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5/23/2006
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Veterans' Data Theft Highlights Need To Secure Data On Laptops

The people handling data, not technology, are the weakest link in data security.

Storage vendors are aiming new technology at securing data in transit--typically data moved in backup tapes and over IP networks--and data at rest on hard drives. Much of the technology focuses on encrypting data so that if it’s lost or stolen, it can’t be used.

Sun Microsystems, for instance, recently said it plans to start shipping a new version of its T10000 tape drive line that has native encryption for protecting data as it’s archived. Sun obtained the technology via its acquisition of StorageTek.

The T10000 encrypts data as it’s written to tape. The encryption keys are stored on a token so they can be used to read data off a tape if the drive is replaced later on. The drives can be assigned to a storage pool, which also can have its encryption keys stored on a token. The keys can be sent to a remote site in case of a failure at the primary site.

SDLT tape format vendor Quantum also soon plans to add native encryption to its tape technology. Other hardware devices, such as the Decru DataFort, encrypt data as it’s sent to tape or across a network at wire speed, regardless of the final target device. Network Appliance acquired Decru nearly a year ago.

Software solutions are becoming available as well. Symantec recently starting shipping software to encrypt data as it’s replicated locally, to a central data center or to an off-site disaster-recovery center. The software, Veritas NetBackup 6.0 PureDisk Remote Office Edition, is based on technology Symantec attained when it acquired Belgium-based Data Center Technologies last year.

Although such storage offerings are getting customers to talk about storage security, the technology often raises as many questions as it answers, said Carl Wolfston, director of Headlands Associates, a Pleasanton, Calif.-based solution provider.

"What happens to the data if the tape drive [with encryption technology] breaks?" Wolfston said. "What happens if you lose the encryption keys?"

Still, storage solution providers must start moving in this direction, said Pat Edwards, vice president of sales at Alliance Technology Group, a Hanover, Md., solution provider. Alliance is looking at assembling a stack of technology, including the Sun encrypted tape drives, the NetApp Decru data encryption appliance, and software that automatically back ups desktop and notebook PCs.

"We're taking the initiative," Edwards said. "Customers are not asking for it. Nobody here is really pushing it."

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