Hard Drive Encryption

I have an old desktop at home that my wife and I use. It’s going on 5 years and it does everything we need from photo editing and gaming. But one of the things that bothered me is that my hard drive isn’t encrypted. As a cyber security professional it bugged the hell out of me. Over the past few weeks I had to buy a TPM (Trusted Platform Module) chip that was compatible with my old motherboard. For those tech nerds, I know I don’t need one, but I wanted to use Bit Locker encryption without using a USB stick and PIN every time I boot up my computer. Anyhow, I bought one on Amazon, and I spent 4 hours trying to get it to work, but it turned out to be incompatible even though the manufacture stated it would work. So I ended up returning it. After some Googling efforts I learned that I needed a TPM module with a specific firmware version that worked with my motherboard. So I scoured eBay and found a seller who had one in stock. After a week-long wait I got my TPM chip and now my desktop hard drive is encrypted.

For those who aren’t familiar with hard drive encryption I’ll try to break it down as simple as I can.

For people who have a desktop computer it tends to be their primary computer where they store everything on it from personal family photos to work related documents. Most desktops don’t have encrypted hard drives as most manufacturer don’t believes it’s a necessary feature. This means that, for some unfortunate reason, if someone stole your desktop all the information on the hard drive on that computer is easily accessible. Even if you have a 25 character password for your Windows login. If a thief was interested in the contents of your drive they can pull out the hard drive and plug it into a different computer system and read all the files stored on it. This can be scary if you store sensitive information on it such as your social security number, credit card information, and other personal information.

Most modern laptops today have encrypted hard drives as they’re more mobile and easier targets of theft compared to desktops. Thieves will have a very hard time accessing the information of your laptop due to it’s encryption. Unlike desktops, the hard drive is bound to the motherboard. So if a thief pulls the hard drive and plugs it into another computer they wouldn’t be able to access any information on it. They would need to have special encryption key stored within the original motherboard. There’s a special chip call a TPM where that key would be stored.

Again, I don’t want to get too much in the details but having encrypted hard drives is critical in keeping your information secure even if it’s a desktop computer. If you have a Windows computer and your C drive has a padlock image that looks like the one below it means your drive is encrypted. If not, then it’s no encrypted.

Go ahead, and check on your Windows laptop or desktop computer. Is it encrypted?

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