by Ondrej Krehel
Tablet mania may have consumed this year’s Consumer Electronics Show, as dozens of players looked to cash in on the iPad—or hoped to be the supposed “iPad killer”—but some of the underdog items could have longer-term ramifications.
When it comes to business and personal computing, I’m most impressed with the recent advances in data encryption. As self-encrypted drives—drives with built-in hardware-based encryption chips, rather than software options—are fast becoming the norm.
As storage devices and hardware became more affordable, they’re also getting faster and safer. Solid state drives (SSDs) get cheaper every quarter, while transfer speeds and storage capacities continue to climb. With on-board encryption, they’ll also stand among the speediest and most secure options. Hardware single-chip encryption, it’s being touted, offers zero performance degradation and no physical or electronic keys to lose. (Encryption essentially scrambles drive data so that only someone with a key or password can access and read it—a lifesaver when a flash drive or laptop with sensitive material is lost or stolen.)
Among the options on the market are drives that when the wrong key is entered one too many times and drives with that can track a drive’s physical location. External hard drives with encryption, some that even require fingerprint scans to log in, and the new self-encrypted drives mentioned in that PCWorld article are pushing the technology forward and making it available to larger and larger segments of the computer-consumer population. Soon we’ll see the day, I think, when most businesses will mandate encryption on all their laptops and portable drives as industry best practice. The risks of data loss—and the state and federal laws that impose fines and expensive response tactics to data loss—are certainly helping move this technology forward. Definitely something to consider when evaluating your business or personal storage needs.
Ondrej has more than a decade of network and computer security experience. His expertise extends to investigations of intellectual property theft, massive deletions, defragmentation, anti-money laundering and computer hacking. He led U.S. computer security projects at Stroz Friedberg and worked in IT security at Loews Corp.