Working from Home

Working from Home

It is here to stay; why an encrypted-SSD upgrade makes sense at home

There is no way to downplay how COVID-19 has affected the way we live, do business and educate our children. One year into it, and the end is still nebulously off in the distance. Although, what was once not even a pinhole-sized visible light of hope in a vast sea of darkness is now shining bright and growing thanks to many efforts.

Yet, as often happens, out of challenging times comes innovative thought and new ways of doing things. And COVID has brought about some meaningful changes to our lives.

While we may have blindly hit upon these eventually, COVID-19 raised the urgency and, as it has so many times in the past, humanity has stepped up to the plate. While maybe not knocking it out of the park, we certainly haven’t struck out. Things such as telemedicine, video conferencing and food delivery will be around long past our return to normalcy ̶ however that is redefined.

COVID-19 has dramatically changed how some jobs are performed with more people working from home (WFH). According to a recent Gallup Panel1, 56% of U.S. workers continue working all or part of the time remotely to avoid catching or spreading COVID-19.

The Gallup Panel asked people if their employer left the decision up to them, would they prefer to return to the office like before the pandemic or work remotely as much as possible once restrictions were lifted? If remotely, was the reason that they prefer working at home, or was it fear of the virus? Forty-four percent said they would continue working remotely because they enjoyed it; 17% preferred to continue remotely because of fear of the virus; and 39% preferred returning to the office.

One way or another, it appears a sizeable amount of the workforce will switch to WFH permanently once we bid adieu to COVID-19. That would make now an excellent time to upgrade the storage on your personal or company's existing desktop PC or laptop by switching from its old hard-disk drive (HDD) to a newer, faster, more reliable and more secure encrypted solid-state drive (SSD).

Whether you are a business or government agency or an individual, there is one thing that is absolutely vital if your employees are working or preparing to work from home that is the need to secure important company, personal and private information. Data protection is an absolute essential. The monetary costs and reputational exposure due to data breaches, hacking and lost or stolen laptops are astronomical. The penalties enacted through governmental legislation via HIPAA, CCPA and GDPR can cause irreparable harm if personally identifiable information (PII) is lost.

Users with both HDDs and SSDs can benefit from upgrading their internal storage to an encrypted SSD drive – both performance and security can be increased for the computers your employees are using at home. So, with that in mind, if you are going to upgrade your computer or laptop with a new SSD, make sure it includes encryption.

Here are a few encryption methods to look for.

AES 256-Bit Encryption. AES (Advanced Encryption Standard) is a symmetric encryption algorithm (this means that the encryption and decryption keys are the same). AES is known as a symmetric "block cipher," where data is divided into 128-bit blocks before being scrambled with a 256-bit key. AES 256-bit encryption is an international standard and is recognized by the government, among others. AES-256 encryption is said to be unbreakable, as the number of possible combinations is 2256, or 2 x 2 x 2 256 times, making it the strongest and best-known encryption standard available.

TCG Opal 2.0. This protocol can initialize, authenticate and manage encrypted SSDs by using independent software vendors featuring TCG Opal 2.0 security management solutions such as Symantec™, McAfee™, WinMagic® and others.

Microsoft eDrive Support. Microsoft eDrive is a security storage specification for use with BitLocker, a popular program that is included in the Pro and Enterprise editions of Windows 8 and above. While an SSD may feature AES 256-bit encryption, your data would remain exposed if anyone were to gain physical access to it, unless the encryption is used in conjunction with eDrive or any of the other security management solutions previously mentioned. In other words, AES 256-bit encryption on an SSD provides a fence around the data. The software solution is the lock that keeps the fence closed.

Strictly speaking, SSDs cost more than HDDs. However, the overall gap is narrowing, and the SSD dollar-per-GB price is down considerably the past several years. That paired with the overall benefits makes SSDs an easy choice. To give you an idea of what to look for, here are two encrypted SSDs from Kingston Technology. One with a SATA interface (KC600), the other with an NVMe PCIe interface (KC2500).

Kingston's KC600 is a full-capacity SSD designed to provide remarkable performance and optimized to provide functional system responsiveness with incredible boot, loading and transfer times. It comes in a 2.5″ form factor using SATA Rev 3.0 interface with backward compatibility. KC600 uses the latest 3D TLC NAND technology while supporting a full-security suite that includes AES 256-bit hardware encryption, TCG Opal 2.0, and eDrive. It features read/write speeds up to 550/520MB/s to efficiently store up to 2TB of data. It is available in a bundle kit, which provides everything needed for a smooth and easy desktop or notebook installation and upgrade.

Kingston's KC2500 NVMe PCIe SSD delivers powerful performance using the latest Gen 3.0 x 4 controller and 96-layer 3D TLC NAND. With read/write speeds up to 3,500/2,900MB/s, KC2500 delivers outstanding endurance and improves the workflow in desktop, workstations, and high-performance computing (HPC) systems. Its compact M.2 design gives greater flexibility, increasing storage and saving space. Available in capacities from 250GB–2TB, the KC2500 is a self-encrypting drive that supports end-to-end data protection using AES-XTS 256-bit hardware-based encryption and allows the usage of independent software vendors with TCG Opal 2.0 security management solutions such as Symantec™, McAfee™, WinMagic® and others.

Upgrading your workforce to the latest generation of SSDs will also deliver efficiency and performance benefits. If you’re thinking about making the move or upgrading your systems to SSDs consider encrypted solutions.

This article originally appeared in the May June 2021 issue of Security Today.

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    July August 2021

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