very easy to use.
      • FolderLock – Windows program. Secure and easy to use. Not free though. Rated top encryption software at toptenreviews.com
      • OSX Built in Encryption – OSX has a built in encryption method which Macworld.com have a nice tutorial for.

Portable Devices Encryption

If you carry your data around the best practice is to password encrypt the whole hard drive or USB flash drive. You will still be able to access the data on other computers by inputting a password.

  • Microsoft BitLocker.– Available in Windows 7 Enterprise and Ultimate. Encrypts whole drives, however cannot be read on other operating systems.
  • OSX Built in Encryption. Can only be accessed from OSX systems MacLife encryption Tutorial
  • TrueCrypt. Freeware. Can be accessed from Windows, Apple OSX and linux. Video Tutorial to encrypt a USB device.

 

In part 2 we will be discussing protection of data against automated hackers and phishing software