Encryption is a way of protecting information. Information is encoded and locked in a way which means it is unreadable unless the correct key is used to unlock it.

This is essential for where it is necessary to carry sensitive data, such as research data or personnel records on a laptop. See the Information Security policy on Loss and Theft of Unencrypted Data.

Encryption software can be installed on a laptop, drive or removable storage (such as a USB memory stick).

If an encrypted laptop is stolen or lost, while the information stored on it may be accessed, it will be unreadable unless the key is also known by person who takes/finds it.

BitLocker on your laptop

Within the University, University staff laptops are encrypted with a technology called BitLocker. The whole drive that Windows is installed on is encrypted.  Anything stored on the drive will also be encrypted. This is important because IT Services managed laptops keep local copies of your email and documents for you to access off campus.

When a laptop is encrypted you must enter a PIN number before you can use it. The PIN protects the key (stored in a protected area on the laptop) needed to decrypt files stored on the drive.  Windows manages the encrypting and decrypting of files for you.

Without the PIN you’re unable to start up the laptop. Whilst it might be possible to remove the hard drive and access it in another way, none of the data will be readable without access to the key, using the PIN

Removable Storage

It is commonplace to transfer files or backup information using removable disks such as USB memory sticks and hard disks. Whilst the files stored on your laptop are safely encrypted, if you copy them from your laptop to a USB memory stick or external hard drive they’re no longer protected unless you are also encrypting the memory stick or external hard drive.

It’s easy to lose removable storage so make sure you don’t copy anything confidential or sensitive.

Encrypted storage

It is possible to encrypt a USB memory stick or external hard drive. Recommended encryption products are available through IT Services.

How to get help

Contact the IT Service Desk with your encryption requirements. Please supply as much information as possible. As a minimum, provide answer to the following questions:

  • What data do you need to encrypt and why?
  • What is the source of the data you need to encrypt?
  • Has an external organisation specified any specific security requirements you must comply with?

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