Dell ships laptops with self-encrypting drives

The drives can be centrally managed

Dell Inc. announced today that it is offering Seagate Technology LLC's self-encrypting hard drives in its Latitude laptops, Precision Mobile Workstations and OptiPlex desktops as a security precaution in case those machines are lost or stolen. Seagate also announced today that it has begun shipping its 320GB and 500GB self-encrypting disk drives to laptop manufacturers worldwide.

Seagate shipped its first 160GB, self-encrypting drive to a handful of resellers about a year and a half ago. But this announcement marks the first generally available release of Seagate's new, higher-capacity, self-encrypting Momentus drives.

Seagate said it has also partnered with McAfee Inc. to certify its ePolicy Orchestrator (ePO) management software for use with the drives. EPO is an enterprise-class tool for security management that, among other tasks, sets up additional layers of authentication, such as biometrics and smart cards, on the drives. Dell is not yet offering ePO installed at the factory, but it is offering Wave Systems Corp.'s Embassy Trust Suite 5.0 encryption management software, according to Seagate.

Seagate is offering two versions of its Momentus drive for laptops: a stand-alone model that can be used by individual end users and an enterprise drive that comes with DriveTrust firmware, which allows management applications to automatically discover and manage the drive.

The Momentus drives come in 5,400rpm and 7,200rpm models. Seagate also still sells its earlier encrypting Momentus models -- a 120GB, 5,400rpm drive and a 160GB model that runs at 7,200rpm. The typical upgrade price is $139 and $149, respectively, according to Seagate.

While Dell has been shipping systems with Seagate's self-encrypting 5,400rpm Momentus laptop drive, Seagate said the 320GB and 500GB drives are the first higher-capacity drives and 7,200rpm drives to be shipped with the laptops.

Chris Cahalin, manager of network operations at Papa Gino's Inc. and D'Angelo Grilled Sandwiches, a Massachusetts-based fast-food chain, said approximately 80 of his company's 250 Dell laptops now have the new Seagate self-encrypting drives to protect corporate data in the hands of district managers who are often in the field.

"It encrypts as fast as the system can write to a drive. It's seamless, and there's no overhead as there is with software encryption," Cahalin said. Hardware-based encryption also helps him comply with the new Massachusetts law (201 CMR 17) that requires personal information to be protected by passwords or some form of biometric authentication.

While Cahalin had already been using third-party software to encrypt data, he said the hardware-based encryption of Seagate's system is far less onerous to manage. Unlike software-based encryption, there is no learning curve, no experimenting with applications and no overhead associated with performing full-disk encryption or worrying about upgrades, he said.

Cahalin said it will also give him peace of mind that when his laptops reach end of life, the data can be deleted using Seagate's cryptographic erase feature. This deletes the keys so that the data cannot be unencrypted.

"There's what you want to do, and then there's what happens in the real world. In the real world, when a desktop or laptop comes to end of life, you're supposed to shred [encrypt] the data," Cahalin said. "But they end up sitting there on a shelf ... and eventually somebody comes along and wants to get rid of this stuff, so you see them sold in eBay, or maybe someone comes along and offers to take them off your hands, but they still have the data on them."

According to Privacyrights.org, a nonprofit consumer education and advocacy project, approximately half of all laptop data breaches happen at Fortune 1,000 companies. "So these folks are the ones we're really targeting our solutions at," said Joni Clark, product marketing manager at Seagate's Personal Compute business unit.

Copyright © 2008 IDG Communications, Inc.

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