Ask The Cyber Security Expert: Should I encrypt my laptops?

16:20 25 October in Cyber security

The Cyber Security Expert is often asked: should I encrypt my laptops?

The answer is quite simple. Yes. Yes you should.

Really? Isn’t it difficult?

Not really. Both Windows 7 onwards and Mac OS X onwards will support it natively (meaning you don’t need to install anything but just enable it).

Are there any downsides?

Not really. It does depend on the scenario but it is technically possible to lose the data on the disk if you forget your password, and haven’t set up a recovery key for instance. However, before you decide it’s not for you – lets think about this. Who these days just has the data on their laptop? If you are a Windows office, you probably have roaming profiles so providing your users don’t start saving data to spurious locations on the hard disk, their work will always be synced. And realistically who works offline for long? Perhaps on flights, but even then you need a perfect storm of breaking or forgetting things in some way which renders your data unrecoverable before you have had a chance to sync your computer. And it’s very possible to break disks badly enough to make data unrecoverable without encryption.

Even if you’re not using Windows everywhere, most people use Google Drive or Dropbox, and the same applies. You will only ever have a small window (for most users) when any work they have done exists solely on their computer.

My slightly long winded point is this: its not very likely to cause you any issues.

So what are the benefits?

Numerous and amazing! If someone loses their laptop with a load of your work data on it, you can shrug, deduct the price of a new laptop from their next months salary and move on without worrying further. Bliss.

Now imagine that scenario with no encryption. They lost their laptop. In a bar somewhere. With all your customer data on it. Even now someone could be rummaging through it. What do you do? How do you tell your customers? What is the impact for them? Oh why oh why didn’t you enable the encryption?

Haven’t the NSA got backdoors for all of this stuff?

Perhaps, perhaps not. Either way the NSA are not likely to be stealing your laptops from under a table in the pub, or from next to that snoozing employee on a train. In other words it doesn’t matter all that much. Bitlocker and File Vault are provided as built in, free additions to two widely used operating systems. If you have a laptop why not just turn it on?

Get in touch if you have questions. You can contact us here, or follow us on Twitter at @TheCyberSecExp.