Toshiba Unveils Self-Encrypting Drive Technology

Toshiba Unveils Self-Encrypting Drive Technology

Toshiba’s Self-Encrypting Drive Technology will make its debut at the RAS conference in San Francisco. The conference begins April 21st. The new technology supports the Trusted Computing Group (TCG) Storage Architecture Core Specification, as well as the Storage Security Subsystem Class (SSC) Opal Specification.

Toshiba’s encryption package uses Wave Systems' Trusted Drive Manager application. This technology can encrypt all data on a hard drive with NIST-certified AES encryption technology that is integrated into the hard drive controller chip. Because the encryption technology is integrated into the controller chip, the encryption/decryption process can happen at full I/O speeds. Furthermore, the encryption technology won’t impact drive performance and is said to require the same power as a drive that doesn’t have encryption technology.

The self-encrypting drive technology also incorporates other certified algorithms in order to deliver strong authentication and access control. It also enables TCG specification capabilities to provide increased access security in comparison to currently available methods.


The encryption in the drive is designed to protect confidential information and assist management in complying with regulations for data protection in a cost-effective manner. During the self-encryption process, data is automatically encrypted as it comes to the drive. The encryption key is inside the drive and never leaves it. To open the decryption process, a separate authentication key is needed. As a result, two levels of authentication are required at all times.

Lark Allen from Wave Systems said, "Self-encrypting drives provide a great defense against the growing problem of data breaches today, offering performance and security advantages over aftermarket software encryption solutions. Toshiba is at the forefront of the movement to bring an integrated, hardware-based solution to today’s enterprise. Because Toshiba drives are based on the TCG’s Opal Storage Specification, they’re ideal for deploying across heterogeneous environments."

Hardware encryption is difficult to use and manage, especially at a corporate level with numerous machines. The new drive technology is likely to be welcomed by administrators and users because it automates the self-encryption process.

Toshiba isn’t the first company to offer a self-encryption feature. For example, RSA's encryption products are widely used in the world. Storage systems built by EMC and other manufacturers feature RSA’s encryption. Additionally, Seagate uses McAfee's Endpoint Encryption to make key management more organized and secure without burdening the CPU while encrypting or decrypting data. Seagate currently offers 320GB and 500GB self-encrypted drives of up to 7,200 rpm. Dell is also shipping notebooks with self encrypting drives. The drives from Dell come preloaded with management software.

Expect drives using Toshiba’s new Self-Encrypting Drive Technology to be available in the first quarter of next year.

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I don't see how this is a good idea. When new encryption schemes come along, or exploits for older ones, you have to replace your entire hard drive. Hardware shouldn't be used in places where upgradeable software is more logical.

The encryption key is in the hard drive... where's the decryption key? If it's handled at the device driver, then they've failed at making the encryption independent of the host machine and added a penalty on all reads from the device. And, they've probably made it a total PITA to recover if you can only boot from a LiveCD that doesn't support said disk driver.

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