Ever more computers are carrying ever more confidential data -- trade secrets, personal information of clients and constituents, and national security information. Encrypted hard disks requiring hardware keys or passwords are supposedly the way to keep that information safe.
But Princeton University computer security researcher Edward Felten released a study recently demonstrating that those keys are only as secure as the RAM that carries them, and that RAM is vulnerable in surprising ways. the upshot? Even turning a computer off may not be enough.
What has your study found? The implication of the paper has to do specifically with disk encryption. These are systems that try to encrypt the contents of file on hard drives of PCs so that if the computer is lost or stolen, the person who gets the computer won't be able to read all the files.
We found a method that is able to defeat all of the disk encryption systems that we've tried it on, which I think is now up to six systems roughly. And the basic reason is that all of these systems need to keep the secret encryption key somewhere, and the only place they can put it is in the RAM.
What we found, basically, is a way to get access to RAM, even if it's screen-locked.