An Indian scientist has claimed to have developed the fastest internationally known method to encrypt hard disk of a computer so that data remains secure even from attack by hackers.

The new algorithm developed by Palash Sarkar, a professor at the Indian Statistical Institute (ISI), Kolkata, is reportedly 30 to 40 per cent faster than the previous ones.

From a practical point of view, the requirement is actually to achieve both speed and security. Otherwise, encryption and decryption may take so much time that software that run on computers become unacceptably slow, Sarkar said.

“And, in the current state of the art, this work provides the fastest known algorithm for disk encryption,” Sarkar claimed.

The results of the research will appear in October 2009 issue of the ‘IEEE Transactions on Information Theory’, one of the top research journals in the field of transmission, processing and utilization of information.

Asked how he claims his algorithm to be the ‘fastest’, he replied, “One has to see this in the context of the anonymous and strict review process of the journal ‘IEEE Transactions on Information Theory.’

The reviewers allowed this claim to stand because I could scientifically justify it in the paper. A hollow claim would have been struck down by the reviewers, he added.

The claim of speed improvement in the new scheme is based on hardware implementation carried out by a group of Mexico-based scientists led by Dr Debrup Chakraborty.

“The software implementation of the algorithm is expected to give more speedups compared to that of other methods,” Chakraborty said in an email interview.

Chakraborty and his colleagues have been working on several aspects of disk encryption since past few years at the Center for Advanced Studies and Research of the National Polytechnic Institute, Mexico.

The details of the new algorithm involve techniques of computer science, abstract algebra and discrete probability theory, Sarkar said.

If the disk encryption method is used correctly, even a hacker cannot break the encrypted disk, he claimed.

“But, the caveat here is that unless the system is properly used, a hacker can achieve his/her goal without actually breaking the encryption algorithm,” he said.

As a secure and fast disk encryption algorithm is of major commercial interest, will he patent his method?

“May be it is a good idea but I will try to do so in the future. But, I do not want to spend a whole lot of time in pursuing a patent claim. That would take time away from research which is my main goal,” he replied.

Almost all available disk encryption schemes are patented preventing wide deployment of the schemes, Chakraborty said.

“If Prof Sarkar does not go for a patent, it may facilitate the adoption of his method for deployment in commercial devices.”

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