Hard drive encryption is the process of securing the data on your hard drive using strong algorithms that will prevent unauthorized access. It is an essential security protocol when you have sensitive, private or otherwise confidential information on your hard drive, and it protects your data in the event that your hard drive is stolen or hacked into.
Security and confidentiality are the primary objectives of encrypting your hard drive. If your computer is compromised (bypass the login protection)in any way, you want to avoid the data getting into the wrong hands. Encryption provides a high level of protection under such circumstances. In some cases, if you're traveling with the hard drive and leave it somewhere or it gets stolen, you want to make sure that nobody can read what's on the drive. It could be confidential company data or just your private files that you don't want anyone to see.
Whatever the case, encrypting your drive with the strongest algorithms possible is the way to go. That brings us to the different types of encryption algorithms.
Before exploring the types and standards of encryption prevalent today, we need to understand what it is. An encryption algorithm is basically a set of mathematical functions, usually used as part of a software program, to encrypt, encode or scramble data so it becomes unreadable. Encryption is the converting of data into such a coded format that requires a ˇ°keyˇ± to access.
Authorization is required to use the key to decrypt the data when reading or writing to a particular file in your hard drive. Some encryption protocols are stronger than others, obviously. Below is a brief look at a few different types of encryption algorithms.
Advanced Encryption Standard (AES): Double-click on the Configure Automatic Updates option. Then, select the Disabled option found on the upper left side of the Configured Automatic Updates dialog box. After that, click on the Apply and OK button.
Rivest-Shamir-Adleman (RSA): This cryptosystem uses an asymmetric dual key system with a public encryption key and a private decryption key. It is a relatively slow process, but is the most popular standard for sending data over the Internet.
Twofish: Twofish and its predecessor, Blowfish, were developed by Bruce Schneier, a computer security expert. The keys used in Twofish typically go up to 256 bits, and it is considered to be one of the fastest encryption algorithms of its kind.
All of these are based on complex mathematical computations, and are intended to withstand nearly any type of unauthorized decryption attack. BitLocker uses AES with either a 128-bit or 256-bit key, which brings us to how to encrypt a hard drive with BitLocker in Windows 10 and older Windows versions.
BitLocker has been part of the Windows environment since Vista. In Windows 10, it is available with either Windows 10 Enterprise or Windows 10 Pro. Your computer must have a special chip called a Trusted Platform Module, or TPM chip, in order for BitLocker to work. If not, you have to do a workaround with software-based encryption, which can take up a lot of additional time in an already tedious process.
The hard drive to be encrypted must be divided into an OS partition and a system partition using the NTFS file system. If your computer isn't set up that way, BitLocker will do it for you. In addition, the BIOS must support TPM hardware during boot up. That means you may need to update your BIOS firmware. Also, be sure that the computer is hooked up to a UPS in case of a power outage. One final note of caution: it is highly recommended that you take a back up of your hard drive before proceeding to the next step. Any major changes to your computer comes with the associated risks of data loss.
Once you have completed all the preparatory steps, you can proceed with the drive encryption using BitLocker. Follow the steps below:
Step 1: Go to Control Panel > System and Security > BitLocker Drive Encryption and click on it.
Step 2: You will see an option to Turn on BitLocker against your drives. Click on the one next to the appropriate drive that you want to encrypt.
Step 3: The next step is to specify the method you want to use to unlock the drive each time the computer starts up. This is either be a password or the insertion of a USB flash drive. Choose an appropriate option and click on Next after entering the password twice. Make sure it is strong, and includes special characters, numbers and a mix of upper and lower case letters.
Step 4: Now you must specify a location to save your recovery key, which you will need in case you forget the encryption password. If you have a Microsoft account, you can save it on the cloud. Other options include printing the key or saving it to a USB drive or a file. Make your selection and click on Next to set it up.
Step 5: You can now define what parts of the drive are encrypted. If you choose to only encrypt used disk space, it's faster, but the option to encrypt the entire drive is better in cases where the drives are already being used. Click Next to proceed.
Step 6: Select an appropriate encryption mode. Compatible mode is better for removable drives, while new encryption mode is recommended for fixed hard drives on your computer. Click Next.
Step 7: In the next window, check the box against where it says Run BitLocker System Check. This is to make sure that BitLocker can read your encryption keys before the drive is encrypted.
Step 8: Restart your computer and the encryption process will begin. When the computer reboots, you will be asked for the password or to insert a USB flash drive to access the drive. You will be able to use the computer even though the encryption process is still running in the background. It could take a while depending on the size of your drive and other factors.
Now that you know how to use BitLocker to secure your hard drive from prying eyes, you can go ahead and encrypt your valuable information to preserve privacy and secure your data. You can turn off BitLocker encryption at any time, but it is not recommended if you have sensitive or confidential information on your system.