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.
- Using FileVault to Encrypt your Home folder
- Identify the data on your computer
- Delete confidential data you no longer need
- Encrypt confidential data
Note: PDAs and handheld 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.
We recommend using FileVault, a utility that's built into the Mac OS, to encrypt your entire home folder. To learn how to set upFileVault 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.
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 insure that the data can’t be easily recovered.
Encrypt confidential data
If you must store confidential information, encrypt the data.
- Macintosh users running OS 10.7 or higher should follow our instructions to use Apple's Filevault encryption system.
- Standalone encrypted disk images can be created in Disk Utility.
- Use cross-platform encryption to maximize compatibility across different OSes.
- Windows users should follow our instructions for using BCArchive.
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.