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Data Recovery and Encryption

December 21st, 2008

Business continuity and disaster planning are critical for businesses regardless of their size. Most archive and backup software have key features to restore user files, database stores and point in time snap-shots of users’ files. Software is becoming more automated so users don’t have to manually backup their files. Some computer manufacturers have built-in backup systems that include dedicated hard disk drives for archive storage. Most external USB hard disk drives have some sort of third party software that provides data archiving during a trial time period. Such solutions, while solving the data backup need, create questions regarding how effective the systems are with respect to user data. What are your options when a user’s computer has a data disaster and the hard disk drive is fully encrypted?

Most IT security policies require a multi-pronged approach to data security. For example, when setting up a new computer for a user, the IT department will require a BIOS (Basic Input/output System) password for the system before the computer will start. BIOS password security varies in functionality. Some are computer system specific, meaning that the computer will not start without the proper password. Other BIOS passwords are hard disk drive specific, meaning that the hard drive will not be accessible without the proper password. Some computer BIOS employ one password for access control to the system and the hard disk drive. To add a second level of protection, new IT security policies require full hard disk drive encryption. The most common of full hard disk encryption software operates as a memory resident program. When the computer starts up, the encryption software is loaded before the operating system starts and a pass-phrase or password prompt is required. After a successful login from the user, the software decrypts the hard disk drive sectors in memory, as they are needed. The process is reversed when writing to the hard disk drive. This leaves the hard disk drive in a constant state of encryption. The operating system and program applications function normally, without having to be aware of any encryption software.

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