Microsoft Security Advisory for self-encrypting drives

Martin Brinkmann
Nov 7, 2018
Security, Windows

Microsoft published the security advisory ADV180028, Guidance for configuring BitLocker to enforce software encryption, yesterday. The advisory is a response to the research paper Self-encrypting deception: weaknesses in the encryption of solid state drives (SSDs) by the Dutch security researchers Carlo Meijer and Bernard von Gastel from Radboud University (PDF here).

The researchers discovered a vulnerability in Solid State Drives that support hardware encryption that enabled them to retrieve data from the encrypted drive without knowledge of the password used to encrypt the data on it.

The vulnerability requires local access to the drive as it is necessary to manipulate the firmware of it to access the data.

The security researchers tested several retail solid state drives that support hardware encryption and found the vulnerability in each of them including Crucial MX100, MX200 and MX3000, Samsung T3 and T5, and Samsung 840 Evo and 850 Evo drives.

How BitLocker is affected

BitLocker supports software and hardware encryption but uses hardware encryption by default if supported by the drive. Means: any drive that supports hardware encryption is potentially affected by the issue on Windows.

Microsoft suggests that administrators switch the encryption mode from hardware to software to address the issue and resolve it at the same time.

Verify the encryption method

hardware ecryption check bitlocker

System administrators can check the used encryption method on Windows devices in the following way:

  1. Open an elevated command prompt, e.g. by opening the Start menu, typing cmd.exe, right-clicking on the result, and selecting the "run as administrator" option.
  2. Confirm the UAC prompt that is displayed.
  3. Type manage-bde.exe -status.
  4. Check for "Hardware Encryption" under Encryption Method.

The solid state drives uses software encryption if you don't find hardware encryption referenced in the output.

How to switch to BitLocker software encryption

bitlocker use software encryption

Administrators may switch the encryption method to software if BitLocker uses a drive's hardware encryption capabilities on a Windows machine.

BitLocker can't switch to software encryption automatically if a drive uses hardware encryption. The required process involves enabling software encryption as the default, decryption of the drive, and encrypting it using BitLocker.

Microsoft notes that it is not required to format the drive or install software again when switching the encryption method.

First thing that needs to be done is enforce the use of software encryption using the Group Policy.

  1. Open the Start menu.
  2. Type gpedit.msc
  3. Go to Computer Configuration> Administrative Templates > Windows Components > Bitlocker Drive Encryption.
    1. For the system drive, open Operating System Drives and double-click on Configure use of hardware-based encryption for operating system drives.
    2. For fixed date drives, open Fixed Data Drives and double-click on Configure use of hardware-based encryption for Fixed Data Drives.
    3. For removable drives, open Removable Data Drives and double-click on Configure use of hardware-based encryption for Removable Data Drives,
  4. Set the required policies to Disabled. A value of disabled forces BitLocker to use software-encryption for all drives even those that support hardware encryption.

The setting applies to new drives that you connect to the computer. BitLocker won't apply the new encryption method to drives that are already encrypted.

It is necessary to turn off BitLocker on affected drives fully to decrypt the data and turn it on again after the process so that BitLocker uses software encryption as defined in the Group Policy to encrypt the drive's data.

Here is how that is done

turn off bitlocker

  1. Open Explorer on the computer.
  2. Right-click on the drive and select "Manage BitLocker" from the context menu.
  3. Select "Turn off BitLocker" to decrypt the drive. The time it takes to decrypt the drive depends on a number of factors
  4. Once BitLocker is turned off on the drive, enable BitLocker encryption again on the drive.

Closing Words

The issue affects Solid State Drives that support hardware encryption. The security researchers tested only some Solid State Drives that support the security feature; it seems likely that additional drives are vulnerable as well.

Attackers need local access to the drive to exploit the vulnerability. While that is very limiting, it is still suggested to switch to software encryption especially if critical data is stored on the drive or if the computer or drive may be sold or given away at a later point in time. (via Born)

Microsoft Security Advisory for self-encrypting drives
Article Name
Microsoft Security Advisory for self-encrypting drives
Microsoft published the security advisory ADV180028, Guidance for configuring BitLocker to enforce software encryption, yesterday.
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  1. Dan Donx said on January 15, 2023 at 10:29 am

    What mental age of reader are you targeting with the first sentence? 10?

    Why not write an article on how to *avoid* upgrading from W10 to W11. Analogous to those like me who avoided upgrading from 7 to 10 for as long as possible.

    If your paymaster Microsoft permits it, of course.

  2. Dexter said on January 15, 2023 at 11:14 am

    5. Rufus
    6. Ventoy

    PS. I hate reading these “SEO optimized” articles.

    1. cdr said on January 15, 2023 at 3:32 pm

      I used Rufus to create an installer for a 6th gen intel i5 that had MBR. It upgraded using Setup. No issues except for Win 11 always prompting me to replace my local account. Still using Win 10 Pro on all my other PCs to avoid the bullying.

  3. sv said on January 15, 2023 at 6:40 pm

    bit pointless to upgrade for the sake of upgrading as you never know when you’ll get locked out because ms might suddenly not provide updates to unsupported systems.

    ps…. time travelling?
    written. Jan 15, 2023
    Updated • Jan 13, 2023

    1. Martin Brinkmann said on January 16, 2023 at 5:49 am

      This happens when you schedule a post in WordPress and update it before setting the publication date.

  4. Anonymous said on January 16, 2023 at 8:24 am

    Anyone willing to downgrade to this awful OS must like inflicting themselves with harm.

  5. basingstoke said on January 16, 2023 at 11:18 am

    I have become convinced now that anybody who has no qualms with using Windows 11/10 must fit into one of the following brackets:

    1) Too young to remember a time before W10 and W11 (doesn’t know better)

    2) Wants to play the latest games on their PC above anything else (or deeply needs some software which already dropped W7 support)

    3) Doesn’t know too much about how computers work, worried that they’d be absolutely lost and in trouble without the “”latest security””

    4) Microsoft apologist that tries to justify that the latest “features” and “changes” are actually a good thing, that improve Windows

    5) Uses their computer to do a bare minimum of like 3 different things, browse web, check emails, etc, so really doesn’t fuss

    Obviously that doesn’t cover everyone, there’s also the category that:

    6) Actually liked W7 more than 10, and held out as long as possible before switching, begrudgingly uses 10 now

    Have I missed any group off this list?

    1. Heinz Strunk said on September 19, 2023 at 3:57 pm

      You have missed in this group just about any professional user that uses business software like CAD programs or ERP Programs which are 99% of all professional users from this list.

      Linux doesn’t help anyone who is not a linux kid and apple is just a fancy facebook machine.

  6. ilev said on August 24, 2023 at 7:34 pm

    Microsoft has removed KB5029351 update

    1. EP said on August 24, 2023 at 9:21 pm

      only from windows update though
      KB5029351 is still available from the ms update catalog site

  7. Anonymous said on August 24, 2023 at 11:05 pm

    1. This update is labaled as PREVIEW if it causes issues to unintelligent people, then they shouldn’t have allowed Preview updates ot install.

    2. I have installed it in a 11 years old computer, and no problems at all.

    3. Making a big drama over a bluescreen for an updated labeled as preview is ridiculous.

    This is probably another BS internet drama where people ran programs and scripts that modified the registry until they broke Windows, just for removing stuff that they weren’t even using just for the sake of it.
    Maybe people should stop playing geeks and actually either use Windows 10 or Windows 11, but don’t try to modify things just for the sake of it.

    Sometimes removing or stopping things (like defender is a perfect example) only need intelligence, not scripts or 3rd party programs that might mess with windows.

  8. john said on August 24, 2023 at 11:17 pm

    Windows 11 was a pointless release, it was just created because some of the Windows team wanted to boost sales with some sort of new and improved Windows 10. Instead, Microsoft cannot support one version well let alone two.

    1. John G. said on August 25, 2023 at 12:08 pm

      Windows 11 is the worst ugly shame by Microsoft ever. They should release with every new W11 version a complete free version of Starallback inside just to make this sh** OS functionally again.

  9. EP said on August 25, 2023 at 3:10 pm

    motherboard maker MSI has recently released a statement regarding the “unsupported processor” blue screen error for their boards using Intel 600/700 series chipsets & to avoid the KB5029351 Win11 update:–UNSUPPORTED-PROCESSOR–Error-Message-of-Windows-11-Update-KB5029351-Preview-142215

  10. EP said on August 29, 2023 at 7:32 pm

    check out the following recent articles:

    Neowin – Microsoft puts little blame on its Windows update after UNSUPPORTED PROCESSOR BSOD bug:

    BleepingComputer – Microsoft blames ‘unsupported processor’ blue screens on OEM vendors:

  11. Leonard Britvolli said on August 30, 2023 at 10:33 pm

    While there may be changes or updates to the Windows 10 Store for Business and Education in the future, it is premature to conclude that it will be discontinued based solely on rumors.

  12. sembrador said on September 5, 2023 at 9:32 pm

    My advice, I left win 15 years ago. Now I’m a happy linux user (linuxmint) but there is Centos, Fedora, Ubuntu depending on your needs.

  13. EP said on September 6, 2023 at 11:55 am

    motherboard maker MSI has recently released new BIOS/firmware updates for their Intel 600 & 700 series motherboards to fix the “UNSUPPORTED_PROCESSOR” problem (Sept. 6):–UNSUPPORTED-PROCESSOR–caused-BSOD-on-MSI-s-Intel-700-and-600-Series-Motherboards-142277

  14. Raphael Benzo said on September 24, 2023 at 9:52 pm

    I try to disable the Diagnostics Tracking Service (Connected Devices Platform User Services) but it wont let me disable it, any help will be greatly appreciated.
    Tank you for your help

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