Encrypted Drives Keep Your Files Safe

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Other Ways to Protect Your Data

We've referred to devices in this story as encrypted hard drives, but a more appropriate nomenclature might be "encrypted portable storage devices," because, except for the Seagate Maxtor BlackArmor, the encryption happens on the external housing, not on the drive's controller board. In most cases the drives inside aren't any different from the drives in nonencrypted products (and, as a result, are essentially interchangeable). The drive housing holds additional hardware and firmware, as well as processors made to handle crypto operations.

Several manufacturers sell bare housing, into which you can install your own drive. Companies like Addonics Technologies, Enova Technology, and RadTech make "kit" housings for either 2.5-inch or 3.5-inch hard drives. The housings offer 128-bit or 256-bit AES hardware encryption with USB 2.0; some also have FireWire 400 or 800, or eSATA connectivity.

Hitachi has recently joined Seagate in manufacturing hard drives that have both the encryption technology and the encryption key built right into the drive, which helps solve the problem of sensitive data remaining on disposed drives. Without the encryption chip and your password, key, or code, no one can get anything off the drive. To dispose of your drive, you simply delete the key. Once the key is gone, the encrypted data becomes unrecoverable, and you can format the drive normally for reuse.

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