Data Encryption: Toshiba Debuts Self-Wiping Hard Disk.

Toshiba has announced the “Wipe” for their Self-Encrypting Drives (SED), a technology that allows a hard drive to securely erase its contents when a system is powered down.  Basically, it sounds like a bunch of mumbo-jumbo for an encrypted drive that will delete its encryption key when it’s turned off.  You can get the same thing with AlertBoot’s disk encryption software, sans the automatic deletion whenever you experience a blackout.

Secure Deletion When HDD is Removed or Powered Down

As far as I can tell, the drive was developed for photocopiers, which is quite timely.  CBS already covered the dangers of junked photocopiers, and there are reports that Xerox machines obtained from eBay could pose the same risks.

Toshiba’s press release notes that the hard drive will be wiped if 1) a device is powered down or 2) the hard disk is removed from a system.  I would imagine that most people would find the latter much more convenient.

I See Problems Here…

Can you imagine a photocopier that doesn’t work anymore every time the lights go out or if some guy turns off the machine in the name of energy use reduction?  And what about those instances where the Xerox machine has to be serviced so the machine is unplugged?

Naturally, I could be wrong in assuming that the machines won’t work anymore if the hard drives are wiped.  After all, if you delete the contents on a hard drive, you can still use it, and fill it up with more files.  If a key is wiped, why not have the system generate a new key, right?

Well, generating a new key alone doesn’t do the trick.  The hard drive must be re-encrypted with the new key, which I assume will take some time since they’re not popping in a Core Duo into a photocopier.  Not to mention that the photocopier would have to come with a random number generator, which is a weird thing to have on a photocopier.

That is not to say that using encryption software on a photocopier’s hard disk is a bad idea.  In fact, I think it’s a great idea; certainly, the security problems indicate that encryption is necessary.  But perhaps the guys over at Toshiba have gone overboard with the automation aspect.

If it were up to me, I’d just offer the “wipe on removal from the system” and call it a day.

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