Seagate Adds Opal, FIPS 140-2 Standards To Self-Encrypting Hard Drives


Seagate is expanding the capability of its self-encrypting hard drives by standardizing the encryption of new models to a new industry hard drive standard and making certain models compatible with the government's FIPS (federal information processing standard) 140-2.

Self-encrypting hard drives are those with encryption technology built into the drive's controller ASIC (application-specific integrated circuit). They are designed to improve the security of data by capturing and encrypting all the data automatically, with no need to classify the data and no impact on performance. By encrypting the data on a hard drive, the risk that data on lost or stolen PCs can be accessed by unauthorized persons is minimized.

With self-encrypting hard drives, encryption of the data is done at a much higher speed than software-based encryption, with little or no impact on performance.

Seagate started shipping enterprise-class self-encrypting hard drives in Spring of 2008, but had been shipping such drives for mobile PCs since 2006.

Going forward, all new Seagate self-encrypting hard drives will follow a new industry-wide protocol called Opal, which was developed in concert with the Trusted Computing Group, said Joni Clark, senior vice president and marketing manager for Seagate.

Seagate's original self-encrypting drives followed a Seagate proprietary protocol called DriveTrust, and other hard drive vendors who later entered the market also followed their own protocols, Clark said.

Unfortunately, for ISVs looking to take advantage of the encryption technology in the hard drives, it was necessary to include each drive manufacturers' protocols in their software.

"All manufacturers selling self-encrypted drives had their hand in developing Opal," she said. "I hope they all adopt Opal."

Seagate self-encrypting drives featuring the Opal protocol are currently sampling with storage OEMs.

Once Opal is ready, Seagate's drives will include both the Opal and the DriveTrust protocols, Clark said.

Next: FIPS 140-2 Validation

Seagate on Tuesday also unveiled a new line of hard drives, the Momentus Self-Encrypting Drive for portable PCs, which are now FIPS 140-2 validated, Clark said.

FIPS 140-2 validation is required by U.S. and Canadian government organizations, many state and local governments, and regulated industries as a way to ensure the security of encrypted data.

Getting FIPS 140-2 validation is important for Seagate and its partners looking to sell systems into organizations or companies which require such high levels of encryption for their data, Clark said.

"With self-encrypting drives, the government market was always thought of as low-hanging fruit," she said. "But it hasn't been. Governments need FIPS 140-2. They also need self-encrypting drives, and have sometimes gone beyond their rules to buy them. But with FIPS 140-2 validation, governments can now easily purchase the drives they need."

FIPS 140-2 is also important in industries where such a high level of encryption may not be a requirement but where companies take their cue from government agencies, Clark said.

"Healthcare and financial organizations may not need FIPS 140-2," she said. "But they look at government endorsement as a way to more easily acquire their drives."

Seagate's Momentus Self-Encrypting Drives with FIPS 140-2 validation are already shipping, and are priced at about a 25-percent premium over non-FIPS self-encrypted drives, Clark said. Seagate plans to make FIPS 140-2 validation available with other drive lines in the future, she said.

The new drives are available in a 2.5-inch form factor, and come in capacity levels of up to 750 GBs.