How to encrypt your devices

The Windows tool BitLocker provides a simple way to encrypt your files

Add a secure external drive

If you have a lot of personal files that you don’t want falling into the wrong hands, you can store them on a PIN-authenticated, tamper-proof USB drive. The diskAshur Pro 2 range offers drives in 500GB, 1TB and 2TB capacities, and uses XTS-AES 256-bit hardware encryption. You lock and unlock the drives by typing a PIN on the keypad on the front. The drive automatically locks itself after a period of inactivity and can “self-destruct” if someone tries to break in. The drives are priced from £209.

The same company also sells secure USB flash drives with a built-in keypad that work in the same way. These cost from £69 for an 8GB drive.

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Secure your hard drive with BitLocker

BitLocker can protect your files and folders from unauthorised access by locking your drives. The feature was first introduced in Windows Vista and has been included in all subsequent updates of Microsoft’s OS, although it’s only available in the Ultimate and Enterprise editions of Windows 7; the Pro and Enterprise editions of Windows 8+; and the Pro, Enterprise, and Education editions of Windows 10.

The tool scrambles the contents of your drive and then unscrambles it when you enter your password – so if your computer gets stolen, your data will still be safe. To use it, either right-click a drive letter in File Explorer and select ‘Turn BitLocker on’; or type BitLocker into the Search box, launch the Manage BitLocker control panel, and turn the feature on or off for any drive there.

Secure everything you do your PC

Tails – The Amnesiac Incognito Live System – is a privacy-focused live Linux operating system that you can boot into from a DVD, USB memory stick or SD card. Use it to encrypt your files, emails and instant-messaging chats, and browse the web anonymously. You can boot into it whenever you need privacy and it’s very easy to set up and use.

tails

Encrypt your Android device

Not only can you encrypt your Android phone or tablet’s data, you can also secure the device’s SD card (if you have one). The process varies depending on the version of Android you’re running, but usually you just go to Settings and tap ‘Lock screen and security’. Scroll down to ‘Encrypt device’ or ‘Encrypt SD card’. You need to plug your phone into a power source because the encryption process can take an hour or more to complete (the device should be at least 80% charged). Make sure you don’t interrupt the encryption process at any point because this can lead to a loss of data.

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Encrypt your iPhone or iPad

Apple devices are automatically encrypted, provided you use a passcode. The trick to making sure your device remains secure is to pick a strong six-digit passcode (rather than the default four digits) or – best of all – an alphanumeric key of any length. To do this, go to Settings, Touch ID & Passcode and enter your existing PIN. Tap Change Passcode, enter your PIN again and then tap Passcode Options.

Lock your Samsung phone with Knox

If you have a Samsung device, such as a Galaxy S7 or S8, you can use Knox to remotely lock it or set it to automatically encrypt all of your data. This prevents access to both your internal and SD card storage. Entering your Knox password will decrypt the data. Knox uses a very strong 256-bit AES cipher algorithm to encrypt data on the device.

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