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Nov 12 2008   2:24AM GMT

Overheard: Hardware level encryption and EPO

Margaret Rouse Margaret Rouse Profile: Margaret Rouse

elinor_mills2.jpg A hot area for encryption right now is full disk encryption, in which every piece of data on a hard drive is encrypted. With all the laptops that get lost and stolen, there’s really no reason not to encrypt the hard drive.

Elinor Mills, To encrypt or not? That is the question

Dell announced that they will be the first computer maker to ship a laptop with Seagate’s 160GB self-encrypting FDE hard drives.

In plain English, full disk encryption (FDE) means that all the data on your hard drive will be automatically encrypted.  To access data on the hard drive, you need a password.  If no password is provided, the hard drive stays locked down.  Encryption at the hardware (firmware) level is supposed to be less expensive and more efficient.

So what happens if you forget your password?

Well, Seagate teamed up with McAfee to create an enterprise-level security management software they’re calling ePO (enterprise policy orchestrator). If you’ve got a company laptop, your self-encrypting laptop can be unlocked by your IT department. If you’re a consumer, you’re on your own.

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