FULL DRIVE ENCRYPTION

2. August 2006, 22:49 | by WD Milner | Full Article |

With the recent epidemic of lost and stolen laptops filled with sensitive information you would think that it wouldn’t be a problem; just encrypt the data. While a reasonable approach and one that many individuals do follow, it requires a certain self-discipline depending on the system chosen. And let’s face it, most people when they are in a hurry are lazy and take shortcuts, or just simply forget.

Seagate intends to make such worries a thing of the past. They announced in June their FDE model 2.5 inch drive for notebooks.

What makes this drive unique, for the moment, is that it incorporates a 3DES encryption engine and Trusted Drive firmware on the drive itself. When combined with a motherboard incorporating a TPM module the drive will provide full drive encryption enabled prior to operating system boot and provide transparenet on-the-fly encryption of everything written/read to and from the drive. This sounds great, and is a big step forward, but comes with a couple of caveats.

The first is that the drives require the presence of the TPM module to function. This means that from a purely hardware view the millions of laptops already out there cannot be fitted with these drives. Anyone wishing to take advantage of the FDE drive will need a new laptop if you don’t already have one with the TCP module.

The second is that the Trusted Drive architecture is still fairly new and until it becomes widespread they are basically useless - though according to Seagate they are becoming standardized within the laptop industry ... so there may be TCP enabled machines out there without their owners knowing it (though that is speculation on my part).

The third is that according to Seagate, at least for the present, not only do these drives require the latest motherboards, BIOS and TCP module but they require Microsoft Windows Vista - an oeprating system that won’t likely see the market shelves for another 6 months (or more if Microsoft runs true to form).

The drives are apparently available in both SATA interface, and Ultra/ATA 100. What is confusing is that some of Seagate’s literature and correspondence indicates the encyption used is 3DES and other literature that it is AES. There is a big difference between the two and clarity would be nice. For those thinking of using them in a low power consumption or low noise home system, the drives may run in individually in a two drive system but are not as of this writing RAID capable.

More information can be had on the page of the press release by Seagate or the product page on their web site.

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Categories: ,
Keywords: encryption,hard drive,seagate,tpm trusted computing,Vista

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