The words "encrypt” is increasingly present in everyday life. In a world that is increasingly connected and in which we increasingly handle more personal information digitally, encryption helps us to prevent this data from falling into the hands of unauthorized persons.
We can find encryption in our Wi-Fi networks, in HTTPS connections and in many other technologies that we surely use in our day to day. This encryption is automatic and is available to all on a mandatory basis. However, there are encryption techniques that are optional and that can help us improve our security and privacy, such as full hard disk encryption.
What is and how hard disk encryption works: simple explanation
Encrypt or encrypt is a technique by which we can hide information from other people. For this, algorithms are used to change the original information to random data so that anyone who tries to access this data cannot read or understand them.
Encryption normally has two ways (otherwise it would not make sense).
The first way is to convert the original information into encrypted data. For this, keys (or encryption passwords) are used. These can be public, in the case of asymmetric encryption, or private, in case of symmetric encryption. Both techniques are similar, although some steps in the encryption or decryption process change.
The second way is decryption. For this, whoever wants to read the information will need the same key that has been used to encrypt the data to be able to decrypt it and obtain the original information again.
There are many different encryption algorithms. The old, usually, are usually obsolete and have security flaws that allow you to recover the information without using the encryption key. The new ones, on the other hand, are impossible to break, even by brute force.
Software encryption vs hardware encryption
There are two types of disk encryption that we must consider. On the one hand we have software encryption. This is the one used by old hard drives. It requires a program, such as VeraCrypt or Microsoft BitLocker , to perform data encryption, and to decrypt it.
It is slower, since absolutely all the information on the hard disk must be encrypted, and performance is reduced to the system since the data has to be decrypted one by one and re-encrypted as they are used. In addition, some rootkit could access hard disk data even while being encrypted.
On the other hand, we have hardware encryption. This encryption method is used by most modern hard drives and SSDs. It is much simpler and native. The impact on performance is virtually nil. It encrypts all the data automatically and we don't have to do anything strange to use it. If the disk tries to connect to another computer, the data cannot be accessed directly without the password. It is the most robust and secure hard disk encryption method.
Advantages of encrypting our hard drive in Windows 10
The main advantage that gives us the encryption of a hard disk is security and privacy. Nothing and nobody will be able to access the data that we have stored in our computer if the corresponding key is not known or has the encryption keys at hand.
In this way, if your computer or hard drive is stolen, even if it is removed and connected to another computer, you will not be able to access the data. Even if they use forensic data recovery techniques, being all the information obfuscated will not be able to do anything.
Encryption of a hard disk can help us destroy the data stored on it. If we encrypt all the information with a very robust algorithm, and then destroy the public and private keys, nobody can recover the data stored on the disk. So, we can sell it (previously formatted) or get rid of it with the assurance that no one will recover our data.
Disadvantages of encrypting a hard drive
Unfortunately, encryption does not only have advantages. The first of the inconveniences that we can find when we encrypt our hard drive is that if we do it wrong, we can lose all the data stored inside the hard drive. And it will also be impossible to recover them when they are encrypted. If for some reason we forget the password or lose the encryption key, it will be impossible to access the data. All information will be lost forever.
Another drawback of data encryption is that it usually causes the overall performance of the computer to decrease slightly. Although modern processors have special instructions for working with encrypted data to have an almost zero performance impact, some tasks may be slowed down. In addition, the computer startup process may be slower because we will have to enter the password every time, we turn on the computer.
If we are working with the computer and by mistake, we delete an important file, if it is encrypted it will be much more complicated (if not impossible) to recover it. We must also keep in mind that recovery systems, such as Windows RE, do not get along with encrypted drives.
And if we remove the hard drive from our PC and want to connect it to another to access the data, the thing cannot get more complicated. Unless the keys and software used for encryption are at hand, the data will be inaccessible.
When should we encrypt our hard drive and when not?
Hard disk encryption has advantages and disadvantages. And although robust and powerful encryption could be useful to everyone, it is not equally necessary for everyone. It depends on where and for what we use our computer.
If for example we usually use a laptop to work and we usually take this computer to several sites (if we travel with it, for example), then encryption is vital. If someone steals our computer or we lose it anywhere, no one who manages to get it can see our data or our company data. Our data will be safe as long as the hard disk is well encrypted. A desktop computer is more complicated to steal, although if we handle personal, business or sensitive data it is better to opt for encryption.
If on the other hand we are paranoid of spying and we are concerned about our privacy, then encryption will also help us deal with these problems. As long as the data on our hard drive is encrypted and protected, nothing and no one can monitor or take control of them.
On the other hand, if we are home users without much knowledge about computers that only use the computer to watch Netflix, encryption is unnecessary. Putting a good password to log in to Windows will be enough. And so, we will save problems.