Breakthrough in instant-on memory encryption is welcomed

I welcome the breakthrough in memory encryption that will allow instant-on memory – non-volatile main memory – to be used more securely on desktop and laptop computers.

The use of non-volatile memory for instant-on facilities with conventional computers – as opposed to tablet machines – has been held back because of worries about data held in the computer’s memory being accessible when the PC – and its security systems – is switched off.

This breakthrough by Carolina State University researchers means that sections of the instant-on memory can be encrypted, with data flowing into and out of that memory segment being encrypted on-the-fly, in much the same way as encrypted drives operate.

And also like most encrypted drives, there is no time-lag or latency involved with the encryption. This is really great news, as having this feature on instant-on computers will not only speed up the boot time of desktop and laptop computers significantly, but it will also help to raise the awareness of encryption.

Although awareness of the need for encryption at all stages in data usage is growing, there are still a lot of computer users that are blissfully unaware of the risks they are running in not encrypting data when it is at rest.

A growing number of users are aware of the need to encrypt sensitive and personal data in transit, such as across the Internet or in an online banking Web browser, but it is the data storage side of things that is so often ignored.

The new i-NVMM encryption system will selectively choose which data to keep encrypted in memory, meaning, for example, that spreadsheet or word processing sections of active memory can be automatically encrypted – and so protected – when a machine is turned off.

Then, when the machine is turned back on, whether or not the user has shut down the relevant application(s) before they turned the computer off, they can rest assured that the data is away from prying eyes, until such time as they wish to reload that information.

It’s also important to understand that, even whilst the computer is switched off, and the usual security systems that run in the background of the PC are not operating, cybercriminals cannot gain access to the memory dump of the system, and steal it.

My observations suggest that, in a growing number of instances, corporate secrets now require protection by encryption, so preventing theft of intellectual property. With the additional layer of security that i-NVMM brings to the technology table, data can be better protected.

And, of course, it’s technologies like i-NVMM that will allow instant-on memory to be used in desktop and laptop computers, without any worry of the memory data being insecure. And that’s no bad thing.

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Andy Cordial is MD at Origin Storage. Andy started his computer industry career in 1987 working for tape manufacturer Everex Systems. He moved into computer distribution in 1989 and set up his first computer company ‘XL Distribution’. XL merged with Datrontech in '92 where he worked in Management team. Andy saw Datrontech through flotation on LSE then left to start Upgrade Options in '96. Andy sold upgrade (MBO) in '03 and invested in Origin Storage. Andy built Origin to a £5.2m business and has seen it enter the Times Fast track 100. Andy now owns 100% shareholding of Origin after successful purchase of his partner in 2009.