Encryption: What, When, How

Encryption is the conversion of information into a format that is unreadable by unauthorized users. An encrypted computer file can only be opened by those possessing the appropriate key or password. When an encrypted message is converted back to readable information, it is said to be "decrypted."

When Should I Use Encryption?
  • Some UWF employees work with confidential information such as Social Security numbers. Those entrusted with this information have the responsibility to prevent it from being improperly exposed, which sometimes requires encryption.

    Confidential files saved on your hard drive or a USB key should be encrypted. Confidential information that will be transmitted via email should also be encrypted.

    Files saved on an ArgoNet drive (H, I, and some departmental drives) are protected by your ArgoNet password and may not require encryption (depending on the required level of protection).

How Do I Encrypt a File?
  • The ITS Help Desk supports the encryption options detailed below. Your encryption needs may vary. For assistance determining the best encryption option for your scenario, please contact the ITS Help Desk.

    1. AxCrypt
    2. PGP – email encryption
    3. 7-Zip for Windows
    4. 7-Zip/7zX for Mac

    7-Zip is an easy-to-use option for the encryption and decryption of files. This option is often used for confidential email attachments. When used in email, both the sender and the recipient must install 7-Zip. When the file is encrypted, a password is selected that must be shared among all individuals accessing the file. 7-Zip can also encrypt a folder containing multiple files.

How Do I Prepare My Computer and Files for Foreign Travel?
  • Never travel with sensitive information unless absolutely necessary. Foreign governments are known to target electronic media carried by U.S. citizens travelling abroad, and some countries access files upon entry into the country. When travelling abroad, computer hardware and software may require an export license.

    U.S. export laws significantly restrict foreign travel with encryption software. If you have to take a computer abroad, use a "clean" laptop that does not include restricted software or data, and then carry a USB key with your information. Another alternative is to use remote desktop to connect to a computer in the U.S. that contains the information you need.