Print 37 comment(s) - last by Jack Ripoff.. on Feb 6 at 9:35 AM

And so they forged the encryption of power, one encryption to rule them all

With reports of sensitive and, at times, top-secret information being lost on the hard drives of notebook computers, keeping data safe is one of the most important things for business and consumers today. One problem is that hard drive makers often used their own encryption format, which made things confusing for the consumer.

ComputerWorld reports that hard drive makers have now agreed to use the same encryption method for full-disk encryption (FDE) that can be used across all brands of hard drives and SSDs. When FDE is enabled, the computer requires a password before it will boot and all data on the drive is encrypted.

The final specifications for the encryption standard were published this week by the Trusted Computing Group (TCG) and cover specs for FDE in notebooks, desktop and server applications. Robert Thibadeau from Seagate said, "This represents interoperability commitments from every disk drive maker on the planet. We're protecting data at rest. When a USB drive is unplugged, or when a laptop is powered down, or when an administrator pulls a drive from a server, it can't be brought back up and read without first giving a cryptographically-strong password. If you don't have that, it's a brick. You can't even sell it on eBay."

Settling on one single encryption standard will allow all drive makers to build security into all products, which will lower the cost of production and make it easier for user to secure the data on their computers.

This is big news for enterprise environments where a standard encryption protocol means less configuration and less hassle during installation along with less management down the road. The specifications allow encryption to be set by administrators and can’t be turned off by end-users.

One very important factor is that modern FDE has come a long way and now only marginally effects read-write speeds of hard drives. Writing data to an encrypted drive is almost as fast as writing data to a non-encrypted drive. The companies that are members of the TCG include Fujitsu, Hitachi GST, Seagate Technology, Samsung, Toshiba, Western Digital, Wave Systems, LSI Corp., ULink Technology, and IBM.

Analyst Jon Oltsik from Enterprise Strategy Group said, "In five years time, you can imagine any drive coming off the production line will be encrypted, and there will be virtually no cost for it."

The three specifications for FDE includes the Opal spec for outlining minimum requirements for a storage device in a PC or laptop. The Enterprise Security Subsystem Class Specification is aimed at drives in data centers where minimum security configuration is needed during install. The final spec is the Storage Interface Interactions Specification, which details how the specifications interact with other standards for storage interface.

The specification supports PATA and SATA, SCSI SAS, Fibre Channel, and ATAPI. The three larger members of the group -- Seagate, Fujitsu, and Hitachi -- are already producing drives that support the standard. The specifications call for vendors to choose to use either AES 128-bit or AES 256-bit keys depending on the level of security wanted. The group points out that neither of these standards has been broken.

Comments     Threshold

This article is over a month old, voting and posting comments is disabled

RE: speeds
By JasonMick on 1/29/2009 10:32:07 AM , Rating: 2
I think what he meant is that a lot of drive manufacturers advertise encrypted drives as being "virtually as fast" as nonencrypted drives or other sticky phrases. Its typical marketing speak. For example NVIDIA bragged about how great their new 3D gaming vision is, and how its "easily supported" and it was only when I prodded them that they admitted it yields a 30 percent performance hit.

However, in this case, I think the benefits of encryption far outweigh performance drops. In general, write speeds do impact performance marginally, but compared to graphics cards and processors, HDDs are seldom the bottleneck in the system. However, failing to secure your data can be very costly on the other hand, and I wouldn't want to give up a few frames-per-second for that.

RE: speeds
By jmke on 1/29/2009 10:40:40 AM , Rating: 5
However, in this case, I think the benefits of encryption far outweigh performance drops. In general, write speeds do impact performance marginally, but compared to graphics cards and processors, HDDs are seldom the bottleneck in the system.

what?? HDDs are the major bottleneck of systems! Most likely you'll want your laptop's HDD encrypted; in laptops the speed of the HDD pretty much dominates its performance level, adds encryption and it will run remarkably slower; add a faster HDD and it will work remarkably snappier and faster.

HDDs are pretty much the only component in current gen systems which is not as fast as it should be...

RE: speeds
By bobsmith1492 on 1/29/2009 10:43:58 AM , Rating: 4
Although with Vista's memory management, if you have enough RAM, it's only an issue on startup. Otherwise most of your applications and data can be cached in RAM. I'm sure Windows 7 will be the same or better.

RE: speeds
By Oregonian2 on 1/29/2009 10:46:19 AM , Rating: 5
Encryption will only be "remarkably slower" if it's done in software. The HDD makers will do it in hardware which will easily work in real time with gates and flops tied behind it's back.

RE: speeds
By BladeVenom on 1/29/2009 11:43:07 AM , Rating: 2
Even software encryption isn't that big of a penalty. Here's a recent test at Tom's of Truecrypt.

RE: speeds
By JasonMick on 1/29/2009 10:50:06 AM , Rating: 3
I understand what you're saying but that's highly subjective and depends on your application. It really depends on your application. In gaming, on laptops HDDs are definitely NOT the bottleneck. Perhaps they are a considerable one, but by far the underpowered graphics cards on most laptops are the biggest bottleneck. Laptop graphics are only now FINALLY starting to get up to snuff. Most people don't realize that the average card features a mere half to a fourth of the processing units of its similarly named PC brethren.

I'm sure HDD performance is much more critical for database or other storage-intensive apps, though (I'd say you're 100 percent right if you meant this). I would agree that laptops are most vulnerable to encryption performance hits, but on business notebooks, these losses aren't as critical, but protection is.

PC HDDs are of course faster, as are ones in server setups so losses are smaller and less of a concern.

RE: speeds
By icanhascpu on 1/29/2009 4:03:42 PM , Rating: 3
PC HDDs are of course faster, as are ones in server setups so losses are smaller and less of a concern.

Yet still by far the biggest bottleneck in either setup. It does not depend on the application. It does not depend on anything. Why? Becuse as soon as a system needs to access the hard drive, the bottleneck presents itself. Thats exactly the point. I dont know what youre talking about or if youve had one too many appletinies.

RE: speeds
By gss4w on 1/30/2009 3:09:12 AM , Rating: 1
HDD are certainly a bottleneck in some scenarios, particularly loading applications. However, much of the problem is caused by rotational and seek latency, and adding encryption will not increase the latency.

Also with software encryption such as Bitlocker on Vista the data is read from the HDD and then decrypted in memory. So the performance of reading from the HDD is not degraded, although there is some additional delay to do the encryption/decryption. However, the encryption operations in memory are so much faster than the HDD that it ends up being negligible.

In summary, yes the HDD is a major bottleneck, but adding encryption does not really make the bottleneck any worse because the encryption operations are so much faster than the R/W from the HDD in the first place.

RE: speeds
By SilentSin on 1/29/2009 10:43:23 AM , Rating: 2
n general, write speeds do impact performance marginally, but compared to graphics cards and processors, HDDs are seldom the bottleneck in the system.

??? HDDs are by far the slowest internal part of the system and therefore the bottleneck. Why do you think there is such a big push to move towards SSDs with far higher bandwidth? Your case may work for gaming where there is very little writing being done, but as for just about anything else that's just not true. Even systems with real time virus checking have very noticeable slowdown when you're installing a big application, encryption would just add to that delay. I'm not saying encryption is unusable and it definitely should be used for any sensitive data regardless of performance, but to say that a GPU or CPU is a "slower" part in that chain is just false.

RE: speeds
By JasonMick on 1/29/09, Rating: 0
RE: speeds
By TomZ on 1/29/2009 11:17:30 AM , Rating: 3
Yes of course HDDs are the slowest component by design, but they are also a bottleneck in many typical computer operations. The OP is right about that. It makes sense to pay attention to HDD performance if you are looking to speed up your machine overall.

"If you look at the last five years, if you look at what major innovations have occurred in computing technology, every single one of them came from AMD. Not a single innovation came from Intel." -- AMD CEO Hector Ruiz in 2007
Related Articles

Copyright 2016 DailyTech LLC. - RSS Feed | Advertise | About Us | Ethics | FAQ | Terms, Conditions & Privacy Information | Kristopher Kubicki