Posted by: arrogantscientist | July 20, 2010

What excuse do you make for not encrypting your data?

I have only worked in one lab at one university and am aware I’m extrapolating from a single data point here, but data security at the institutional level is poor and pretty much non-existent at the personal level.

Most of the people I work with are older than me. They have enough knowledge of computers to use Word and to produce crap PowerPoint graphs. They use and lose portable hard drives and USB sticks as if they are immediately replaceable. Which of course they are. Nobody thinks twice about data security.

Perhaps the IT department should take some responsibility and provide users with a secure system they can use? Educate users so they can protect their own data? In my experience, they don’t. They provide a (reasonably secure) network at work*, but nothing else.
*I can access other people’s data, if I wish. Pro security.

The thing that really irks me about all this is uncrackable data security is simple to implement, for free. TrueCrypt.

How can I protect my portable data?

TrueCrypt TrueCrypt logois an open source encryption programme that works on Mac, Linux and Windows. If used properly, even the FBI can’t decrypt your files.
It works by storing your data in “containers” that can only be read by entering your password. When opened, they appear as Drives connected to your computer (just like when you plug a USB stick in), giving you instant access to your files.

It can encrypt entire computer systems (perfect for laptops), entire discs (internal or external HDDs, USB sticks), or just stand-alone containers that can be moved around like any other file. External drives can be set to auto-mount when plugged in.

When it has been set up, the only extra output of effort for you is entering a password when you plug the disc into a new computer.

Understanding TrueCrypt takes a short while, as does setting up encryption and getting used to it, but there are excellent guides included. It’s a small effort I suspect most people won’t make, due to laziness or naivety. The chance data loss will come back and bite you is small. But if it happens, you will sorely regret not looking after your stuff properly. And I will say I told you so.

Just like looking after your physical possessions, the security of your data and personal information is ultimately your responsibility.


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