Security Corner

Mar 24 2008   9:06PM GMT

Encrypt, You Must, But Do It Right!



Posted by: Ken Harthun
Tags:
Cryptography
Data destruction
Encryption
Security
Storage

EncryptionOne of the clients I service has information that falls under HIPAA. Prior to last week, all of the data was stored on a server located behind a strong firewall in a building with good physical security. Last week, however, this organization decided to deploy laptops for their field operatives. Major security problem. Full-drive encryption was my first thought.The good thing is that there was nothing on the laptops except for the OS–they were brand new. Nobody had seen them except me. I was able to encrypt the hard drive before any data had been written, thus insuring that no remnants of unencrypted data exist. Every future write to the hard drive will be encrypted.

If you think about it, this is the safest way to do full drive encryption. But what if you want to re-deploy equipment that has had data on it? In this case, you’ll want to first wipe the drive using a good tool like Darik’s Boot and Nuke (DBAN) or CMRR’s Secure Erase, depending on the sensitivity of the data. DBAN will let you write multiple passes of pseudorandom data, which is usually “good enough.” Then, reinstall your OS of choice and run your full drive encryption program assigning a passphrase at least 20 characters long (mine’s 45). All this working of the drive should sufficiently scramble any data remnants.

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