Hard drives with on-the-fly encryption have been available for quite some time now. Even SSDs are getting in on the action; SandForce's SF-1000-series flash controller encrypts drive contents by default. Toshiba has now added a new twist to the concept by allowing self-encrypting drives effectively to erase themselves under certain circumstances. Here's a snippet from the official press release (PDF):
Toshiba Corporation (TOKYO: 6502) today announced Wipe for Toshiba Self-Encrypting Drive (SED) models, a technology that allows special security capabilities, such as the world's first ability for sensitive user data to be securely erased when a system is powered-down or when a SED HDD is removed from the system. The feature can also be used to securely erase user data prior to returning a leased system, system disposal or re-purposing. Wipe was created as an enhancement to Toshiba's Self-Encrypting Drive (SED) hard disk drives.
Few details are given on exactly how data is cleared from the drive, with the press release only saying that "data invalidation" is accomplished by "system command." If the drive's contents are already scrambled with encryption, shuffling the bits past the point of no return probably doesn't take a whole lot of extra effort.
Toshiba has a trio of self-encrypting hard drives that should benefit from this new Wipe capability. Two of them are 2.5" models that cover 5,400- and 7,200-RPM spindle speeds. The third is a 6Gbps SAS unit with a 10k-RPM spindle speed and definite enterprise aspirations.