In case of theft of your computer, there is a thread that your data will get stolen as well. If your hard drive is not secured properly, it is easier than you might think to steal your data. Owners of Apple devices are in a much easier situation as Apple has encrypted all their computers and laptops by default, therefore, all the stored data is safe. Data stored on devices with Windows and some versions of Linux need to be protected by their owners themselves.
To protect your data, Windows (or Linux) login and password is not enough. This is just to prevent your children or colleagues at work from having access to your data. This protects your data from the user perspective. An experienced thief though who is after your data, can overcome this kind of protection very easily. How? By simply removing a few screws from your computer, taking out your Hard Drive and connecting it to some other computer. This instantly gives him access to all your data stored on the drive.
So how can you prevent data on your computer from being read so easily? How to better protect it? You have basically two options:
Locking your hard drive with password (HDD password) is the easiest option. To do so, no specialized software is needed. The lock just has to be turned on on your device.This kind of protection is weaker than encryption, but still better than none. It can be useful when a computer or notebook is lost or stolen, as it protects the data on the drive itself so nobody can access it by simply removing the HDD and connecting it to some other computer. The access to data is controlled by the drive itself and is only granted after entering the password even before the operating system starts when turning on your device. This means that you will have to enter the password on the “black screen”, the initial startup screen, that shows what key to press to get to the setup (most often F10, F2, Esc, Del) where the HDD password can be entered. The advantage is that the lock is directly on the hard drive and, unlike Windows password, is not dependent on the operating system of the computer or laptop.
Full disk encryption is the only truly safe option. If your disk is encrypted, the thief will not be able to get access to any of your data. If you are a user of an Apple device, encryption is turned on by the manufacturer and you don’t have to worry about anything. On the other hand, Windows, Android and (some versions of) Linux users have to turn on the disk encryption by themselves. As to Windows, devices from Windows Pro on (Windows Home doesn’t have this option) have the ability to enable a built-in disk encryption called Bitlocker. Likewise, Android and Linux have the ability to turn on such encryption. You can also use specialized disk encryption software.
So what hard disk protection should I choose?
Every kind of protection is better than none. This is particularly true for disks (or other data media) used for storing or transmitting data that should never get into unauthorized hands. So what are the hard disk security options? The best protection is without doubt encryption. Imagine the disk as a cabinet in which you store information:
- An unsecured disk is like a lockless cabinet - anyone who can access the room where the cabinet is placed can simply open the door and access all the information stored in the cabinet
- A password-locked disk is like a locked cabinet - information stored in there are secured in some way, but all you need to steal the information is to somehow overcome the lock
- An encrypted disk is like a locked cabinet where all the information is stored in a secret language that only you can understand (or anyone who has the key to decipher). In this case, even if the thief overcomes the security lock, he won’t be able to read any of your data.
What disk encryption tools are there?
There are quite a few pieces of software for disk encryption on the market. Some systems already contain such a tool. Here are some examples of dedicated encryption software:
- Bitlocker (Windows component)
- Symantec Endpoint Encryption