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Old 06-17-2009, 02:11 PM   #1
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Internal HDD password or encryption?


I've been given a new laptop from work and I'm going to install linux on it. It's a Dell Latitude E5500. Looking into the bios I've found that it has a feature called "Internal HDD Password".

As the information I'm going to have is VERY sensible, I wonder if this is as secure as encrypting the entire disk at the operative system level.

What is the most secure?

Thanks for any suggestion

Old 06-17-2009, 03:56 PM   #2
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E5500 so does that system have a Seagate Momentus FDE (Full Disk Encryption) hard drive ?

And the Wave Security features ? in Windows it would use the Trusted Drive Manager Software to sync the Hard drive password to your login account password.

That is a very secure system, I'm not sure if it can be fully implemented under Linux or not.. I've always wondered, but I can't reload the laptop I have here, since it belongs to our external sales guy...
Old 06-17-2009, 04:03 PM   #3
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Encrypting the disk is by far the more secure.

Setting a password in the BIOS will probably only stop someone from booting up your computer to get at the disk; anyone could simply remove the disk and then plug it into another computer to access it. Or even reset the BIOS on your laptop.

Edit: the above does not apply to Full Disk Encryption (FDE) that Farslayer refers to. There is, however, a well-known way to get the encryption key from an FDE disk if you can access the computer while the power is still on and the machine is booted. So, although much more secure than a BIOS password, I still wouldn't rely on FDE alone.

You haven't said what kind of information (and quite right too!) so I'm going to assume that this is really sensitive information. I would think carefully if it's a good idea to keep such data on a laptop at all; physical access is usually the weakest link in any good security chain and laptops are by definition easy to steal. You should also consider how the data is to be backed up and how backups are to be stored and secured.

If I were in your position, I'd set up a secure link to a physical server on which the data actually resides (possibly a secure VPN, or stunnel with some sort of key-pair rotation), and just use the laptop as a secure thin client; that way, if you find the laptop has been stolen you can just kill the link.

Then again, real disk encryption is probably a good idea even in that scenario.

Last edited by rjlee; 06-17-2009 at 04:12 PM. Reason: Include details of FDE
Old 06-17-2009, 05:17 PM   #4
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Thank you all guys. I've finally encrypted the entire disk as I've also read somewhere that the disk password, despite it is saved on the disk chipset (controller) and on the disk itself a good data recovery specialist can still get to the data (I think that a good one would also be able to get to the encrypted data anyway, but I think it will be many times harder).



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