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Dell, McAfee, Seagate Deliver Self-Encrypting Hard Drive

The new Momentus FDE (full-disk encryption) notebook hard drives, at speeds of 5,400 and 7,200 rpm, in capacities of up to 320 GB, are shipping.
Having figured out that the existence of encryption software doesn't actually mean that such systems will be installed and used, hard drive maker Seagate has decided to offer a self-encrypting hard drive for notebook computers.

The company on Monday said that it is shipping its new Momentus FDE (full-disk encryption) notebook hard drives, at speeds of 5,400 and 7,200 rpm, in capacities of up to 320 GB, to defend against the possibility of a data breach following the loss or theft of a laptop. A 500-GB model is coming soon.

It also said that Dell is shipping a notebook with a 160-GB self-encrypting drive and McAfee ePolicy Orchestrator (ePO) management system and endpoint encryption client.

Notebook computers are stolen every 53 seconds and 97% are never recovered, according to the 2007 Annual CSI/FBI Computer Crime and Security Survey.

Just last week, two laptops were reportedly stolen from the Tonsler Park voting precinct building in Charlottesville, Va. According to NBC affiliate WVIR, the laptops were encrypted; they contained the names, addresses, and DMV numbers of the approximately 25,000 registered voters in the city.

Also last week, a laptop containing limited health information about 100,000 patients of Baylor Health Care System was reportedly stolen from an employee's car. A letter was sent to the 7,400 patients whose Social Security numbers were stored on the computer.

Momentus FDE drives are intended for both personal and corporate use. Consumers can simply install a Momentus drive, enter a BIOS password, and then log into the operating system as usual. Thereafter, data is protected by AES encryption.

Through McAfee ePO, enterprise IT managers can enforce corporate policy, prove policy compliance, and perform other administrative operations on Momentus FDE drives.

McAfee's software provides 256-bit AES encryption; Seagate's Momentus provides 128-bit encryption. Seagate maintains that 128-bit AES provides sufficient security and that a weak authentication key is more of a worry than a 128-bit encryption key.

Chris Parkerson, group solution marketing manager for data protection at McAfee, said that hard disk encryption has been available through software for years. The reason, he said, that Seagate, McAfee, and Dell are offering encryption on a hardware level is that consumers wanted security to be even easier, to come built in on the machines they're acquiring.

Laptop checks at the border may never be the same.