With everyone working from home, I thought it pertinent to highlight a few of the awesome privacy and security features available in Windows. These features are (mostly) built in to the operating system, and you can enable them pretty easily. Companies should take note too, you should be helping your remote working teams enable some of these, particularly encryption.
This is security 101, hard drive encryption. BitLocker is Microsoft’s native encryption in Windows. While you may think that because you have a Windows password and that this secures you, it’s not so! If someone has to steal your computer, having a password only stops someone from logging in as you when you turn on the machine. If that hard drive is, for example, removed and placed in another computer, the person doing so would have full access to your files. Encryption tips the scales here, if the drive is encrypted, it’s effectively useless in another computer. Unfortunately, BitLocker is only available in Pro and Enterprise editions (why, Microsoft, why?), but more on that a little later.
To enable BitLocker on Windows 10, simply open up “This PC”, right click on “Local Disk (C:)”, and select “Turn on BitLocker”. This will then take you through a wizard that will encrypt your hard drive. Encryption does take a long time, particularly if you have a lot of files on your computer, but it’s totally worth it in the long run.
For those on Windows Home edition, you can download a tool called “Veracrypt“. This free tool will encrypt your hard drive in much the same way as BitLocker, however it isn’t quite as elegant and easy to use.
Nestled away in the “Sign-in Options” screen under settings, you’ll find Dynamic Lock. This pairs to your phone using Bluetooth and automatically locks your screen when you walk away from your computer (of course you must have your phone with you). It’s a super handy tool for ensuring that your computer locks when you shoot to the washroom or nip between boardrooms. While you’re in this section of settings, make sure to turn off the setting for “Show account details such as my email address on the sign-in screen” for added privacy.
MAC address change
The last little feature is more for the road warriors out there. One of the ways you are tracked when using public WiFi networks is by tracking your MAC address. This is also known as your computer’s “physical address”, think of it as a fingerprint of your laptop. No matter what network you’re on, this stays the same… normally.
Windows allows you to randomise this address whenever you connect to a network. To enable this for every connection your computer makes, simply open “Settings”, go to “Network & Internet”, and the select “Wi-Fi”. You should see a setting halfway down the screen to “Use random hardware addresses”. Bear in mind though that this may mess around with corporate security settings if your employer uses MAC authentication.
If you don’t want to enable this across the board, you can do it on a per-network basis, by selecting the network you are currently connected to, and clicking on “Properties”. The second setting down is for “Random hardware addresses”, set this to “On”.
PS – I have a huge problem in this day and age with venues restricting data access for their own profiteering by selling access vouchers. It’s an archaic practice from days gone by where data was expensive and inaccessible. A MAC address change is handy for networks that restrict you to a time or data limit. If you’re restricted, try disconnecting, changing your MAC address and reconnecting – chances are you’ll start from zero again!
Ross G Saunders Consulting is a niche data protection consultancy, working with a number of professional partners in order to help you as a business comply with data protection regulation. They help with business process, compliance, documentation and more, and can offer a full range of services to take the hassle out of data protection. Why not reach out to find out how they can help you gain a competitive advantage while simultaneously garnering support from your existing and potential customers.