Saqib Ali wrote:
> Well for one thing, any software based FDE is extremely slow, doubles
> the file access times, and is a serious drain on the laptop battery.

Here's the relevant excerpt of the Elephant paper [0]:

"A typical desktop machine today has a 3 GHz P4 CPU and a hard disk that
can read at about 50 MB/s. That means that the CPU has 60 clock cycles
for each byte that the disk reads. Laptops have slower CPUs, often
around the 1 GHz mark. Laptop disks are also slower but not by nearly as
much. (For example, the Seagate Momentus 5400.2 laptop drive can read
data at almost 50 MB/s.) Our data shows that laptops tend to have fewer
CPU clock cycles per byte read from disk, down to 40 or even 30 cycles
per byte. We cannot predict what the CPU/disk speed ratio will be for
the actual hardware that BitLocker will run on, but these numbers are
the best guidelines we have.

If decryption is slower than the peak data rate of the disk, the CPU
becomes the bottleneck when reading large amounts of data. This is very
noticeable, both because of the reduced performance and because of the
reduced responsiveness of the UI when all CPU time is being used to
decrypt data.2 Therefore, decryption, including all overhead, must be
faster than the disk to get an acceptable user experience.

BitLocker is carefully designed to overlap the reading of data from disk
with the decryption of previously read data. This is only possible to a
limited extent, and when the disk finishes reading the data, the CPU
still has to decrypt (some of) the data. Thus the decryption time
increases the latency of the disk request and reduces performance
accordingly. This obviously argues for a fast decryption algorithm.

A software implementation of AES runs in around 20–25 cycles per byte on
a P4 class CPU.  (Synthetic benchmarks can achieve somewhat higher
speeds, but they exclude various overheads encountered in real system
implementations.) Other overhead adds around 5 cycles per byte for a
total of 25–30 cycles per byte.

Based on this data, our performance analysis concluded that a single
pass of AES, for example using AES in CBC mode, would have acceptable
performance. An algorithm twice as slow as AES (45–55 cycles/byte) would
be on the edge of being unacceptable, and a high-risk choice given the
many uncertainties in the analysis. Anything slower than that would be

> What if the encryption key for the Seagate's HDD can be managed using
> TPM, i.e. wrapped, bound and stored on the TPM. The user will just
> have to authenticate to the TPM, using a Token or a static password,
> then the FDE encryption key will be available to the HDD.... Will this
> solve the problem?

I don't think so. The key thing to recognize is that BitLocker, in its
least secure setting (no hardware tokens or USB keys), still improves
security dramatically, while requiring no setup whatsoever. Hardware FDE
does approximately the same thing security-wise, not nearly as flexibly,
and requiring a lot of up-front setup (and that's assuming your TPM does
rekeyable hardware tokens at all). And if we've learned anything from
the negligible global uptake of encrypted e-mail and FDE suites such as
PGP Drive, it's that security only works is if it can be engaged without
requiring anyone -- that's the user, the system administrator, and all
the way up to the CIO -- to think. The exceptions are exceedingly rare.

But maybe I'm just a cynic.

[0] Ferguson, Niels. AES-CBS+Elephant diffuser, A Disk Encryption
Algorithm for Windows Vista.

Ivan Krstić <[EMAIL PROTECTED]> | GPG: 0x147C722D

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