Help Desk

Computing & Information Services

Delete or Encrypt Confidential Information

Removing unnecessary information and encrypting confidential data stored on your computer can help prevent an attacker or thief from stealing your identity and compromising your data.  Below is an outline of the steps you should take to secure the data on your computer.

Note: Mobile devices pose the same risk as desktop and laptop computers.  Users should be aware of the sensitive data that may be stored on these devices and take the necessary precautions to delete and encrypt confidential data.  Click here for specific recommendations for such devices.

 

Using FileVault to Encrypt your Home folder

We recommend enabling FileVault on macOS. FileVault is a built-in utility which encrypts your entire home folder. To learn how to set up FileVault on your machine, please read our page on FileVault. Using FileVault is our officially recommended method of protecting confidential data; if you cannot or do not want to use FileVault, then follow the steps outlined on this page to delete confidential data and encrypt in other ways. Note: Once you are logged in, your data is no longer encrypted. Sign out of computers you are not actively using.

  

Alternative Encryption Methods

Identify the data on your computer

First and foremost, identify the data on your computer.  This may sound obvious, but it's likely you have stored files you forgot about, didn't know existed, or which contain sensitive information that may need to be encrypted.  If you're not familiar with the files on your computer, take the time to inventory the contents.

Personally identifying information and college confidential data stored on computers must be encrypted.  For more information, please refer to our page on identifying confidential data

Delete confidential data you no longer need  

Confidential data should not be stored on your computer unless it is absolutely necessary.  Delete any confidential data you no longer need and then follow our guidelines for securely deleting files and erasing free space on Mac to ensure that the data can’t be easily recovered. 

Encrypt confidential data 

If you must store confidential information, encrypt the data. 

  • macOS users should follow our instructions to use Apple's Filevault encryption system.
  • Standalone encrypted disk images can be created in Disk Utility. These can be transported from one macOS machine to another. Think of them as password-protected folders. They can be made whether or not you have FileVault enabled.
  • Use cross-platform encryption to maximize compatibility across different OSes.
  • Windows users should follow our instructions for using Bitlocker

The encryption methods suggested here offer very good security. But if you forget or lose the password, there will be no way to recover the data.

It is also vital to make regular backups of your encrypted data, just as you would with any other important files.

If you have questions or concerns about securely storing confidential data, please contact Computer User Services.