Aussie PC lockdown tool gets govt thumbs up

The Defence Signals Directorate has completed its evaluation testing for hardware encryption to protect government PC and laptop hard drives.

The Defence Signals Directorate has completed its successful evaluation testing for hardware-based encryption to protect government PC and laptop hard drives.

Secure Systems' (a Western Australian security firm) Silicon Data Vault (SDV) underwent two rounds of assessment under the DSD's testing program, AISEP (Australasian Information Security Evaluation Program).

The test included Evaluation Assurance Level 2 testing and a DSD cryptographic evaluation, which provides assurance to government departments to secure "Restricted" information on PCs and laptops.

The SDV protects one hard disk drive per PC, which is typically the boot device for the system. Using the SDV, the administrator receives a time and date stamped log of any unauthorised attempts to access information.

"The Australian designed Silicon Data Vault is one of the few products available on the Australian market that is suitable for the storage and protection of information on laptops at the higher classification levels," said Ian McKenzie, director of the Defence Signals Directorate.

"The successful evaluation is an important step in not only the protection of classified electronic information, but also government's ability to transport this type of information securely."

Hydrasight analyst, Michael Warrilow, said an approved hardware-based encryption tool is very important for federal government departments.

"There was an audit done a few years ago which found that the Defence Department had lost 1,000 laptops [over a number of years]. Frankly, the government does a lot more about [information security] than most organisations but many government departments have software-based encryption for laptops, which can have high administrative overheads."

Hardware solutions can help reduce computational and administrative overheads, such as key management, he said.

"When you're losing around 150 laptops per year, most of which are used to write Word and Excel documents containing sensitive information, it will minimise the risk of what happens when that loss occurs."

The SDV uses AES encryption (Advanced Encryption Standard) algorithms, first developed by Belgian cryptographers in 1995, later introduced as a standard in 2001 by the US Government. It joins Safenet ProtectDrive at EAL 2 which was tested by the DSD in 2005.

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