In an ideal scenario, your farm office computers have malware and spyware protection software, a firewall in place, strong passwords and use two-step authentication whenever available. However, there's one more step you may want to take to protect data, especially when you transmit over email or if you utilize cloud storage—file encryption. Encryption allows you to protect data on a file, a folder or even an entire drive. When you encrypt files, it prevents others from stealing your data when it is transferred.
Encryption is available to anyone with the use of free software, but availability depends upon your operating system. Built-in software is available—Windows Professional users can protect files with BitLocker, while Apple computer users can encrypt a disk image using the Disk Utility. VeraCrypt and 7-Zip are free, highly-rated and work on multiple platforms.
File encryption is not necessary on all of your files, but you should consider it to protect personal information to prevent identity theft and to prevent theft of confidential business information. Some examples of personal information (formally known as personally identifiable information, or PII, and sensitive personal information, or SPI) you may want to protect include social security number, driver’s license number, financial information, payroll data, medical records and account numbers. You may also want to secure proprietary business information. Essentially, if the same information was on paper and you would shred it prior to disposing of it, you should encrypt those digital files to safeguard your and your employees’ personal and sensitive information.
Most files and folders on your desktop computers and cloud storage can be reviewed on a case-by-cases basis to determine if they should be encrypted. Conversely, if you have not done so already, you should encrypt any and all laptops in your smart office, and if you have a smartphone or tablet, make sure you use the security features including an access code and any available biometric security. Take steps now to prevent theft of your personal and business data in the future!
The opinions of the author are not necessarily those of Farm Futures or Penton Agriculture.