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When I recently wrote about technology red flags (playing golf with a shovel), I mentioned that an organisation buying its laptops from PC World is one such flag.

I have nothing against PC World. But the majority of laptops sold by such retailers are for home use.

And I do have a problem with an organisation relying on technology that is designed for home use.

A laptop is a laptop, isn’t it?

Laptops designed for home use look the same as ‘business’ laptops.

From the outside, the main difference is the price tag – They are usually cheaper than business laptops.

A cynic might say it’s because a consumer is more price-sensitive than a business. There could be an element of truth in that.

But there are other reasons, including the fact that home laptops usually have the cheapest version of Windows (“Windows Home Edition”) installed on them.

This has an important impact on the security of your data.

A password locks (the) Windows.

With a Windows password, if your device is lost or stolen, someone else can’t just open the laptop and use it.

But if you use Windows Home Edition, a Windows password may not be enough to prevent that person accessing the data on the laptop.

This is because the data is stored on a hard drive in the laptop. The drive can be removed and its contents accessed using another device.

It’s a blatant back door that Windows Home Edition may leave wide open.

Encryption locks the doors.

The best way to lock this back door is to encrypt the hard drive.

If the hard drive is encrypted, its contents can’t be accessed by anyone unless they have the encryption password. The hard disk is just an expensive brick.

The fatal flaw with Windows Home Edition

Microsoft provides a built-in disk encryption tool, called BitLocker, in all business editions of Windows. But BitLocker is not available in Windows Home Edition.

Windows Home Edition: Hard on the outside. Soft in the middle.

There are alternatives to BitLocker if you are using Windows Home Edition. For example:

  • There are free 3rd party tools that you can install on the device, or
  • There is functionality (called ‘device encryption’) included in Windows Home Edition that performs a similar encryption function. But, as discussed in a recent Guardian article, it’s not easy to find laptops with the required hardware to enable this.

So, yes, there are alternatives. But they take time. And seriously, doesn’t your organisation have better things to do with its time?

Two simple questions to ask about your organisation’s IT

  1. What version of Windows is in use within the organisation? [An answer that mentions Windows Home Edition is the wrong answer]
  2. What has been done to ensure the hard disks in all laptops are encrypted? [An answer that focuses on Windows passwords and password policies is an incomplete answer]