Security software

Seagate in Full-Disk Encryption Push

Seagate has launched a major push to increase the uptake of its Full Disk Encryption (FDE) laptop and PC drives, with higher capacities, competitive prices, and a partnership with Dell.

From this month, purchasers of a wide range of Dell laptops will be offered an upgrade to Seagate's latest Momentus FDE drives, with capacities between 160GB and 320GB at platter speeds of 5400rpm and 7200rpm, depending on model. Drives of 500GB will be available by the end of the year, Seagate indicated.

According to Dell, laptops with the standard 5,400rpm 120GB drive added would add around US$139 to the price compared to the same machine with a non-encrypting drive of the same capacity, with the 160GB 7,200rpm model adding $149. Price premiums for the higher-capacity drives were unavailable.

Dell systems on which FDE technology can be bought cover the Latitude E6400/6500, E4300, E5400/ E5500, ATG and XFR, the Mobile Precision M6400, M4400, M2400, and Optiplex 960.

The new family of FDE drives marks the culmination of a slow-burning effort by Seagate to get corporate to start buying FDE encryption drives in greater numbers. After announcing the drives in 2005, it took the company until last year to turn the Momentus FDE into a commercially-shipping product inside laptops from ASI.

Unlike rival software technologies, the FDE drives themselves incorporate the technology in its entirety at firmware level, and require no user intervention beyond entering a passphrase each time the system is booted. From that point onwards encryption and decryption is transparent.

Until now, laptops with encryption integrated at drive level have tended to be seen by businesses as more secure and better-performing than software-only alternatives but without solving the issue of key management complexity. Two years of serious data loss incidents later, and the orthodoxy has started to budge, not least as data security mandates have started to spread in the US.

To that end, the drives now integrate with McAfee's ePolicy Orchestrator (ePO) management software in addition to a similar system from Wave Systems, Embassy Trust Suite which has supported the drives from launch.

McAfee's ePO has the added advantage that it will also manage machines encrypted with software-only encryption, and fits into a wider endpoint security system. This is licensed separately and requires a client on each machine.

"It has taken a while for this to take off," admitted Seagate's product marketing manager, Joni Clarke. "People were fearful of software encryption," she said.

The company wanted to turn full-disk encryption into a mainstream option for technology buyers. "Encryption should be core to data. Our mission is that someday all drives should have encryption," she said.

Drives could also be purchased on a stand-alone basis, and retrofitted to older laptops, she confirmed. Other system vendors using the drives now included Lenovo, Fujitsu and NEC.

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