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Hardware Encryption: What It Is and Why You Need It

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Expand the data security of your organization with hardware encryption.

Whether your data is at rest or in transit, you need to protect it against cyber criminals with maximum security. You can ensure that through encryption.

Encryption has become an essential part of cybersecurity hygiene. Though many people use cloud platforms for file sharing, using encrypted SSD and other storage devices for storing and transferring data is also a secure option.

Continue reading to learn more about hardware encryption and its benefits.

Encryption and Its Importance

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Data leakage and theft are the realities we all have to deal with. Encryption protects you against these threats. 

Encryption means converting data into an unintelligible format through algorithms. Once data gets encrypted, hackers will not be able to understand it. The only way to read and understand the data is to decrypt it to its original format. Data decryption requires a key to convert the encrypted data.

Encryption involves two parties: the sender and the recipient. To ensure data security, the sender generates the encryption key and shares it with the recipients. Thus, only authorized people can access it.

Both business and personal data are at risk now. Therefore, organizations should use reliable encryption methods to protect their own and customers’ data. 

The importance of encryption is beyond description. Without it, your personal and sensitive data might be accessible to anyone. If your bank server gets hacked, your personal and banking details will fall into the wrong hands. 

However, if the data is encrypted, no one can misuse that because the data is not understandable. Here are some major reasons why encryption is important:

#1. Files stored in servers and systems are soft targets of hacking attacks. Encryption protects them against all kinds of intervention. Even while sharing files between two computers, encryption offers a layer of protection against interception.

#2. Even in the case of personal messaging, you need end-to-end encryption. Hackers often target SMBs who communicate with their customers through different messaging apps. If the app providers use encryption, your data will remain safe even without any additional security measures from your side.

end-to-end-encryption

#3. Emails contain valuable business information and communication that we share with others. Since the data transmits from one person to others, encryption ensures solid protection. Moreover, it allows you to authenticate email senders, so you do not end up clicking on a malicious link.

#4. As an organization, encryption saves you from potential reputation damage. With encryption in place, hackers can not access customer data.

#5. Identity thieves can use your personal details to impersonate you and make purchases without your knowledge. Encryption protects you against such incidents.

What is Hardware Encryption

Hardware encryption means having the encryption work at the device level. Here, a dedicated processor is physically located in the drive to encrypt the data. The only tasks this processor has to perform are encryption and authentication. 

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Usually, it uses a random number generator for encryption key generation. Encrypted SSDs, self-encrypting drives (SEDs), and TouchID of Apple devices are some fine examples of hardware encryption. All the data stored in such devices are completely protected. Even if the attackers have access to the data, they fail to understand it.

How Secure is Hardware Encryption

Hardware encryption can effectively protect your data and is a secure method in itself. Here, the process is not connected to an interconnected system. Therefore, even expert hackers will find intercepting or breaking this encryption to be challenging.

Since this encryption happens at the hardware level, software-based attacks can not bypass it. By implementing the right approach, you can even protect such hardware against brute-force hacking. 

How Hardware Encryption Works

To understand the working process of hardware encryption, we will take self-encrypting drives (SEDs) as our examples. These devices come with a built-in AES encryption chip. The chip encrypts the data before it gets written. Also, it decrypts the data before being read. In both cases, the encryption takes place directly on the NAND media. 

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Between the drive OS and the system BIOS, the hardware encryption is saved. During the drive encryption encrypted, the generated key is stored on the NAND flash. When the system boots for the first time, a custom BIOS gets loaded and asks for the user password. 

After you enter it, the content of the drive is decrypted. Then, you can access the OS and the user data.

This encryption process does not involve the host CPU, reducing the chance of performance issues. Usually, the encryption key is located in the onboard memory of the SSD. Since it is quite difficult to retrieve it, low-level attacks can not do any harm to it. 

Hardware vs. Software Encryption

Hardware and software encryptions differ from each other in various aspects. Some of the common differences are:

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  • Hardware encryption uses an onboarding device algorithm for encryption and decryption. But software encryption uses symmetric cryptography that involves using the same key for data encryption and decryption.
  • Hardware encryption can be done by devices with built-in encryption capabilities. Software encryption happens during data backup and data migration.
  • Hardware encryption takes place on an isolated device. Hence, it is the safer option. On the other hand, software encryption is not as safe as hardware encryption.
  • Hardware encryption needs you to use a separate dedicated processor. If you want to scale up, you need to purchase new devices with the same functionality. On the flip side, software encryption does not need any additional device. You can easily copy it to other drivers and computers when you need to extend security.
  • Among these two encryptions, software encryption is more cost-effective than hardware.
  • A dedicated processor located in the device performs the hardware encryption. Contrarily, software encryption uses computer resources for cryptographic operations.
  • Hackers that apply brute-force techniques will fail to get access to data with hardware-based encryption due to a limited number of failed attempts. On the contrary, software-based encryption can be the victim of brute-force attacks
  • Hardware encryption does not slow down your system performance. But software encryption can slow down the computer during the process.
  • Hardware-based encryption constantly runs, so no malware can stop it. However, end-users might disable software-based encryptions at times since it is difficult to operate.

Benefits of Hardware Encryption

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1. The prime benefit of hardware encryption is that encryption does not involve the operating system of your computer. Thus, even with a compromised OS, the hardware encryption processes keep your data secure. 

2. In this case, the encryption processes stay isolated from the host computer. So you will not have any performance issues. 

3. Speed is another benefit of hardware encryption. As it involves dedicated processing hardware for encryption, the computer CPU can work to its full potential, delivering fast results. 

4. Hardware encryption constantly works so malware or cyberattacks can not disable it.

5. Encrypted hardware devices automatically lock out users with several failed attempts. Thus, it ensures that the data stays protected against brute-force attacks.

6. It doesn’t require driver installations or complex configurations on the host system.

7. Once you remove the hardware encryption key for redeployment, no one can recover the last saved information. 

Hardware Encryption: Use Cases

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#1. Certain situations demand the use of hardware-based encryption due to regulatory and compliance issues. This type of encryption is preferred in cases involving international, national, and organizational policy.

#2. Computers and storages that contain data on national security and border security also need hardware encryption. For example, servers that store social security numbers use this method. Situations that require dual encryption (software over hardware encryption) also have to use this encryption.

#3. Critical infrastructure, such as the one using SCADA technology that demands security and integrity, also uses hardware encryption.

#4. Banking services also use this encryption to secure personal customer data and transaction details at rest.

#5. Hardware encryption is also frequently used in the media and entertainment industry. Studios, agencies, and investors use it to avoid data leakage and stop hackers from releasing movies on social media.

#6. The Healthcare industry also saw a recent surge in the use of hardware encryption. Critical patient data are always under threat, and this encryption can keep them secure.

#7. This encryption mode is also used in the legal field. Legal documents stored in digital devices can be protected from interference with hardware encryption.

Reading Resources: Hardware Encryption

If you want to learn about hardware encryption in detail, these resources🕮 can help you with in-depth analysis: 

Hardware Oriented Authenticated Encryption

This Amazon book teaches you how to use block ciphers for authenticated encryption. It familiarizes you with the hardware implementation aspects of ΘCB3, the tweakable block cipher-based approach. 

You will also learn about the authenticated encryption algorithms used for lightweight standardization projects like Romulus and Remus. 

Hardware Implementation of AES Encryption and Decryption

The Amazon book is a useful resource for learning about cryptography and Advanced Encryption Standard (AES) algorithm. It discusses how you can program an AES algorithm for hardware implementation. 

Preview Product Rating Price
Hardware Implementation of AES Encryption and Decryption Hardware Implementation of AES Encryption and Decryption No ratings yet $56.00

You can also learn about encryption and decryption methodologies for hardware implementations. 

Concluding Words

Without encryption, it is impossible to protect your personal and business data from cybercriminals and hackers. Though most of us are familiar with software-based encryption, using hardware encryption also offers an array of benefits.

Now that you know about hardware encryption, its working methods, and its benefits, you can choose this approach for your organization. Reading the resource materials will also help you gain a better insight into the method.

In addition, you might want to read about data encryption terminologies.

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