Protect Data on Lost or Stolen Devices

OIT shares how and why to encrypt laptops and cell phones

Your laptop and cell phone likely contain a lot of data that you would not want a stranger to have – personal email and photos, contact information, your online banking, and work data, too.   Encrypting mobile devices is a quick, easy way to keep sensitive information out of the wrong hands. It takes just a moment to activate and doesn’t slow down a device.Encryption means that all data on a device is scrambled and protected by the operating system. Once encrypted, no one can use or access your device or its contents without entering a password, Personal Identification Number (PIN) or using a fingerprint scan that only you can provide."When you travel, it’s easier to lose your devices or for them to be stolen. Encryption is a quick and secure way to protect your privacy and Duke's data,” said Kevin Davis, global services director at the Office of Information Technology (OIT). “Strangers can't access your encrypted devices without your passcode.”If a laptop or cell phone contains work material, like email, documents or other university information, a loss or theft puts Duke’s data at risk too.“If your missing device is not encrypted and it contains work data, we will need to investigate, through detailed interviews with the device’s owner, to see if any sensitive data was on the device that could compromise Duke or laws protecting sensitive information like protected health information,” said John Straffin, IT security analyst at Duke’s IT Security Office (ITSO). “If it’s encrypted, it’s much less of a risk.”How do I encrypt my device?Laptops: For Duke issued laptops, talk to your departmental IT support to ensure your device is encrypted. If you’re using a personal laptop, visit the University IT Security Office ( website to learn how to enable encryption for Windows or Mac.Smartphones and Tablets: Apple iOS 7 (operating system) and newer Apple products will encrypt automatically when you add a passcode or fingerprint scan. For Android devices, encryption can be enabled from the security settings on the device. For the best security, update your device to the latest iOS/Android software before traveling. This is typically done through your device’s general settings. Visit the Duke’s IT Security Office for step-by-step instructions.