New IBM Technology Designed To Combat Consumer Data Theft

The technology encrypts Social Security numbers, credit card information, and other customer data archived on magnetic tape.
IBM on Tuesday unveiled new technology it says will help curb the growing problem of businesses exposing, either through theft or carelessness, sensitive consumer data routinely stored on their computer networks.

The technology, newly embedded in the company's TS1120 storage system, works to encrypt Social Security numbers, credit card information, and other customer data archived on magnetic tape--the most common type of storage media in use by businesses today.

The goal is to make the data inaccessible to thieves and others who wrongfully come into possession of such tapes. "It's useless to whoever gets it," says Andy Monshaw, general manager of IBM's system storage group.

In the past 18 months alone, 90 million U.S. consumers have had their personal data unintentionally exposed, IBM says. Much of that information was held on storage tapes.

The tape drive on the TS1120 can now encrypt data as it's recorded, using the same public encryption key methods employed by IBM's powerful zSeries mainframe computers. The technology also supports the Encryption Key Manager for the Java platform, a widely used standard that can help businesses generate and communicate encryption keys for use across an enterprise or across business networks. "The market doesn't want encryption you can only use yourself," says Monshaw.

IBM isn't the only major computer vendor adding encryption to its tape drive offerings. Sun Microsystems has developed encryption for its StorageTek T10000 systems. The demand for such systems is thought to be great, as businesses are under growing pressure to do a better job of protecting customer data. Thirty states now require customer notification if personal data is lost or stolen.

Monshaw says IBM has already surpassed its year-end sales goal for the TS1120, but declined to give specific numbers. The company also said it plans to eventually add the encryption technology to its disk-based storage systems.

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