Seagate tries again with encrypted drive

Beginning early next year, Seagate Technology will begin shipping its first widely available hard drives with built-in encryption.

The Momentus 5400 FDE.2 (Full Disk Encryption 2) will include a special encryption chip that will make it impossible for anybody to read data off the disk, or even boot up a PC, without some form of authentication. Designed for notebook computers, the 2.5-inch, 5400 RPM drive will come with a storage capacity of 80GB, 120GB or 160GB.

Users could give a password to gain access to the drive, but Seagate expects notebook vendors to also develop other authentication systems such as fingerprint and smart card readers.

Though PC makers had yet to publicly announce support for the technology, which Seagate is calling DriveTrust, the disk maker expected many PC makers to ship systems with the disks, a senior product marketing manager with Seagate, Scott Shimomura, said.

Seagate was also working with software vendors to develop things such as enterprise password management systems that worked with the drives, he said.

This kind of widespread adoption would distinguish the FDE.2 from Seagate's first attempt at full drive encryption, the Momentus 5400 FDE, announced in June of last year.

That drive, which was not adopted by any major hardware makers, was considered a proof-of-concept product, Seagate now says.

Unlike the FDE, the FDE.2 will ship with better-performing 128-bit Advanced Encryption Standard encryption and faster Serial Advanced Technology Attachment interface.

Seagate's drives would be available to notebook manufacturers around January, which meant they should ship in notebooks shortly thereafter, Shimomura said.

Though Seagate wouldn't say how much of a premium users would pay for encrypted drives, Shimomura said the price markup would be comparable with the cost of software-based encryption. That would put the extra charge for an encrypted notebook at less than $US100.

Seagate also expected to expand DriveTrust to its desktop and storage array platforms at some point, Shimomura said.

"There's nothing to say that this couldn't eventually make its way into the smaller form factor drives as well," he said. "Right now, we're trying to address the markets that have the most immediate need."

A recent survey by security vendor, Vontu, and The Ponemon Institute found that 81 per cent of respondents reported that their companies had lost laptops containing sensitive information in the previous year. In 2006, lost or stolen laptops have been blamed for possible data breaches at Ernst & Young, Ahold USA and, most famously, the US Department of Veterans Affairs.

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