In the technological age, protecting and securing your data should be a top priority for any computer user and part of there overall disaster recovery plan. In addition, some states, such as Massachusetts, are now requiring by law that if you store certain data about people then you need to take the necessary steps to protect the data from theft.
There are several methods that you can use to help secure and protect your data. Some methods are very basic and have the potential to be easily diverted while others make data snooping or theft near impossible. (I say near impossible as it is almost impossible to make sure your data is 100% protected).
When deciding the level of data protection necessary you need to evaluate your data to determine the importance of the data. For example, bank records and account numbers are much more important than your recipe list and the highest level of protection should be applied.
In addition, taking into account where your data is stored also plays a role in how to protect the data. If you use a laptop which stores all your data and your travel frequently with the laptop then the data security should be strong as laptops are easily lost or stolen. A desktop machine, which should still be protected, may not need the strongest security as it is not being moved around – though there is still the chance of theft which needs to be taken into consideration.
Methods of Protection:
Using a password is the most basic, and well known, level of protecting files and information. Password protection can be used to prevent access from your computer to requiring a password to open or view a file. It is the easiest to use and implement but is also one of the easiest methods to circumvent.
When using passwords make sure you create a strong password which usually consists of letters, numbers, characters (@, #, etc.) and a combination of upper and lower case characters. Though you want to make the password difficult for others to guess make sure you create a password that you can remember and never write them on a sticky on your computer!
A physical lock can be used to anchor a computer or laptop to a desk so the machine can not be stolen. Most computers and laptops have a special port that allows the machine to be locked down with a laptop/desktop computer lock which is a cable that can be looped through a stationary object and then attached to the laptop or desktop. Once attached it is locked via a key or combination so the machine can not be moved until unlocked.
A firewall is used to block attacks on a computer that originate from the Internet or other connected computer. Most operating systems now come with a built in firewall or a more robust hardware solution can be used.
The last method is file or disk encryption which allows data and files to be encrypted so if stolen the data can not be read. In order to read the data a key is needed to open the encrypted file. The key is created when the file is encrypted and can either be a private or shared key. A private key is a key that only you use while a shared key is one that you give to others so they can open the encrypted document.
When protecting data with passwords and encryption it is vital to understand the consequences and the technology that is being used. Though it is great to protect your data from prying eyes or outside intruders you also want to make sure you can still access the data which means knowing your password (without writing down) and fully understanding encryption methods before encrypting data.