Solid-state disks offer 'fast erase' features

Military-grade SSDs are easier to erase, although harder to restore

Wilkison says in the enterprise-class market, full disk encryption isn't always a requirement, even when sensitive data is involved.

"Hardware-level encryption may be unnecessary because data is being encrypted upstream," he says.

On the end-user side, most people simply don't care about full disk encryption -- on hard disk drives or SSDs. "On the consumer side, it's about reliability and ruggedness. On the military side, they want to encrypt data or destroy it immediately. There's no middle ground," says Bowen.

Eventually, full disk encryption may be offered with all SSDs. But it won't sell at a big premium, Wilkison predicts. Rather, as competition intensifies, he predicts that manufacturers will add it as just another differentiating feature.

But don't look for full disk encryption any time soon. While some vendors say we'll see some implementations in 2009, others say they don't expect to see systems with SSDs that offer full disk encryption until 2010 at the earliest.

Shredding the Evidence

While a fully overwritten drive is unrecoverable, the best way to ensure complete data destruction when disposing of SSDs is to physically destroy them, says Barry. "If you ran that through a grinder and completely chopped that up in quarter-inch chunks ... that is by far the get way to make sure the device is unrecoverable."

But every flash chip must be destroyed, and existing shredders may not be up to the job. "Shredders for disk drives might not be adequate for SSDs because the chips are so much smaller [than disk drive platters]," says Bowen. SSDs have arrays of tiny flash chips -- anywhere from eight to 30 per device. Any that are missed by the shredder would still be readable by data-recovery specialists such as Barry.

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Robert L. Mitchell

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