Memory trick breaks PC encryption

Encrypted information held on a laptop is more vulnerable than previously thought, US research has shown. Scientists have shown that it is possible to recover the key that unscrambles data from a PC's memory. It was previously thought that data held in so-called "volatile memory" was only retained for a few seconds after the machine was switched off. But the team found that data including encryption keys could be held and retrieved for up toseveral minutes.

"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," Professor Edward Felten of the University of Princeton told BBC World Service's Digital Planet programme. Volatile memory is typically used in random access memory (RAM), which is used as temporary storage for programs and data when the computer is switched on.

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