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Seagate ships hardware-encrypted notebook drives

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Application security programs and practises

Analysis Seagate Technology has announced that it is now shipping its Momentus 5400 FDE.2, an encrypting 2.5in hard drive for notebooks, to ASI Computer Technologies. The Momentus 5400 FDE.2 (Full Disc Encryption) hard drive offers up to 160GB of capacity, Serial ATA interface, and hardware-based AES encryption.

The encrypting hard drive is also positioned as a means by which organizations can easily repurpose or retire laptops without compromising sensitive information and comply with data privacy laws.

ASI Computer Technologies plans to offer the drive in its new ASI C8015 system, which will also feature a biometric fingerprint reader for stronger user authentication. The laptop will target healthcare, legal, finance, government, and other industries requiring strong protection of information stored on laptop PCs. The C8015 will feature Wave Systems Embassy Security Center's Trusted Drive Manager, software that simplifies setup and configuration of Momentus 5400 FDE.2 drives.

Trusted Drive Manager also makes it easy for administrators and users to create and backup passwords, and for administrators to control hard-drive policies and security settings. The software also leverages Seagate's DriveTrust Technology to allow administrators to instantly and easily erase all data cryptographically so the drive can be safely redeployed or discarded.

With all the fuss about security, data theft, compliance and whatnot, the market has seen many vendors ply their data security solutions with an increasing zeal. Software-based encryption for files or hard drives is not new; however, the interest in it has grown considerably in light of recent embarrassing, if not illegal, data leaks or losses reported by various organizations. One of the challenges with software encryption is that it is generally not well understood by the technical layperson, and implementations often tend to be limited or specific in nature, e.g., encrypting email or certain files associated with a given application. By incorporating encryption at the hardware level, its use can be largely invisible to the user, which can remove a large obstacle to an effective deployment.

While many may view encryption of mobile devices such as notebooks solely as a means to block access to sensitive data in case of loss or theft, it can also prove advantageous to IT professionals. Depending upon the practices of an organization, sometimes a notebook may be "reassigned" to a new user, without IT's knowledge. It probably will not have been recovered to its factory-shipped configuration and the drive may still contain sensitive information even if it was deleted.

With configuration software such as the Trusted Drive Manager, IT can intercept such a transfer at the preboot authentication phase by having the system not grant access if the user is not recognized as part of the preboot authentication, which is under the control of IT. The system would then flow back through IT, which can then take whatever preventative actions necessary to ensure the safety of sensitive information before repurposing the notebook to its new user.

Hardware-based encryption for notebook hard drive is new, and obviously it will be some time before it is commonplace. Nevertheless, we believe the security and best practices afforded by their use in highly regulated industries is a no-brainer and expect to see such deployments grow, especially as Seagate signs up more and larger notebook vendors to include the Momentus 5400 FDE.2 and similar solutions into their product offerings. ®

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