07 April 2010

Inline hardware disk encryption

If you’re like me, you’ve probably not given data encryption on your home PC a second thought. Sure, most employers use some form of data encryption or another for our corporate laptops, but at home it’s a totally different story. I’m in the process of evaluating my server hardware at home, the topic of encryption came back up.
The problem with encryption is that it’s a pain to implement and use. If you’re doing file level encryption, you have to remember to encrypt your files or you have to remember to save your files in an encrypted folder. That sounds too much like work, so most of us just won’t even bother.
The other alternative is to have whole disk encryption. The down side to that is that it adds a software abstraction layer between the hardware and operating system which takes CPU cycles to process thus taking away from your system horsepower… i.e. it slows the computer down. Now if it’s implemented in conjunction with a hardware upgrade, you may not notice it and it might be OK. Mostly though, it’s not. Nobody wants to give up CPU cycles.
The only true solution is actual hardware based encryption. Something that can encrypt the data on the fly as it’s being written to the disk, but without taking any of your CPU cycles for it. It must read, write, cache and encrypt completely self sufficient.
Enter Addonics with their new Dual CipherChain (CCM35MK2). This little beauty lives in one of your 5.25” drive bays and configuration is dead simple. Connect your SATA drives (it supports two), to the card. Connect the output port of the card to the motherboard. Insert the encryption keys and you’re good to go! The device provides real time 256-bit AES encryption and at just over $150, it’s a small price to pay for the safety of your data.
I’ll report back in the future on my experience with this device.


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