Encryption - Information Security

We all need to take the security of our personal and University information very seriously. There have been numerous reports in the media of confidential data being stored on devices such as laptops or backup drives that are then lost or stolen.

The security of confidential information is the responsibility of the individual member of staff or student NOT the University, nor the line manager or Head of Department.

What is encryption?

Encryption converts data into a coded form that cannot be read without knowing a password or phrase, sometimes known as the encryption key. Remember that the protection provided by encryption is only as strong as the password used. The longer and more complex the password is, the stronger the protection. We offer comprehensive advice on creating secure and memorable passwords.

If you need to share encrypted documents with others, then you will need to tell them the password. Sharing the password by telephone or text after verifying you are communicating with the right person is ideal. Never send passwords by email.

Be aware that modern encryption techniques are virtually unbreakable so it is just as important to secure the original document on a network drive as it is to ensure only an encrypted copy is placed on a portable device or the hard disk of a desk computer.

What software can I use to encrypt my data?

If you are using Windows you can quickly and easily protect your files using BitLocker, as detailed below. If you are using a Mac, you can use a third-party application such as FileVault.

University MWS laptop encryption

The majority of current University laptops are encrypted, by default, with BitLocker. This means that if a University laptop is lost or stolen, any data that has been stored on the hard drive of the laptop cannot be accessed by unauthorised users, even by removing the hard drive, helping staff to protect important and sensitive data from accidental or malicious loss or damage.

You will not notice any difference when using your laptop. Staff who log on with a valid University account will be able to work as normal.

If you are using an older laptop, or non-standard hardware, you should enable BitLocker encryption by running the Bitlocker Disk Encryption utility available via Install University Applications.

BitLocker for external media

You can also use BitLocker to encrypt the data on external devices such as USB pens. The encrypted data can be decrypted on other Windows machines.

You can turn BitLocker off for an external drive/USB stick at any time as well, either temporarily by suspending it, or permanently by decrypting the drive.

To do this, right click on the drive via Computer/My Computer and select the option to Turn BitLocker On.

Using Axcrypt

Axcrypt allows the encryption of individual files - including on network/shared drives - which can be useful when sending a specific file to another user or storing files somewhere other than central University storage or a device protected with BitLocker.

Once installed, an additional context menu is available in Windows Explorer that allows files and folders to be encrypted (and decrypted) with a key or a passphrase. 

It also has the added benefit of allowing a "delete and shred" option thereby preventing deleted data from being recovered from the recycle bin etc.

You can install Axcrypt from Install University Applications on the Managed Windows Service.