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How to Protect your Online Security - Pillar 1: Your Computer

In our intro post on this topic, we established that IT security requires a multi-layered approach. In this part of the series we will explore protecting your computer.

PILLAR 1: Protect Your Computer

First: Require A Password on Computer Startup, on Sleep, and after 5 minutes of non-use.  If your computer is stolen, a password will restrict a thief’s access to your data, so don’t write it on a sticky attached to the computer.

Second: Encrypt Your Hard Drive.  Thieves can easily look through documents on a stolen computer.  They do this by removing the hard drive from the stolen computer, and connecting it to another computer, where it acts as a external drive.  On an unencrypted hard drive, the thief would then have free and unfettered access to all your documents.  On an encrypted hard drive, however, the thief would see scrambled data and, absent your password, s/he would be unable to read this data.

Full Disk Encryption goes by the name “Filevault" on a Mac, and “BitLocker" on a Windows PC.  Both options are built-in to the OS and offered free of charge.  Setup involves very few steps, but take note: You will need to store a recovery key that gets created during the process of encrypting the drive.  Should you forget your computer user account’s password, the recovery key is the only way to regain access to your computer’s data; without it your data is gone forever.  We recommend storing these recovery keys in a safe deposit box or similarly secure location.

Note that certain countries have laws against encrypting your data.  If you travel to these countries once or regularly, you are well advised to purchase another low-cost unencrypted computer expressly for this purpose, and to only access the services you absolutely require while in-country.  Also note that the United States, and other countries, have laws that restrict the export and import of encryption technology.  It is well beyond our area of expertise to comment about these laws, and you should consult legal counsel for guidance in such matters.

In our next post, we will discuss protecting the online services you use.

Raffi Patatian