With the widely reported loss or theft of laptops containing sensitive personal and financial information in the last year, hundreds of thousands of people have been forced to change credit card information and worry about identity theft. Thus, the time is ripe for a new approach to protecting hard disk contents from unauthorized use: BitLocker.
BitLocker, available on Enterprise and Ultimate editions, encrypts the entire system hard disk. Originally known as Secure Startup, BitLocker stops unauthorized access, even if the hard disk is moved to a different computer.
Encrypted Files Can Be at Risk on a Sleeping Computer
It's been known that a thief can get around BitLocker's protection if he steals your computer while it's suspended (sleeping) or powered up. To truly protect your computer, you must completely shut it down when you finish using it (or at least invoke hibernation), and don't let it out of your sight for at least 10 minutes after shutdown. This time frame is especially important because Princeton University researchers have discovered that memory chips can be frozen with "canned air," preserving their contents for retrieval, even after the system has been turned off. See http://citp.princeton.edu/memory for details.
Following these procedures is especially important with laptops because the default action when you close the lid or click the little power button on the Start menu is "suspend." You must instead click the options arrow and select Shut Down. When you power up the computer, it should display the black BitLocker protection screen. If it goes directly to Windows, your computer was not protected!
For greater protection, you can use the Power Options applet in the Control Panel (available directly in Small Icons or Large Icons view) to change the default actions for closing the lid or pushing the power button to shut down. You should also use file encryption to further protect any sensitive files on your hard drive.
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