written by: Berry van der Linden•edited by: Lamar Stonecypher•updated: 8/30/2010
Providing a secure place to sensitive information is easy - just install some software and all the user of the storage device needs to do is remember the password. What If you could use a key, stick it in, and presto access to the data? This article is a review of the Addonics Dual CipherChain.
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There are many situations where strong encryption of data is needed. Software encryption is widely used, but requires you to remember a password or some long string of random characters. As a Computer Resource Specialist I was often tasked with protecting data. I used to work in a hospital for the department of Pathology. The information that needed encryption was often sensitive patient information. In Pathology you don't only deal with deceased patients, more often you have information containing a patients further treatment of say cancer. Most of the Doctors I have worked with are brilliant medical minds, but computers a different matter all together. As a doctor they have several passwords needed to get to patient information. Information, which is protected by the HIPAA. Therefore I spend a lot of time searching for the best security solutions. For hard drive encryption this meant that doctors had to remember the password to get in their external drives, used to carry patient information on. I spend a lot of hours recovering data from secure back-up locations to external drives because a Doctor forgot their password to the drive. Beside the password issues there was also a problem with them having to familiarize themselves with the encryption software I presented to them.
If I would have had the CipherChain line of products by Addonics back then, I would have saved myself and the doctors a lot of time.
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What Is The Dual CipherChain?
Addonics Dual CipherChain is an AES (Advanced Encryption Standard) 256-bit (per card) hardware solution for encrypting entire hard drives, RAID solutions, or even servers. The Dual CipherChain is, as the name says, a two card option. Addonics also sells single units. The CipherChain can be daisy linked, and this is why when you buy the Dual CipherChain you won't get just 256-bit but 512-bit encryption. The modules used for this are so small they could even be built into a laptop.
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How Does It Work?
The Dual CipherChain uses a fast cryptology engine, the ENOVA® X-Wall MX-256, which is NIST & CES certified. This engine uses AES encryption to encrypt entire drives. Simply said. AES uses mathematical formulas and algorithms to come to, in this case, a 256-bit key. To explain in detail how AES or encryption works is outside of the scope of this article.
The CipherChain uses keys, a little hardware key with a male mini USB connector, and the circuit board has a female USB connector on it. This is the KEY. The only thing you have to do is stick this key in the CipherChain, connect the circuit board to the computer using SATA, connect the hard drive, and turn everything on. BACK UP OUR DATA on the drive you are going to use. The CipherChain will now delete all the data on the hard drive and encrypt it. Now you are ready to re-create the partition table (yes it really destroyed all the data), create the first partition, and load the data back on the drive.
One of the key features of the CipherChain is that the engine is fast. I didn't notice any speed decrease in data transfers; the speeds measured are what you would expect of an external USB hard drive. (Speeds were measured with ATTO Disk Benchmark.)
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There are many situations where the Dual CipherChain could be used. An out-of-state server installation is now easily secured, install the software and data on the server. Unplug the Cipher key, ship the server and fly out with the key in our pocket. The data is safe during shipping.