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Education Commons at OISE

Keep the Data Safe


Encryption of the Computer's Hard Drive

The single most important thing that can be done to secure the data stored on a laptop or desktop computer is to encrypt the computer's hard drive. With an unencrypted drive, anyone who gets ahold of the computer can circumvent any login protection by removing the drive, connecting it to another computer, and copying all the files from it. With encryption, no one but the holder of the decryption password can ever read the files.

You may think that nobody would ever take your laptop or desktop computer and ransack it for data; sadly, there are plenty of people who would.

Encryption of OISE laptops

The good news for users of OISE laptops is that file encryption is already turned on when you receive your machine, so no steps need be taken on your part. The decryption password is held by authorized personnel, so they, and only they, will always be able to retrieve the data from the disk.

Encryption of your personal computer

If your own computer holds any confidential data from the University (even so much as a single file with a password in it), you must turn on file encryption on your system. Even if you do not keep any such data on your own machine, encryption is highly advisable for the protection of your own privacy in the event of theft.

The pages linked below provide instructions for encrypting your files on a Windows or Macintosh machine.

How to turn on file encryption on Windows

How to turn on file encryption on a Mac

Always Require Login

Many people set their personal computers to start up or wake up without prompting for a login; it's natural to dislike the tedious necessity of logging in just to look at your own stuff. But, once your computer holds any sensitive data that does not belong to you, you must take the extra step of requiring a password to access it, so that no unauthorized person, be they well- or ill-intentioned, can view or alter, intentionally or inadvertently, any of that sensitive data.

The pages linked below provide instructions for requiring login to access a Windows or Macintosh machine. Be sure to select the options that require login on startup and on waking from sleep.

How to require login on Windows

How to require login on a Mac

Store and Transport Your Device Securely

If you have sensitive data on your machine (personal device or OISE laptop), the consequences of loss of that machine or any of its data, through accident or theft, could be very serious.  Please follow these best practices to avoid a catastrophic outcome.

  • Never leave the device unattended in a public place.
  • Never leave the device unattended at home without logging off or shutting it off.
  • Never allow access to the device by individuals who may not be capable of treating it with the necessary sense of responsibility (e.g., young children).
  • Never leave the device in an automobile, especially not in a position where it can be seen from outside the automobile.
  • Use, store, and handle the device according to all of the manufacturer's recommendations and warnings to avoid physical or electrical damage, which may entail data loss as well.

Only Use Online Storage Supported by Education Commons

If you are using online storage (AKA the cloud) to make your work files available to you outside the workplace, be sure to use only the U of T Office365 applications OneDrive and Sharepoint for this purpose. Other services (such as DropBox, Google Drive, Apple iCloud), although they may be offered by sound and reputable companies, are disallowed as repositories of the University's data, because they do not meet the University's security or privacy requirements, and because the university has not established a working relationship with any of them to ensure the safety of the data, as it has with Microsoft.

If you choose to store the university's data in an online storage service other than Office365's OneDrive and Sharepoint, be aware that, in the event of any breach or loss of that data, you may be held responsible because of that decision.

Note: if you are a user of Education Commons' in-house secure storage solution, Homespace, we urge you to move your data from Homespace to OneDrive or Sharepoint, as soon as possible. We will be ending support for Homespace, in favour of the Microsoft solutions that are available from anywhere at any time.

If you have questions about any of the above, contact oise.help@utoronto.ca.