FAQ: What is SED & FIPS?

Seagate Secure
Marketing Bulletin
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the value of a self-encrypting drive (SED)?
SEDs ensure user data can be quickly deleted (erased) using standard drive
commands, as well as fully protected on drives that are retired, lost or stolen, if set
up as a secure drive. Protecting data at rest has become increasingly popular due
to the regularity of data breaches, the growing number of government and industry
regulations protecting personally identifiable information (PII), and the fact that all
storage devices are eventually retired.
What government and industry regulations exist today to protect
the privacy of PII?
Over 80 countries and independent territories have now adopted comprehensive
data protection laws, including nearly every country in Europe and many in Latin
America, the Caribbean, Asia and Africa.1 Almost all U.S. states have adopted
similar laws. While most data privacy laws require any business that collects
and retains personal information of its customers, employees and other
users, some of these laws, such as the U.S. Health Insurance Portability and
Accountability Act (HIPAA) and the Financial Modernization Act, relate to specific
industry requirements.
1 “Global Data Privacy Laws: 89 Countries, and Accelerating,” Social Science Electronic Publishing, Inc. Retrieved 16 February
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How does an SED protect data on a drive?
SEDs protect data at rest by preventing unauthorized access
to the storage device through the use of user-defined
authentication credentials when the host system is powered
on. If the proper credentials are provided, the drive is unlocked
and the user has full access to the drive’s decrypted data.
If the proper credentials are not provided, the drive remains
locked, and the data inaccessible and encrypted. What’s
more, even if someone were to physically open the drive to
access the platters, all the data has been encrypted with the
highest levels of cryptographic algorithms, further protecting
the data.
What type of encryption algorithms does Seagate
Secure drives use?
Seagate SEDs use AES 256 encryption algorithms. NIST
(National Institute of Standards and Technology) Special
Publication 800-57 recommends AES key sizes of 128 bits
or larger, which they maintain are acceptable for use until at
least 2031.
If an SED encrypts all data written to the drive
and decrypts all data read from it, how is the data
Seagate SED drives follow the industry standard Trusted
Computing Group (TCG) specifications, which allow users to
set lockable ranges in a storage device. Data read and write
access is restricted only after these ranges are set up and
locked, generally through third-party software.
Is there any value for users who don’t configure
SED full data?
Yes. Users who deploy a system with SEDs without
configuring the authentication credentials can take advantage
of an SED’s ability to perform a crypto-erase operation when
they want to retire a drive or storage system, which erases
all the data on a drive in seconds. Deploying SEDs in this
unlocked configuration maintains a drive’s transparency
to the application, host and end user, so there is no impact
to data throughput performance or any other aspect of the
IT environment, including the ability to support future
security upgrades.
2 National Institute of Standards and Technology Guidelines for Media Sanitization
What is a crypto-erase, and why is this a popular
feature of all SEDs?
This term is short for a cryptographic erasure, which virtually
erases the contents of an SED by changing the key used to
encrypt and decrypt the data. This is done using a simple
SATA/SAS command. Once the key is changed, the data will
not be able to be read since it can no longer be decrypted.
Crypto-erase has become increasingly popular with SED users
because it is an easy and efficient way of sanitizing a drive,
which can take many hours using traditional data overwrite
methods. A crypto-erase can be done in seconds for any
size drive and also meets government guidelines for drive
sanitization as outlined in special publication NIST 800-88.2
Do I need a key management application to do a
crypto-erase on my drives?
No, but you do need an application to send commands to the
storage device. Any application that supports SAS or SATA
commands will work, and Windows users can use a utility like
SeaTools™ to do this. SeaTools software can be downloaded
free at our support website here: http://www.seagate.com/
support/downloads/seatools/. Linux users may use HDPARM
(command line utility for the Linux) if they want to issue their
own SATA commands.
What advantage does SED encryption have over
software-based encryption?
SED encryption is faster than software-based encryption
since each drive has a dedicated cryptographic engine that
encrypts all data at full channel speeds. They are also easier
to deploy and manage because encryption is transparent to
the application, host and end user, and they have minimal
impact on IT processes and end-user productivity. The result
is a much lower total cost of ownership. Hardware-based
encryption is also generally considered more secure than
software encryption.
Why doesn’t hardware-based encryption
negatively affect performance?
Since each drive includes its own encryption engine (ASIC),
data throughput is done at native drive speed, unlike softwarebased encryption solutions that require the host’s CPU to
encrypt data.
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Why is hardware-based encryption more secure
than software encryption?
What type of storage media currently supports
self-encrypting capabilities?
Most security experts admit that software and applications
can be vulnerable due to coding defects, buffer overflows,
parsing errors and other common vulnerabilities. SEDs and
other hardware roots of trust are often described as hardware
anchors in a sea of untrusted software, and are generally
preferred for a higher level of assurance.
Currently, the self-encryption capability is supported by hard
disk drives, solid-state drives, SSD hybrid drives, and optical
drives used in laptop, desktop and large enterprise systems,
as well as tape drives for backup and archiving systems.
Will SEDs provide all the data protection I need?
SEDs should be considered one element within a
comprehensive data security posture, intended to protect
data stored on physical storage media. To complement this
data-at-rest encryption, users typically deploy a variety of
other security measures, such as access control, intrusion
prevention, anti-virus and data-in-motion encryption (e.g.,
SSL/TLS), etc., to protect other elements of their
IT environments.
How does SED help in protecting data that
resides with a database or its tables?
All user data on an SED is encrypted, including any data
stored at a higher logical level, such as database tables
and files.
What kind of software do I need to deploy a fulldisk encryption solution?
While Seagate and other device vendors offer SEDs, users will
need software to manage the authentication credentials and
other aspects of the solution. Seagate partners with a variety
of ISVs that offer a range of key management solutions for any
size deployment.
Are SEDs based on any type of industry
Yes, the TCG has created specifications for SED design
and management with input from drive manufacturers, PC
vendors, enterprise system vendors and ISVs. The TCG
Enterprise and TCG Opal (notebooks/desktops) specifications
have been widely adopted across the vendor ecosystem. A list
of TCG participants can be found online at:
How does the authentication process work for a
Windows client system with an SED?
At startup, the BIOS requests the Master Boot Record (MBR)
from the drive, which returns the pre-boot authentication
check (PIN/password) to the user, which is validated by the
drive logic. If accepted, the startup process continues and the
operating system is loaded.
Does the user need to enter the drive PIN/
password and the operating system password
every time the computer starts up?
Most security applications support single sign-on, so the
credential (PIN/password) from the pre-boot authentication
is validated and used to start the operating system boot
sequence, removing the need for entering two credentials.
In other words, the password the user enters to unlock the
SED will also log them into the system. However, many
companies consider this method of single sign-on a security
risk and may disable this feature. But this stems from a client’s
security policy, rather than a limitation of the solution (SED or
software-based encryption). This is starting to be addressed in
some operating systems by securely linking the drive and OS
credentials together, such as Windows 8 with Bitlocker.
How does the authentication process work for an
enterprise system with SEDs?
The simplest way to think about this is that when a system
powers on, it typically passes its authentication key(s) directly
to the key manager for validation before going through its boot
sequence. This is a secure and automated process between
the system and the key manager. If the correct key is entered
and validated, the startup process continues and loads the
operating system. This is completed within the normal powerup timing of a storage array.
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Can authentication keys for a business be
centrally managed through an LDAP server
or other centralized authentication service,
like RADIUS?
Yes, but the details would depend on the specific key
management application.
Can the authentication key be synchronized
with a windows Active Directory password?
Yes; many of our ISV partners have this built into their key
management applications.
What is Windows Bitlocker?
Prior to Windows 8, Bitlocker was a full-disk encryption
feature included in some Windows operating environments.
With Windows 8 Professional, Bitlocker added support for
managing SEDs configured for full data protection. Seagate
SEDs supporting the TCG Opal 2 specification or newer are
now able to work with Bitlocker and support single sign-on.
Similar to other software-based encryption offerings, Bitlocker
used CPU resources to encrypt all the data as it is written to
the drive and decrypt all the data when read from the drive.
A study by Coughlin Associates showed software-based
encryption performance penalties as high as 20% to 40%
when compared to hardware-based encryption, not including
initial configuration time. Additional benefits of SEDs over
software-based encryption include stronger security, ease of
use and lower total cost of ownership (TCO).
Why does the United States restrict exporting of
SED drives?
The US does not restrict exporting SEDs (specifically, products
with encryption technology included) with the exception of
certain embargoed countries, such as Iran, North Korea and
other. However, many countries (including the US) restrict
importing products that are security-related and include
encryption technology. This issue is often mistaken as export
restrictions, but it is an import restriction.
What is the US export classification for Seagate
Secure drives?
Seagate’s broadly-available SEDs are classified as 5A992
for exports. However, there are models with limited channel
distribution that are classified as 5A002. The different
classifications are based largely on the distribution channel by
which the drives are sold, even though they are technically the
same. Note that since this is an export classification, its
use is limited in addressing import issues. For more details
and specific model classifications, contact: ita.clearances@
Why do some countries restrict importation of
encryption products?
Import restrictions exist for two reasons, security and
commerce. Since Seagate SEDs do not restrict data access
in the default configuration, import restrictions are typically
related to commerce. Examples include restricting the
importation of competitive product in an effort to nurture
domestic offerings or to generate higher import licensing fees.
Seagate works aggressively with partners to address these
issues wherever possible, so we can meet the requirements of
our global customers efficiently and effectively.
Can SEDs be legally exported to countries that
restrict cryptographic products?
Yes, with the exception of several highly restricted countries.
There may be additional work required by the importer of
record. For assistance, email ita.clearances@seagate.com.
How is the data encryption key (DEK) on the drive
A unique DEK is generated during manufacturing and is
stored securely in the drive. Per the federal media sanitization
guidelines published in NIST standard 800-88, this key never
leaves the drive, which provides another level of security not
offered with software-based encryption solutions.
What if the area where the DEK is stored on the
drive is corrupted? Is there any recoverability?
In general, Seagate recommends backing up data as a best
practice to address any storage or system failure. Storing the
DEK on the drive takes every precaution to ensure the key is
available when needed, and with millions of drives sold, there
has never been a situation where the DEK became the reason
for data loss. The details are available under a nondisclosure
agreement if required.
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What if my key manager gets corrupted and I
lose my authentication key?
In general, Seagate recommends backing up data as a best
practice to address any storage or system failure. And most
key management applications recommend backing up the
authentication keys managed by their applications.
I’m interested in deploying SEDs across my
business. How should I manage the keys for
all my data center systems and the endpoint
We partner with a variety of ISVs that offer integrated
encryption key management applications that are designed for
this purpose. Seagate will assist with user authentication key
management in the implementation of SED systems, but it is
not a core business for us.
What capabilities do key managers perform in
the SED solution?
Key management applications are responsible for managing
the user authentication keys in a cryptographic solution. These
keys are not the same as the DEK used to perform the actual
data encryption, which is unique for every drive and unknown
to even the key management application.
Should I consider replacing all my standard
storage devices with SEDs?
Most users will want to deploy SEDs as part of their normal
system refresh cycle. As new systems are needed, for
example, they should include SEDs. This has been found to
be much more practical than retrofitting SEDs into existing
systems. However, many users have decided to retrofit
existing systems that are known to store sensitive data with
SEDs since the cost of a data breach often exceeds the cost
of retrofitting an existing system.
What if I have additional layers of authentication
on the drives, such as biometrics or smart cards.
How can that be handled?
This would be configured as part of the user application
software. Seagate SEDs support this at the Application
programming layer via TCG protocols.
3 Ponemon Institute, 2014 Cost of Data Breach Study: Global Analysis
What is FIPS 140-2?
FIPS (Federal Information Processing Standard) 140-2 is a
U.S. government standard that describes the encryption and
related security requirements for sensitive but unclassified
(SBU) information technology (IT) products.
FIPS 140-2 validation is a testing and certification program
that verifies that a product meets the FIPS 140-2 standard.
The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST)
established the Cryptographic Module Validation Program
(CMVP) to validate products against these requirements.
What does FIPS 140-2 specify?
The standard ensures that a product meets the rigorous
requirements related to the secure design and implementation
of a cryptographic module, such as approved encryption
algorithms and methods to maintain the confidentiality and
integrity of the information protected by the module. It also
specifies how individuals or other IT processes must be
authorized in order to utilize the product and how modules or
components must be designed to securely interact with other
Why is encryption necessary?
Storage devices, such as hard disk drives and solid state
drives, are inevitably retired (returned for warranty, repair,
expired lease, repurposed or sold), lost or stolen. Left
unprotected, the data on these drives can fall into the wrong
hands, resulting in a data breach that can be very costly. The
Ponemon Institute, for instance, calculates the average total
cost of a data breach in their latest study was up to US$5.85
million.3 The study showed the average number of records
in a breach was up to 29,000, and the average cost of a
single lost record (a record is defined as sensitive personal
or financial data) was up to US$210, which underscores the
financial impact of substandard data security. An organization
may even be subject to civil penalties due to violation of data
privacy laws.
What are the different levels associated with FIPS
FIPS 140-2 defines four levels of security, and a module’s
validation will specify the security level to which it adheres.
• Level 1 provides the lowest level of security and is typically
used for software-only encryption products with very
limited security requirements. No specific physical security
mechanisms are required in a Level 1 cryptographic
module beyond the basic requirement for production-
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grade components. An example of a Level 1 cryptographic
module is a personal computer (PC) encryption board.
• Level 2 requires role-based authentication in which a
cryptographic module authenticates the authorization
of an operator to assume a specific role and perform a
corresponding set of services (individual user authentication
is not required). It also requires the ability to detect physical
tampering by using physical locks or tamper-evident
coatings or seals.
• Level 3 attempts to prevent the intruder from gaining
access to critical security parameters (CSP) held within
the cryptographic module. Physical security mechanisms
required at Level 3 are intended to have a high probability
of detecting and responding to attempts at physical
access, use or modification of the cryptographic module.
The physical security mechanisms may include the use of
strong enclosures and tamper detection/response circuitry
that zeroes all plain text CSPs when the removable covers/
doors of the cryptographic module are opened. Level 3
also requires identity-based authentication and physical or
logical separation between the interfaces by which critical
security parameters enter and leave.
• Level 4 provides the highest level of security and offers a
complete envelope of protection around the cryptographic
module with the intent of detecting and responding to all
unauthorized attempts at physical access. Penetration of
the cryptographic module enclosure from any direction
has a very high probability of being detected, resulting
in the immediate zeroing of all plaintext CSPs. Level 4
cryptographic modules are useful in physically
unprotected environments.
What level of FIPS 140-2 validation did
Seagate obtain?
Seagate Secure Self-Encrypting Drive (SED) storage devices
are validated as FIPS 140-2 Level 2 compliant.
Why did Seagate obtain FIPS 140-2 Level 2
Organizations of all types are increasingly demanding that
data at rest be encrypted to protect against loss or theft. FIPS
140-2 Level 2 validation is an assurance to all buyers that
the Seagate Secure FIPS SEDs meet the strict government
requirements for cryptographic products.
How can I tell if my Seagate storage device is
FIPS 140-2 compliant?
Each FIPS 140-2 compliant device utilizes physical security
mechanisms to detect physical tampering. To determine if
a storage device is FIPS 140-2 compliant, one would look
for the tamper-evident seal located on the outside of the
drive. Additionally, one can also query the drive for a FIPS
compliance descriptor (SCSI and SATA).
How do I set up my Seagate Secure SED to
ensure FIPS 140-2 compliance?
To setup your FIPS 140-2 compliant device, review the
Security Policy document listed with your specific drive model
on the NIST Module Validation List website at: http://csrc.nist.
A detailed procedure for initializing your device is listed under
the Secure Initialization section of the document.
What types of products are relevant to
FIPS 140-2?
FIPS 140-2 applies to any product that might store or transmit
sensitive electronic data. This includes hardware products,
such as network devices, link encryptors, hard disks, solid
state drives and other removable storage media. It also
includes software products that encrypt data in transit or
at rest.
Do I really need this much security? Isn’t the
operating system password enough?
Operating system passwords can be bypassed easily by
physically removing a storage drive and mounting it in another
computer. Even BIOS hard drive passwords have been found
to be vulnerable if not used with an SED drive. Encrypting the
data on the storage device is the most effective method to
protect it.
What organizations or businesses require
compliance with FIPS 140-2?
In the U.S., NIST requires all federal agencies to use FIPS
140-2 Level 2 validated products to secure data designated
as sensitive but unclassified (SBU) within computer and
telecommunications systems (including voice systems).
In Canada, the Communications Security Establishment
(CSE) requires federal agencies to use FIPS 140-2 Level 2
validated cryptographic modules to secure data designated
as Protected Information (A or B) within computer and
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telecommunications systems (including voice systems).
FIPS 140 validation is also a necessary precursor for
a cryptographic product to be listed in the Canadian
government’s ITS Pre-qualified Products List.4 In the U.K., the
Communications-Electronics Security Group recommends the
use of FIPS 140 Validated cryptographic modules.5
Any business that contracts with U.S., Canadian or U.K.
federal organizations that require FIPS 140-2 encryption
are also required to be compliant. Additionally, commercial
enterprises—especially in finance, healthcare, education and
infrastructure (national security) verticals—are increasingly
requiring FIPS 140-2 compliance throughout the world. These
organizations typically have the highest adoption for advanced
data protection.
What does it take to get a FIPS 140-2
To be FIPS 140-2 validated, a product must adhere to the
stated design and implementation requirements and be tested
and approved by one of 13 independent labs that have been
accredited by NIST.
Which FIPS 140 standard is current?
FIPS 140-1 was issued in 1994 but has been supplanted by
FIPS 140-2, which is the current standard issued in 2001.
FIPS 140-3 is a new version of the standard that has been
under development since 2005. A draft has been issued but
not yet finalized.
Is there a list of products that are FIPS 140-2
NIST maintains a list of all commercially available products
that have been FIPS 140-2 validated.
You can find the list here: http://csrc.nist.gov/groups/STM/
4 http://csrc.nist.gov/groups/STM/cmvp/index.html
5 www.cesg.gov.uk
FIPS 140-2 Inside
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