Four cool facts about military-grade SSDs

Here are just some of the cool things I learned while researching today's Computerworld story on the solid-state disk security and data integrity:

1. Think Mission:Impossible. "This SSD will self-destruct in five seconds." It's pretty well known that solid state disks can be erased much faster than spinning disk. But some military-grade SSDs are even faster. SSDs store data on multiple flash memory chips. These devices can erase all of the data residing on every chip in one simultaneous action. While hard disk drives might require an hour or two to sequentially overwrite every sector, these SSDs do the job in a matter of seconds.

2. Unlike in spy movies, once the self destruct sequence starts it cannot be stopped. Some military spec SSDs have an erase feature that's irreversable once invoked. Even turning off the device won't help: As soon as power is restored the process  continues to completion.

3. Data destruct sequences have multiple triggers. Depending on the design, data destruction may be triggered either by software command or by pressing a physical switch. If a portable SSD device is about to get into the wrong hands, the owner can press a the kill switch on the device. The device may have a battery with enough power to destroy the device. Others are designed to self destruct as soon as power is restored. The process happens stealthily: By the time the enemy knows what's going on the data is gone.

Still other SSDs are designed to work only when inserted into an authorized computer. If the device is not authorized, the SSD immediately self destructs.

4. Those exotic self destruct features won't appear in business and consumer SSDs. The reason, according to Intel: Disk encryption is just as effective for non-military uses. But don't look for hardware-level encryption in commercial SSDs just yet - most vendors have yet to offer the feature.

In the story you'll find more details on the above, as well as why shredded SSDs can still produce data and how a cool new initiative from Intel and Microsoft that will increase the performance of SSDs while improving data security.

Copyright © 2009 IDG Communications, Inc.

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