Laptop Encryption

University policy requires all UT-owned laptop computers (as well as personally-owned laptops containing Category I data) to have their contents encrypted by December 2011.  This policy is intended to secure sensitive data and to prevent its release in the event of theft or loss.  Encrypting your laptop's contents is mandatory if the machine is UT-owned or contains Category I data.

STEP 1: Backup!

Backing up your laptop's data is critical for this process.  Once the data is encrypted, if the encryption key (or password) is lost, the contents cannot be retrieved.  If there is a serious hardware or software failure during the encryption process, the contents could be lost.  Be sure to perform a full system backup of your laptop's contents before installing the encryption software.

The Computer Science Department offers a free service for backing up user data on portable computers purchased on departmental funds, using CrashPlan Pro Enterprise software.  Information about this service and software downloads are available at the portable computer backup service page.  The service is designed for backing up the files contained in the user's home directory, not a complete snapshot of the entire disk including operating system.  For this reason, we recommend that you have a separate system backup image before encrypting your disk.

For maximum safety, if the CS Department staff is encrypting your UT-owned laptop, we will make a snapshot image of the drive before proceeding.  You should still have a regular backup system in place regardless.

STEP 2: Encrypt

The Information Security Office recommends WinMagic SecureDoc for use on UT laptops, which is compatible with Windows, Mac OS X, and Linux.  The CS support staff can install this software for you.  This process takes about one business day and can be scheduled by opening a request online.

If you have special software needs or are curious about alternative options, the ISO has provided a list of approved encryption solutions for UT use.

If you decide to encrypt your laptop yourself, once you have downloaded the software for your computer, pick a time to install it when you can leave the computer plugged in and unused for several hours, and install the software.

If your computer is owned by the University, the CS Department staff can perform the installation and initial encryption process on it.  We'll take a single backup snapshot of the drive's contents beforehand, so plan for this process to take a full work day.  You'll still need to have a backup process in place before proceeding.  If you'd like us to perform this task, send mail to gripe [at] cs [dot] utexas [dot] edu to arrange a time.

STEP 3: Keep Backing Up

Now that your laptop is encrypted, it's important to keep current backups of its contents.  If something happens to the disk, you don't want to lose any changes you've made since the installation of the encryption software.

We are happy to assist with this process.  If you have questions about the laptop encryption process or what will be required of you, please send mail to gripe [at] cs [dot] utexas [dot] edu.