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Get Lost!

Go with Full-Disk Encryption and Save Yourself Grief When Devices Go Missing


OSING your notebook can be an unpleasant experience, but you need to be prepared for

such an event. Full-disk encryption can help protect your endpoint device even if it falls into the wrong hands. Full-disk encryption, sometimes

referred to as whole-disk encryption, is a process in which all of the data stored on a notebook’s disk is encrypted, including user, system, swap, hidden, and temporary files. A full-disk encryption solution prevents unauthorized users from accessing any data on a notebook (or similar endpoint device) if it is lost or stolen. In the spring of 2011, a notebook was

stolen from the car of a Massachusetts eHealth Collaborative employee while he was eating lunch. The notebook

stored 13,687 patient records that contained names, Social Security numbers, birthdates, and insurance information. Although the machine had been configured with security software, full-disk encryption was not one of those applications. Such events are not surprising if

you consider that 329 U.S. organizations lost over 86,000 notebooks in 2009, according to a study by the Ponemon Institute. These losses cost each organization an average of $6.4 million in forensics, detection, legal fees, consulting, regulatory expenses, lost intellectual property and, of course, replacement costs. When added together, these figures come to a staggering $2.1 billion for one year’s worth of lost or stolen notebooks. And

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of those missing devices, only one-third had been configured with a full-disk encryption solution.

A Hands-Off Approach In addition to encrypting the data,

most full-disk encryption products install a proprietary operating system that intercepts and controls the boot sequence of the standard OS before it starts up. Once users have booted into the system via that proprietary OS, no other steps need to be taken to secure their data. Every file is automatically encrypted and decrypted without user interaction. In fact, except for the actual login process, all other processes associated with the full-disk encryption solution are invisible to the user.

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