Five ways to protect your data

Windows takes a look at five lesser known but important things you should be doing to protect your data

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By  Gareth Van Zyl Published  March 31, 2009

Protecting your data usually involves a degree of common sense. You wouldn't, for instance want to lose your data stick at the local Laundromat, and you wouldn't open an email attachment from a source you don't trust, thus potentially unleashing a virus that wipes out your entire hard drive's information. However, there are lesser known but important means of protecting your that you should consider employing, and Windows takes a look at 5 things you should be doing to protect your data.

Data Encryption

‘Encryption' might conjure up images in your mind of spies covertly communicating with each other. But encrypting your data on your PC is one of the most effective means of data-protection. When you encrypt data, it becomes scrambled so that it can neither be read nor make any sense to others. You would need to enter a password for encrypted information to become visible and readable again. One particular way of password-protecting your data is to compress your data and encrypt the documents using a program such as WinZip.

Widely used applications such as Microsoft Office can be used to employ encryption as well. To password-protect a document in the latest versions of Microsoft Word, you can click on ‘Tools', ‘Options' and click on the ‘Security' Tab. You can then add a password to a document and set the type of encryption to be used.

There is also third-party software out there that you can download for free and use to encrypt your data. One such piece of software is TrueCrypt ( It can be used to create a virtual encrypted disk and it can also encrypt an entire partition or storage device, such as a USB flash drive or hard drive.

You can even encrypt your online login data. Many of us use social networking and even job searching sites. The result is that many of us end up putting a lot of our important information online and many of us might even end up using the same username and password over and over again for each one of these sites. This is a risk as you should try to vary your login details as much as possible by including a variety of symbols, numbers and upper and lower case letters in your password. However, you can also use software that encrypts your passwords such as Roboform (, which is free and compatible for up to 10 websites. This software assists in making it difficult for hackers to snoop upon your login information.

Secure your wireless transmissions

Wireless internet connections come with the risk that somebody can access your data indirectly. According to, there are a number of ways you can protect your wireless transmissions. Your first step in securing your wireless network lies in the administrator password that is needed to log into the device and modify any configuration settings.

Most of these devices use a weak password such as "password" and the manufacturer's name. As a result, there are entire websites dedicated to listing the login information for the relevant routers and their models. Therefore, as soon as you setup a new WLAN router or access point and after your first login, make sure that you change your username and password to something that nobody can guess. Stay away from using your name, birth date, anniversary date and so on as these are the first things a hacker could take a guess at. It's also advised to avoid common English words as hackers can use dictionary hacking tools.

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