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File encryption: More important than you think

File encryption can secure data, protect privacy, and guard against cyberattacks. With modern security tools, encrypting files has never been easier. In this article we’ll show you how to encrypt files, and explain why encryption is so important.

File encryption: More important than you think

Table of Contents

Table of Contents

Why should I encrypt my files?

Your electronic information needs to be treated with the same care as your physical belongings – encrypting your electronic data should be in the same realm as locking your house before you leave. What if you leave your device at a restaurant, or on public transport?

Sure, there are passwords, PINs, and 2FAs, but with enough time and know-how a determined hacker could eventually find a way into your device. The trick is to provide so many hurdles that they ultimately give up and look for easier prey. An encrypted file will take an absurd amount of time to decode, so even if a hacker gets a hold of the file, they won’t be able to view it.

What is the meaning of encryption?

Data encryption is a process during which data is scrambled to a point where only someone with a specific encryption key or password can unscramble it. Anyone else will only see gibberish. The stronger the encryption, the longer it will take to break. Our products are secured with AES-256 encryption. This means that the encryption key to unlock the secured data has 2^256 possible combinations to try. To put that in perspective, it would take literally hundreds of years to break with brute forcing software.

With just a click of a button, NordVPN will secure all your online activity. How does a VPN work? Once you’re connected to one of our VPN servers, your online traffic is redirected through a secure ‘tunnel.’ Your IP address is now hidden and your online traffic is protected from prying eyes.

As well as encrypting your internet traffic, you can also encrypt files stored on your device. Take a second to think about all the sensitive data you have on your phone or computer. Your photos sent to friends or loved ones. Memories or videos that were only meant for a select group of people. Important medical documents. All of this information could be at the mercy of a hacker if you don’t encrypt your data.

Which files do you need to encrypt?

You should encrypt files that you don’t want to be viewed by outside eyes. This could include personal photos and videos, documents containing sensitive information, and work-related materials.

Even if you don’t think you’re likely to be hacked, encrypting your files offers an extra layer of protection just in case. Human error, data breaches, and software bugs can expose you to threats no matter how careful you are, so taking preemptive steps can be a great way to stay safe.

For businesses and enterprise-scale organizations, the key areas to focus on for encryption are:

  • Customer data. A customer data leak can be one of the most disastrous events for companies of all sizes. Not only does it result in potential harm to consumers, but it can also damage a business’s reputation and lead to major financial losses. Any files that contain customer data should be encrypted.
  • HR information. Internal human resources data can be extremely sensitive and should always be encrypted and protected. If sensitive files are exposed, it can put employees at risk of cyberattacks, and may also allow hackers to launch targeted phishing attacks against the affected organization.
  • Legal files. To comply with data protection laws, legal information must be encrypted and protected in many countries. Encryption will help your organization stay compliant with legal requirements, and also protect the privacy of legal teams and advisers.

When deciding whether to encrypt files, just ask yourself, “How would I feel if a stranger stole and viewed this file?” If that’s something you wouldn’t want to happen, encryption is a good idea.

How do I encrypt my files?

Encryption is also important when sharing files via the Network File System protocol, for example, in a company. The protocol itself does not provide any encryption, so be sure to implement additional safety measures when you use it to share important files over a network.

You can encrypt a file easily on most devices. Windows and Mac computers have file encryption software already built into their systems. Unfortunately, it isn’t a default setting. For Windows, the file encryption software is called BitLocker – for Macs, it’s FileVault.

BitLocker and FileVault automatically encrypts all your files – you can’t selectively pick and choose. This could slow down your CPU performance and the act of full hard drive encryption could take hours. Each time you want to access your files, you’ll be prompted to enter a password of your choice. Encrypting an external flash drive works in the same way.

The best way to keep your files safe is by using a 3rd party encryption software like NordLocker. You can pick which files on your device you want to encrypt by dragging and dropping them into your NordLocker folder – notes, documents, photos and videos, financial data, even music playlists. You can also move them to NordLocker’s cloud if you’re running low on space in your hard drive.

How else can you keep your data safe?

A VPN and file encryption software are robust defense methods, but they’re also the last bastion of defense – a method that’s supposed to defeat a cybercriminal’s efforts to break into your device. Don’t forget to cover the rest of your bases. Here’s what you can do:

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