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BitLocker in layman's terms?

Arlin Sandbulte
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I’m trying to explain BitLocker in a very layman’s approach.  
How accurate is this explanation?

 

What is BitLocker?
If your computer is stolen and your Windows login is not password protected, BitLocker really does not offer any protection.
But, even if your login is password protected, it is possible to bypass that protection in a couple ways if your computer or data drive is stolen:

  1. Some software tools that run at an EARLY stage in the boot process can get around Windows password protection.
  2. Removing a hard drive and using a different computer to access the data on the hard drive can bypass BIOS and Windows password protections.

BitLocker detects if any of those (and maybe more) situations occur, and if they do, BitLocker will require a key to access any data on the drive.

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Side note, If BitLocker is on a different drive than windows you can change the settings so even if you don't have a password on Windows it will require a password to access the drive. 

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Just keeping this here as a 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That is a bit of a roundabout way to explain.
I'd say that simply bitlocker is an effective second line of defense against unauthorized data access in the event the laptop is stolen. 
I like one-liners 😉
Also, IIRC BL has historically been cracked, but it's a pretty steep resource investment. Much more than standard password bypass. 

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Thanks.

I am trying to explain (and understand myself) how BitLocker improves upon just using a password on your Windows login.

  • If you need a password to login to Windows, and someone steals your laptop, they need your password or hack your password to get in.  BitLocker never comes into play with that... or does it?
  • If you don't need a password to login to Windows, and someone steals your laptop, they just need to boot it up to get in.  BitLocker never comes into play... or does it?

I'm just trying to understand how BitLocker really comes into play when the BL key is almost never needed in normal use.

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Bitlocker actually encrypts the drive. if the drive is unencrypted and you have physical access to it you can A) put it in another computer and access the data or B) use a live boot operating system and mount the drive. both of those options completely bypass any and all windows credentialing.

 

if you encrypt the drive, it can not be mounted and the data accessed without first decrypting it.

 

ms docs

Additionally, bitlocker use TPM, which is a physical security chip on the motherboard.

if you have bitlocker enabled, you wouldn't be able to get the key (easily) and you can't just stick the drive somewhere else, since there would be a TPM mismatch.

 

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On 8/24/2022 at 7:12 PM, Arlin Sandbulte said:

If your computer is stolen and your Windows login is not password protected, BitLocker really does not offer any protection.

This is kind of wrong.

 

On 8/24/2022 at 7:12 PM, Arlin Sandbulte said:

But, even if your login is password protected, it is possible to bypass that protection in a couple ways if your computer or data drive is stolen:

  1. Some software tools that run at an EARLY stage in the boot process can get around Windows password protection.
  2. Removing a hard drive and using a different computer to access the data on the hard drive can bypass BIOS and Windows password protections.

These are kind of wrong as well.

 

 

 

On 8/24/2022 at 8:30 PM, Arlin Sandbulte said:

Thanks.

I am trying to explain (and understand myself) how BitLocker improves upon just using a password on your Windows login.

  • If you need a password to login to Windows, and someone steals your laptop, they need your password or hack your password to get in.  BitLocker never comes into play with that... or does it?
  • If you don't need a password to login to Windows, and someone steals your laptop, they just need to boot it up to get in.  BitLocker never comes into play... or does it?

I'm just trying to understand how BitLocker really comes into play when the BL key is almost never needed in normal use.

Bitlocker encrypts your hard drive. That's what it does. Encrypting the hard drive means that you need a password (not your Windows password) to decrypt it.

I think the confusion comes from the fact that you can configure BitLocker in multiple ways.

 

 

It seems like you are thinking of BitLocker in what I believe is called "TPM-only" mode. In this mode, the decryption key is stored in the TPM and is automatically loaded when Windows boots. This provides protection in two ways:

1) It prevents someone from removing the hard drive and attempting to read it on another PC.

2) By using the TPM and Secure Boot, it can verify that you are booting from unmodified firmware. If the firmware that is loaded during the boot sequence does not pass the validation checks (done by secure boot) the boot process can be halted before Windows is even decrypted. As a result, some types of malware can't access your stored data.

 

BitLocker in TPM-only mode is not the most secure way of configuring BitLocker though. That title goes to BitLocker when configured with a PIN.

If you enable "additional authentication at startup", you can insert an additional password protection layer into the boot process. This works by requiring the user to input a special BitLocker PIN before the drive is decrypted. The decryption step is usually handled automatically by the TPM, but in this mode the user has to input a password first. This is what that looks like.

This result in the computer having essentially two passwords (the first one can be replaced with a USB drive as well).

One to boot and decrypt the drive, and one to login to Windows.

 

 

In this mode it protects you from various attacks:

1) It protects you from the malicious firmware attack.

2) It protects you from someone bypassing the Windows login by plugging the drive into another computer or booting a USB Live CD.

3) It protects you from someone booting your PC and just looking at your data, even if they know your password (because you got two passwords).

 

 

 

Here is how I would describe BitLocker to someone who didn't know anything about it:

It prevents someone from reading your data if they stole your PC. Without it, someone could just take your hard drive, plug it into another PC and then see all your files.

 

When trying to explain something, first focus and explain what something does. Then if you want to dig deeper you can continue with what it doesn't do.

In your first post, literally the first sentence of your "explanation" is giving an example of when you believe it wouldn't help. You don't explain what something does by listing things and scenarios where it doesn't help.

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10 hours ago, StDragon said:

Just be sure to have a backup of the recovery key or at least validate it's copied to your online MS account.

If you have BitLocker turned on take a minute and go to the Microsoft recovery page, https://account.microsoft.com/devices/recoverykey or signin go to Account -> Devices -> Manage Recovery Keys, and verify the key is actually saved.

 

If you don't see a key you either aren't signed into the right account (very easy if you use 365 or work at a BYOD company) OR your computer simply didn't upload the key, which can happen for any number of reasons.

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