Have you ever had your laptop stolen? There is more a sense of violation, of personal intrusion, than when someone breaks into your home or lifts your wallet. I have been robbed several times over the years, but losing the laptop hurt the most.
It happened about seven years ago, I was on a business trip to Seattle and had some time to kill after an appointment, so I went to the mall and bought my wife some presents. I didn’t want to cart them around so I dropped them off in my rental car and then headed back to one of the mall’s restaurants for dinner. When I got back to the car, I just had this feeling, and sure enough when I checked the trunk it was cleaned out. My wife still jokingly insists that I made up this story but it is sadly true.
Luckily, I didn’t lose that much data, and I was using Lotus Notes so it was easy enough to replicate once I got a replacement from my employer. And while you might know about encryption programs that secure parts or all of your hard drive, you may not have heard about the latest in security technology called self-encrypting hard drives that have come to market lately.
Using disk encryption software has never caught on. People I guess don’t trust it that it will always work, so you have this conundrum of wanting to use protection software on something that is too valuable to lose but too valuable to just leave out in the open, such as your financial information or your website passwords.
What self-encrypting drives offer is an ability to make the encryption effortless. The drives have a special processing chip that automatically encrypts and decrypts your data, and if you were to look at one of these drives you couldn’t tell anything was different, which is the idea.. All you have to do is enter a start-up password and you are good to go. For corporations, there are fleet management tools that can lock or unlock your entire collection of desktop drives. One such program is Wave System’s Embassy Remote Administration Server. I spent some time reviewing this product as part of a series of sponsored video screencasts and you can watch what it does here.
What is nice about this and equivalent software tools is that you can still gain access to the data if someone forgets their password or is terminated. You can also make sure that the drive gets wiped clean when it is stolen: we all have heard about data breaches where sensitive data was left on the laptop and posted online.
SEDs are available from most of the major drive makers, and on many laptops available today. Will they get used more often than ordinary disk drive encryption software? Hard to say. But if you have ever had your laptop stolen, it might be a good idea to enable this protection, especially if you regularly leave it in your car.