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FDE

OS X Lion: No encrypted RAID after all

Full disk encryptionI installed Lion last night and spent today figuring out what does - and does not - work. As a huge fan of full-disk encryption (FDE), I'm disappointed in their drive encryption.

RAID may have been improved, but Lion's encryption features, including Time Machine encryption, are not compatible with Apple's RAID.

The diagram at right (from Elementary Information Security) shows how full-disk encryption (FDE) typically integrates into the system software. The diagram doesn't show where the RAID software might reside. I'd expect it to be very closely tied to the device driver. However, it appears instead that Apple placed the FDE below the RAID software. Perhaps this improves performance, or perhaps the choice was driven by design decisions invisible outside Cupertino.

The Time Machine improvement: they have explicitly documented how to switch in a new mirrored drive for an old one. I haven't tried their suggested process since the upgrade. I'd tried the suggested process a couple of years ago, only to have it fail. So we'll see how it goes.

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Best New Security Technology

A while back, Popular Science asked me to identify the Best New Security Technology. At the time I simply couldn't think of anything, and they've long since published their issue filled with Best New ____ Technology.

I finally thought of something - self-encrypting mass storage. This can be anything from an encrypting USB drive - the IronKey if you like theatrics - to a self-encrypting hard drive like Seagate's Momentus line of laptop drives.

While I also rely heavily on software drive encryption (TrueCrypt) I wish that all my hard drives had full disk encryption (FDE). If all drives had FDE, I could recycle drives (i.e. give them to my kids) just by erasing the key. Instead, I have to hook each drive up to an idle machine for a day or so to run a wiping process.

So FDE isn't just for security paranoids and folks hogtied by compliance regulations. They're useful for everyone. That is, assuming that the vendors make it easy to use them.

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