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IBM Security Answer: Tape It Up

IBM's System Storage unit today attacked the Goliath enterprise data security problem with a weapon that even David might not have thought of: a tape drive.

Big Blue introduced the TS1120, a new version of its tape storage subsystem that includes an encryption chip in the processor and a decoding key in every cartridge. The system guarantees that all data stored or backed up to tape will be encrypted, virtually eliminating the possibility that stored files will be hacked, stolen, or exposed after being lost.

IBM Corp. (NYSE: IBM) did a lot of crowing about the new drive -- a PR pitch called it "the most advanced encryption computer system ever built" -- and executives painted a picture of the drive that essentially positions it as the answer to the recent rash of reported data losses in major corporations. Such claims might be a bit much, but security officers and other experts say the company might be onto something in the storage arena.

"We were thrilled to hear that IBM is offering a tape encryption solution," says Debbie Wheeler, CISO at Fifth Third Bank.

Kevin Roden, executive vice president and CIO at Iron Mountain, one of the industry's largest off-site data storage providers, says there are about 100 million tapes -- some 75 percent of the world's data -- currently in storage around the globe. Many of those tapes are not encrypted because of the hassles and performance issues associated with encryption, he observes.

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