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Research Raises New Laptop Security Fear

Not long ago, encryption was seen as the holy grail for data protection. But the bar has been raised, courtesy of researchers at Princeton University.

Scientists at the Ivy League college claim to have found a vulnerability in laptop encryption that adds to the many reasons why laptops feature prominently in high-profile data breaches.

Previously, it was thought that sensitive data, such as encryption keys, would only be held in a laptop's "volatile memory" for a brief period of time when the device is switched off. Not so, according to a BBC report.

"It was widely believed that when you cut the power to the computer that the information in the volatile memory would disappear, and what we found was that was not the case," said Princeton professor Edward Felten, in an interview with the BBC World Service's Digital Planet program.

Felten says a laptop needs to stay switched off for several minutes before it's taken into a risky situation where security could be compromised, such as a cafe or conference center. Otherwise, the encryption keys stay in volatile memory, open to exposure.

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