Seagate To Encrypt Data on Hard Drives

Seagate Technology LLC hopes its new security system for the hard drive will become the most formidable barrier between computer data and thieves.

The world's largest hard drive maker says its DriveTrust Technology, to be announced Monday, automatically encrypts every bit of data stored on the hard drive and requires users to have a key, or password, before being able to access the disk drive.

Technology that protects the hard drive -- the computer's storehouse of data -- differs from most security products launched in the past several years. Such products typically put firewalls around computer networks, encrypt data files or defend the operating system from invasions.

Protecting the hard drive itself offers another layer of protection and might stop thieves from purloining confidential information from lost or stolen laptops. Errant notebook computers have cost government agencies and corporations millions of dollars and put sensitive data -- including customer credit cards or social security numbers -- on the street, possibly in criminal hands.

"I believe other companies will be following suit and it will become an industry standard," said John Monroe, a research vice president at Gartner Inc.

Laptop computers with DriveTrust-based hard drives would prompt users to type in a password before booting up the machine. Without the password, the hard drive would be useless, Seagate officials said.

Even data-recovery specialists would not be able to help if the assigned password somehow gets lost, said Scott Shimomura, a senior product marketing manager at Seagate.

"That's the trade-off: Anytime you introduce backdoors or holes to circumvent the security, then you've created vulnerability," Shimomura said.

Seagate said it has already implemented the technology into one of its drives for laptops and another for digital video recorders.

Though DriveTrust is proprietary, Seagate may eventually allow other storage companies to integrate it into their own products. Seagate will offer development tool sets for other companies to create additional security layers to work with DriveTrust.

"We believe the entire industry will benefit from it," Shimomura said.