In light of my own recent experience, I highly recommend all journalists (photo, video, print or otherwise) begin encrypting your working files and drives as soon as possible – i.e. from today.
It’s quite simple to build a workable encryption workflow for your stories, ideas, research and contacts (especially contacts) using free, third party software such as TrueCrypt. TrueCrypt can be used to create encrypted ‘containers’ on any drive (e.g. a usb drive, thumb drive or your own internal hard disk), that are as easy to open and shut as a usb drive is to put into your machine. These containers can be worked from as a ‘mounted’ drive, and then ‘ejected’ and once closed, completely unreadable to anyone trying to see what is inside. They can also be easily hidden on the drive.
Happy to run through this process with anyone who wants to know more or is feeling TrueCrypt illiterate… but SERIOUSLY… do it asap. Your laptop, USB disks or thumb drives can be taken/stolen/lost/confiscated in the blink of an eye, and at that point it will be too late to do anything to protect your data.
Remember, as a journalist your data is not just casual stuff, it contains contacts, it contains ideas, it contains sources, it contains location information, telephone numbers, addresses… you name it. Your data, if compromised, could get you and (especially) many others in very hot water if you don’t protect it. Encrypt today!