In this digital age, how strongly do you rely on technology to keep your personal files safe? Now, imagine that the computer holding all of your important financial documents was stolen, destroyed in a fire, or fried after your child spills water on the desk? Are you confident that your sensitive files are secured and backed up?
Typically, a password-protected computer ONLY protects your computer from unauthorized access. If your computer is stolen, a thief can still access your unencrypted files in many cases. To protect your files from thieves, I recommend using encryption. Encryption is the process of scrambling your data so it is unrecoverable without a password. But even then, a weak encryption password can be cracked by an experienced hacker. To see how long it will take to crack your password, check this website: https://howsecureismypassword.net/
If your computer is destroyed in an accident, you are usually forced to resort to your backed up files.
So what do you do? It’s easy! Here’s how you can securely store your important (electronic) financial documents:
1. Create an encrypted hard drive with a secure password. Back up your files first!
- For PC: We will use VeraCrypt to create a 5 GB virtual hard drive.
- For Mac: You can follow these instructions to encrypt your whole computer. By doing this, you can simply create a folder anywhere on your computer to store all your financial documents and skip to step 2.
2. Create an encrypted cloud iDrive backup of your encrypted hard drive (PC) or folder (Mac).
1. Encryption: VeraCrypt (PC, Free)
- Always back up your computer first!
- Download VeraCrypt here and install.
- Open VeraCrypt and click Create Volume
- Leave the default selection of Create an encrypted file container and click Next
- Leave the default selection of Standard VeraCrypt volume and click Next
- Click on Select File and save a file under C: drive, by typing in c:<your encrypted drive name>, in this example c:securedrive
- Leave the default Encryption Algorithm and click Next
- Create a 5 GB Volume Size drive (ensure you have enough Free space) and click Next
- Choose a secure password for your encrypted drive. DO NOT LOSE THIS PASSWORD or you will not be able to recover your files! Veracrypt recommends a password with over 20 characters. A great way to make a secure password is to use four to six random words.
- Most users will not have a financial file larger than 4gb, so click on No and then Next.
- Select your Filesystem: typically FAT32 or NTFS. Then move your mouse randomly inside the screen for a few seconds to increase your cryptographic strength.
- Click Format to Start. This will take a few minutes and will create a file on your C: drive called securedrive (or whatever you named it).
Accessing your Encrypted Hard Drive in VeraCrypt
Imagine mounting as unlocking your data and dismounting as locking your data.
- Turn your securedrive file into an Encrypted Hard Drive by selecting any empty drive letter, in this case P:
- Accessing your hard drive. Type in c:<your encrypted drive name>, in this case c:securedrive and click on Mount
- Enter your Password to decrypt and click OK. You now have a 5 GB virtual and encrypted hard drive letter P: (or whatever letter your mounted it to).
- To secure your data, remember to click Dismount when not in use.
2. Backup: iDrive (Mac & PC, 5 GB Free)
Creating an encrypted cloud backup.
- Sign up for your Free 5GB iDrive account
- For the purpose of simplicity, set your own Private encryption key using the same secure Veracrypt password (so you don’t have two passwords to manage). DO NOT LOSE THIS PASSWORD or you will not be able to recover your files! Click Continue.
- It will prompt you to download the iDrive setup file. Download and install the program. After the download is finished, open the iDrive and log in using your newly created account.
- Click on Change to remove the default folders to backup. We will STRICTLY be using iDrive for your most important financial documents.
- Deselect ALL the default folders and/or drives
- For PC (using Veracrypt method above): Select ONLY the newly created drive, i.e., P: drive
- For Mac: Select a designated folder to store your financial documents
- Move all of your important documents to your your newly created hard drive.
- When you are finished, click on Start Backup Immediately in iDrive anytime you would like to backup your files.
If you need more than 5 GB to backup more than just your important financial documents, iDrive has a very competitive pricing plan for Cloud Backup and Storage.
- If your laptop is your only computer and has sensitive files, I strongly recommend you do this for redundancy.
- I don’t suggest using VeraCrypt (software encryption) if you have a Solid State Hard Drive (SSD). It may degrade the life of your drive.
- You can use iDrive to create an encrypted backup to an external hard drive.
- Any intensive hard drive operations like encryption and/or backup can reveal flaws in your hard drive which could lead to data corruption. Always backup your data first!
- Use two-factor authentication with your cell phone and iDrive to access your cloud files.
With encryption and a secure backup, you can rest assured that your data doesn’t fall into the wrong hands, and is still recoverable in case it is accidentally destroyed. Protect your financial files today!
What do you use to ensure that your files are safe and recoverable?