A recent survey has found that nearly 99% of computers that could encrypt their hard drives with Microsoft’s Bitlocker don’t bother.
On a normal computer, the hard drive is ‘open’. Even if someone doesn’t have your login password they can see information on the hard drive.
Anyone with personal or private information in Word documents, Excel spreadsheets or Outlook emails should consider Bitlocker. Office documents can be password protected but it’s a hassle to do that to all documents. Outlook is effectively open to anyone who can login to the computer.
Bitlocker is a system for encrypting your entire hard drive making it much harder for a thief to get at your documents and emails. Bitlocker encrypts the drive so the login name/password combination is essential to access anything on the computer. With the right login details (password, card or USB key etc) the drive is just a mess of unreadable information.
For portable computers, Bitlocker is a great option. If someone steals your computer they can’t access any of your documents, emails or passwords.
With that extra security, why don’t more people use it? There’s a few reasons, some of which make the ’98.53%’ non-usage number look much worse than it really is.
To use Bitlocker easily, the computer must have TPM (Trusted Platform Module) installed. This is usually only on laptop computers. Desktop machines and netbooks rarely have this additional hardware. You can use Bitlocker without TPM but it’s more difficult to use each time you start the computer.
Bitlocker does reduce performance of your computer a little. That’s understandable because every read and write from the drive has to be encoded or decoded by the computer. Some people don’t want to have any reduction in speed, even for better security.
There is also the question of data recovery. Bitlocker can make it harder to fix or recover data from a misbehaving hard drive.
Bitlocker To Go is new in Windows 7 and is a useful alternative to fully encrypting a hard drive. The ‘To Go’ option lets you encrypt a portable device like a USB flash drive. Any lost or stolen USB ‘stick’ has nothing readable without the authorization code.
Office-Watch.com has delved deep into Bitlocker and Bitlocker To Go in Privacy and Security in Microsoft Office which, despite the title, goes into the many privacy related features in both Windows and Office. There’s a whole chapter on Bitlocker including step-by-step instructions for both Bitlocker and Bitlocker To Go.
Article posted: Wednesday, 29 September 2010
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