Join Jess Stratton for an in-depth discussion in this video Encrypting files that contain sensitive data, part of Learning Computer Security and Internet Safety.
- You can encrypt an entire hard drive or just certain files that you want to keep for your eyes only. If you use a Mac or need a very robust solution, you can use a third party application like TrueCrypt or other file or hard drive encryption software like BitLocker. If you use Windows, however, and just need basic file protection for things like password lists, taxes, or other financial documentation, you can use something called EFS which stands for Encrypting File Protection and this functionality is built right into Windows.
To start, right-click on a file or folder that you want to encrypt and select Properties. From here make sure you're on the General tab and then click Advanced. Finally, place a check box next to Encrypt contents to secure data and then click Ok and click Ok again. Once your file or folder is encrypted, an encryption key is created. You won't even know the key is there or doing anything, provided you log into your computer correctly. No one else but you logging in will be able to see the contents of the file or of the folder.
You may get prompted, after you click on OK, whether or not you want to encrypt any other folders that you may make while you're in that file or folder. The choice is up to you. However, the problem arises if something happens to that encryption key. That's the only thing that's allowing you into that file. You should be prompted to back it up once it's encrypted and it's very important that you do so. If you don't get prompted, you can come down to the bottom right-hand side of your screen and go over to the task bar. The prompt will most likely be in there.
Here it is and it's designated with an icon with a key and an exclamation mark on it. I'm going to click on it and it's going to bring me up to the Back up the file encryption certificate and key dialogue box. I'm going to select Back up now. To start the Export Wizard to back up your encryption key, click Next. You can keep the defaults and select Next. You need to give your encryption key a Password. You won't need this password every time you access your encrypted file. You'll only need it if you ever need to recover the actual encryption key.
That is, if something happens to your computer and you have to restore it from back up. Type in a password. Type it again to confirm it and then click Next. Finally, you have to select the name of the file you want to export and you have to choose where it's going to go. This is an ideal solution to put on an external hard drive or a USB Thumb Drive Key. In this case, I'm going to put it into my OneDrive folder, for now, and I need to give it a File name. It doesn't matter what the File name is. You can make it something that's meaningful to you.
Create the name and click Save and then click Next. You can verify all your information here and then click Finish. Your encryption key is backed up and now you can see that your file has been encrypted because it's colored with green instead of black. Now, your file has been encrypted and you've successfully backed up your encryption key, which is a very crucial step, in case something ever happens to your computer and you have to rebuild those files, you can still access all your encrypted files.
- Installing updates
- Using antivirus software and protecting against viruses
- Enabling Windows Firewall
- Using password-management software
- Encrypting files that contain sensitive data
- Securing your router and protecting the SSID
- Understanding the signs of a secure website
- Checking settings for Internet Explorer, Firefox, Chrome, and Safari
- Unsubscribing from email subscriptions
- Reviewing site privacy settings
- Browsing on a public computer
- Understanding cookies
- Protecting other people's names and locations
- Fact-checking email warnings