Wednesday, 3 February 2016

The Windows Experiment

Question #1: What would I do if my iPhone got stolen?
Answer #1: I would buy a new phone.

Question #2: What would I if my Mac got stolen?
Answer #2: I would buy a new Mac [after securing a second mortgage].

Question #3: What would I if my Windows PC was stolen?
Answer #3: I would lose sleep over all the data it carried on its hard drive, data that is now easily accessible to the thief or anyone that gets their hands on the hard drive some time along the way.

IDE Apple Hard Drive

The noticeable differences between the above answers are to do with encryption. iPhones come encrypted by default; the encryption of a Mac's drive is part of its initial setup and is done as an afterthought. But on Windows? Ay, caramba!
If you have yourself a Pro Windows licence then you can set BitLocker up and live life like you had a Mac (at least in the hard drive encryption department). Most of us end users are not thus privileged, though, and we only have a Home Windows licence. In other words, we get screwed. Or rather, the security of our data is screwed.
The exception to the rule is a [very] modern PC running Windows 10 and locked with a Microsoft account (i.e., a Hotmail/Outlook account). If your Windows PC answers some very specific and rather demanding hardware requirements, Windows will encrypt your drive and allow you to stop worrying about the day after it got stolen. [There are still some privacy concerns associated with this scenario, but these do not apply to the bulk of households.]

Alas, Microsoft's encryption scheme seems to have skipped yours truly. My relatively new gaming PC, a machine powerful enough to run the most demanding of games, is deemed incapable of encrypting its drives by our Seattle based friends. Thanks a lot, Microsoft.
I know I can use third party solutions; but why should I bother with the extra administration chores and all the issues that come with product updates when Ubuntu, OS X and even my bloody phone take care of me without me even noticing it in the first place?
Also consider the situation in which the average consumer considering her next PC purchase is. What options are available to her if she wants to determine whether drive encryption will work or not? Nada. None.
Just in case you were wondering why there is no chance in hell I will run anything sensitive on a Windows machine.

Image by Carl Berkeley, Creative Commons (CC BY-ND 2.0) licence

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