Stonewood Offers Ultra-Secure SSDs

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelance and long standing contributor to TechWeek Europe

A British company is now offering an ultra-secure solid state drive (SSD) that is approved to carry top secret government data

Encryption specialist the Stonewood Group has launched the first product in its encrypted solid state drive (SSD) family, designed to provide a speedy and secure repository for highly sensitive data.

Stonewood says that the advantages of flash-based SSDs over conventional hard disk drives containing magnetic platters is that they are smaller, faster and tougher, coupled with a much lower power consumption, that translates into a longer battery life and less energy used.

Stonewood also says that its solid state drives have been approved by CESG for Top Secret-level data. The CESG is the Information Assurance (IA) arm of GCHQ.

“SSDs are a natural progression from the rotating drive,” explained chief operating officer Pete Cubbin, speaking to eWEEK Europe. “We are driven by the industry and a lot of our customers were asking us for SSDs for some time.”

Cubbin said that while many of Stonewood’s customers are in the government, defence, and security sectors, with the advent of the SSD family it is looking to expand into the banking and finance, education and enterprise markets as well.

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So what makes them so secure? Well according to Cubbin, they source the SSDs from conventional manufacturers such as Intel and Toshiba. Stonewood then constructs them in a such a way as to be an ultra-secure form of data storage.

“All encryption algorithms are supremely strong, but it is the architecture of our devices and the way we put them together, that makes them so secure,” said Cubbin. “The drives themselves are normal off-the-shelf SSDs, but the clever bit is the encryption on top of it.”

“Unlike a software-based encryption option that can take up a lot of processor resource (up to 50 percent), we stick the encryption on a card which is included within the SSD,” he said. “This inline encryption is part of the hardware of the device, and is very difficult to attack. The card protects the entire disk and the hardware option is inherently more secure than a software-based system.”

The first two products in this range include the external Eclypt Freedom drive designed to work with any machines, and an internal Eclypt drive designed for laptops.

The internal Eclypt SSD drive comes with 128GB storage capacity and is available immediately. The external Eclypt Freedom SSD has 160GB and is also available immediately. A 250GB drive (both internal and external) will available later this month.

Pricing starts from around £600, although Cubbin expects this to fall as the price of the SSDs themselves start to decrease.

“This is not a licensed-based product,” said Cubbin. “It is not something that you keep having to pay for. Once you buy it, it is yours and there is a three year guarantee. It is user-installable, but really it is the performance of these drives that stands out, even though they are fully encrypted. There is only a 4 nanosecond delay. I know of no other system that is as fast as that, including flight control systems.”

The SSDs can also work with any operating system.

The arrival of these devices comes after the Office of the Information Commissioner (ICO) has warned that businesses which do not own up to data breaches will face tougher action than those that come forward of their own volition. The ICO was earlier given the power to issue large fines for any serious data breaches.