Mission Impossible system destroys itself rather than reveal secrets

NetApp's purchase of Decru has yielded its first dedicated security device for storage networks, with military-grade encryption and the ability to self-destruct if attacked

Would you die rather than reveal your secrets? No higher price can be asked of anyone, but this is the kind of commitment offered by a new piece of hardware from security specialists Decru.

The DataFort FC1020 is a 10-port hardware-based encryption system designed to deal with the clandestine world of data security. Able to handle very large networks, it is the first fruit of NetApp's takeover of Decru.

The machine will work with storage area networks, network-attached storage, Fibre Channel and, according to Decru's marketing director, Kevin Brown, "with just about any file or storage system" and can encrypt data as it is moved in or out of systems and networks.

The system uses AES256-standard 256-bit encryption approved for use in government and the defence sector and offers, according to Brown, "the highest level of security".

Data is moved across the network via the encryption device. At the heart of the device is an encryption "engine" which is encased in plastic and tamper-proof to the extent that "there is any attempt to tamper with it, it destroys itself", Brown claims.

"There is no way anyone can get any useful information out of it," Brown told ZDNet UK on Monday.

As well as being close to 100 percent secure, the DataFort is also fast, according to Brown. Any encryption running across a network will have a performance penalty as data is encrypted, transported and then decrypted. Brown says that there is a minimum delay "of around 2ms" on a transaction. The performance is achieved through the use of high-performance hardware.

But high security and high performance means that the DataFort will come at a price, in the case of the DataFort FC1020, of between $25,000 (£14,000) and $100,000 depending on the configuration.

But the product can withstand the most determined efforts of any hacker to break into it, Decra claims. "One of our customers employs a hacker to test things," he said. "We let him try anything to break into it. Then we gave him the source code and he still couldn't do it."

Decru represents a big gamble for NetApp, which bought the company in order to break out of the storage market and into the security market. To do so, it is taking a leaf out of arch-rival EMC's books by trying to make Decru a wholly separate company from itself. EMC has achieved that with VMware, which manages to sell to some of EMC's biggest competitors, like NetApp, HP, IBM and StorageTek. "That is the model for us," said Brown. "We sell very successfully to [NetApp's] competitors."

While being a NetApp subsidiary might be a problem, the cash is welcome though.

"At NetApp we have $1bn in the bank," said Brown.