Using the inbuilt BitLocker to encrypt files in Microsoft® Windows 7
When was the last time you went to the bank? Can't remember? Okay, how about the last time you called a travel agent to book your flight tickets? If you're anything like me, you would have to think really long and hard to come up with the answers for that. That's what you have to appreciate technology, it has brought all these things — Internet banking, travel planning, shopping, and even networking with people right in your living room. While this is extremely convenient, it's also risky because now all your sensitive personal and financial data is in a digitized format, readily susceptible to corruption, theft, or hackers. If you extrapolate this logic to business, the risk increases exponential because everything from audits to company intelligence is saved digitally nowadays. How then, can you make your data more secure?
Though there are many third party software floating around like password managers, data backup tools, encryption tools and secure digital data vaults; there's one tool that comes bundled with Windows 7 that should suffice for most common security needs. This tool, known as BitLocker, is a 128 bit full disk encryption utility that comes with the Ultimate and Enterprise versions of Windows 7. You may want upgrade to these versions because they have many additional features besides just BitLocker.
If you're wondering just what does 'encryption' mean anyway, we'll tell you. Encryption is a data security technique wherein all the data and files that you have, are stored in a scrambled format in such a manner that it is only possible for someone with the right encryption key to unscramble and use the data — which is you, the user. This ensures that even if an intruder is somehow able to get their hands on some sensitive data, they will not be able to use it because it would be jumbled up garbage. How secure is this? That's an interesting question, but a detailed discussion of that is beyond the scope of this article. But to put things in perspective — one billion computers can work day in and day out trying to crack a 128 bit encrypted disk image, and it will still take them on an average four million times a billion years to crack it. So, unless you have some advanced species of extra-terrestrial beings trying to hack your e-mail password, you should be fine.
You can turn BitLocker on or off any time that you want to, either by suspending it for a certain period of time, or by permanently decrypting the drive. You can use BitLocker to encrypt data on USB flash drives too. Once the encryption is turned out, BitLocker automatically encrypts all files as they enter the system. You may choose to unlock an encrypted drive in order to access the data with the help of either a password or a smart card. To conclude, if you're looking for an convenient yet sufficiently secure way to keep your sensitive data safe, give BitLocker a spin.