I was intrigued to read a pre-review (opens in new tab) of a new Gateway PC - due next month in the US - that includes an encryption chipset that integrates closely with the PC's hard disk.
The chipset, known as the Trusted Platform Module or TPM (opens in new tab)for short, is currently only available from Infineon, although other chipset manufacturers are working on their own versions.
Essentially the chipset encrypts (and decrypts) data flowing between the PC's memory and the hard drive, meaning that all data stored on the machine is secure.
Software that encrypts data stored on a PC's hard drive has been around for years, of course, but the problem is that the software can usually only load after the initial boot sequence on the host PC has taken place.
This means that, with the right knowledge, such encryption software can be compromised.
The TPM chipset side-steps such chicanery, since it only exists to encrypt (and decrypt) the data flowing to and from the hard drive.
Although Gateway (opens in new tab)and Infineon are the only vendors that have publicly announced their plans, respectively, for a TPM-driven PC and a TPM chipset, others are in the pipeline.
You can expect to hear more about the TPM processor chipset in the months ahead. I think it could be an important step in enhancing the security of PCs generally...