When you’re out of your home network area and using a coffee shop or library hotspot, what are some things you can do to keep your computer safe from snoops or worse, hackers? Here’s a checklist of things to do -preferably before you leave your office or as you’re getting setup at your destination:
- Turn off File and Printer sharing.
- Turn off Public Folder sharing
- Encrypt folders (can do with Windows 7 Professional, Enterprise & Ultimate)
- Use https with your mail services (Live/Hotmail, GMail) and Facebook & Twitter
- Think about keeping your most sensitive data off your mobile computer – store on Windows SkyDrive, Amazon or somewhere secure, but where you have access.
How to do the Above
For numbers 1 & 2, go to your start button>Control Panel>Network & Internet>Network & Sharing Center>Change Advanced Sharing Settings. Then you’ll see the below where you can turn off the 2 components.
If you have Windows 7 Professional, Enterprise or Ultimate, you have this available to you, but if you have Home Premium, which is the standard, you won’t have this functionality. Here are steps from Microsoft:
To encrypt a folder or file
- Right-click the folder or file you want to encrypt, and then click Properties.
- Click the General tab, and then click Advanced.
- Select the Encrypt contents to secure data check box, click OK, and then click OK again.
To unencrypt, go through the same steps, except select Clear the Encrypt contents to secure data check box, click OK, and then click OK.
Below are a series of illustrations that makes things more visual!
How Does Encryption Protect me?
When your folders are encrypted, they’ll be in green (see illustration above). You’ll be able to access your files without having to unencrypt them while you’re logged into your computer. So this means if someone gets control of your computer while you’re logged into it, they’ll be able to open your encrypted files (as well as take your computer). What the encryption does is protect you if someone steals your computer and they are able to boot it bypassing your login credentials (you DO have those set, don’t you), then they won’t be able to open encrypted files. Same thing if they remove your hard drive and try to access files – they can transfer your files over, but they shouldn’t be able to open them. If you’re at a hotspot and someone manages to get into your folders, they won’t be able to open encrypted folders/files.
Perhaps you’ve heard about laptop searches at airports and at our borders. It is possible that the contents of your laptop or smart phone could be searched by law enforcement officials. I’ve read that if you have a password protecting access to your phone or laptop, they can not legally make you enter in your password, but these laws may be changing. So that’s where step#5 might be one you’d want to implement. If it’s not on there, it won’t be found.
Don’t Forget Your EFS Certificate
The first time you use encryption, a certificate with your private key is created. If this key is lost or damaged, you may lose access to your encrypted files (say, if you moved them to another computer). So here are steps to Back up Encrypting File System (EFS) certificate. There are quite a few steps, but take your time and follow them and then put your cert in a safe place (away from your computer).
Following these guidelines should make your mobile experience safer. If you have questions or would like to implement some encryption on your mobile or desktop computer, please use my contact form to be in touch or email me at lynn(at)www.lynna.dev.