Seagate Technology LLC, the world's largest hard drive maker, announced Monday the first manufacturer to sell laptop PCs with its new built-in encryption technology.
The hard drives, to be available in laptops made by ASI Computer Technologies, will include a chip that makes it impossible for anyone to read data off the disk, or even boot up a PC, without some form of authentication.
ASI, which manufacturers laptops under its own brand and builds systems for lesser-known PC makers, is expected to put the new technology in its machines within a few months. Other major PC makers are expected to introduce computers with Seagate's secure hard drives later this year.
Lost or stolen employee laptops have cost businesses and government agencies millions of dollars and hurt their credibility, while putting the sensitive information in the hands of identity thieves and other criminals. Dozens of states require businesses to encrypt computer data.
"I can't help but think that this kind of hard drive would become a standard issue on corporate laptops," said Dave Reinsel, a storage industry analyst at market research firm IDC.
Seagate's DriveTrust technology differs from existing security options, which usually include placing firewalls around computer networks and installing encryption software on systems.
The new technology is embedded directly in the hard drive — the computer's storehouse of data. It requires users to have a key, or password, before being able to access the disk drive or boot up the machine. Without the password, the hard drive would be useless, Seagate officials said.
Seagate teamed with security software provider Wave Systems Corp. to add an additional layer of tools to make the systems easier for corporations to manage the new kind of security technology.