Your computer, tablet and smartphone have a lot of important or even sensitive data on them. If you lose a device or someone steals it, they can access all the sensitive files of personal information stored on it. Even a password protecting a device may not stop a dedicated individual from getting around it to read your files.
The best way to secure sensitive data on your devices is to use encryption. Encryption makes all the data on a device completely unreadable, thus protecting it from unauthorized access or manipulation. It is particularly important when you deal with confidential data that can put you or the people you work with at risk.
How encryption works
At its most basic level, all the information processed or stored by a computer, smartphone or data storage device consists of sequences of ones and zeros, known as binary data. Because all computers and smartphones use this format, digital data can be created, processed and stored on any such device.
Encryption converts binary data into a complex code that only people with access to a secret key (known as a decryption key) or password can read. Even if unauthorized individuals get access to encrypted data, they cannot decipher the code or change it.
Full-disk encryption encrypts all the data stored on your device at the hardware level. It works by automatically converting data on a hard drive into a complex unreadable code. Without a proper decryption key, nobody will be able to read any of the files on an encrypted device.
Full-disk encryption is easy to use because it does not require any effort on your part after you unlock the computer. It works without you even noticing it.
One of the advantages of using full-disk encryption is that you do not need to worry about protecting individual files on your device. As you create any data, it is automatically encrypted. When you read it, it is automatically decrypted. Full-disk encryption also ensures that the data which we often forget we have on our devices (such as temporary files and browser cache files) is secure.
Encrypting your device
When it comes to smartphones, both Android and iOS devices are encrypted by default. To make the most of this important data security feature, make sure that your smartphone is protected by a strong password or passcode and that it automatically locks the screen after a brief period of inactivity. Also, make sure that the operating system on your smartphone is up to date.
The easiest way to encrypt a computer is to use the free built-in software that came with the operating system. Both Windows and Mac devices have effective full-disk encryption tools. These tools will not work, however, unless you set them up on your device. Follow these directions to set up encryption on Windows 10 and Mac computers.
You should also consider encrypting your external data storage devices. Such devices normally come with built-in encryption tools. To set up these tools, follow the instructions that come with them.