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THE 2002 Australian Computer Crime and Security Survey published earlier this year found that the theft of data due to computer security compromise was a significant cause of financial loss in Australian organisations. It indicated that government agencies and private companies possessing classified, sensitive or secret information were likely targets of cyber espionage or sabotage. Further, the survey found that the number of computer security incidents in Australia had doubled since 1999, with nearly all respondents experiencing some form of computer crime or abuse.

Perhaps one of the most interesting findings of the survey was that despite heavy investment by Australian organisations in computer security technologies, computer crime and abuse was still occurring at significant levels.

“The problem is that the majority of computer security solutions are software based, and anything software based can potentially be hacked,” said Paquita Sutherland, vice-president of strategic global development and marketing at Perth company Secure Systems Limited. “If you want security that can’t be hacked, then it has to be implemented at the hardware level.”

And this is precisely what Secure System’s key computer security solution, the Silicon Data Vault (SDV), is designed to do.

Secure Systems received industry recognition for the SDV at the recent Asia-Pacific ICT Awards, where it won an excellence award in the e-commerce category.

The SDV is a hardware-based security device designed to protect systems from both external threats and internal unauthenticated log-in attempts. It is an entirely self-contained device with its own on-board CPU, firmware and memory.

At the commencement of a system’s boot-up, the SDV asserts total control over the hard disk drive (HDD). The operating system cannot be loaded until the user is authenticated by password and PIN token, or biometric test. Further, the SDV does not interface with any computer buses and is operating system independent, therefore making it ‘un- addressable’ for the purposes of illicit access. These features effectively make the system ‘hack-proof’.

“The SDV marries itself to the system’s HDD and prevents its use until authentication is provided,” Ms Sutherland said. “The key, however, is that the SDV is a hardware device, and as such provides no means by which it can be hacked or circumvented.

“Once the SDV is installed, the HDD will only be operational if the SDV is present. If it is removed by an unauthorised person, the HDD becomes inoperative until it is returned.”

The SDV has a range of other capabilities, including the ability to lock data away on the HDD as write-protected, read-protected or invisible on a profile by profile basis. These features, too, negate the ability of hackers and viruses to alter and corrupt data stored on a HDD.

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