Why Encrypt Files
While there's no reason to encrypt most files, there are two kinds of files you should definitely be encrypting:
The first kind is called "Personally identifiable information" or PII. Generally speaking, this is information that can be used to identify, contact or locate a specific person. This includes:
- Your name, whether it be your full name, surname or just a username
- Your address, either your house address or email
- Images of you, or possibly your handwriting
- Anything that indicates your date of birth, place of birth, race, religion, employment, health, etc.
- Any account numbers, be it your social security number, credit card number, etc.
The threat here is identity theft. An identity thief can used this information to find out more about you and commit crimes in your name. It could also lead to this information being released publically.
All that needs to be done to stop this from happening is to encrypt this type of data. Then, if your laptop or phone is ever stolen, they can't use the data on it against you. You'll be down one laptop, but nothing else.
The second kind of information is business information. This includes customer information, fincancial statements, legal documents, research and development data, etc.
Encrypting customer information is vital. If this information were stolen, not only would the customer suffer, they could likely hold you as liable. In some countries there are laws requiring you to take reasonable precautions with customer data, including encrypting it.
In summary: if it was on paper and you were throwing it out, would you shred it first? If so, encrypt the file. There's no need to encrypt files like MP3s or downloaded YouTube videos of funny cats.