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PGP Whole Disk Encryption for Mac, benchmarks

:: Wednesday, October 1st, 2008 @ 12:56:04 am

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Currently, most of my sensitive data is encrypted via encrypted sparse images, but I find managing encrypted volumes to be a pain in the butt (mount, unmount, mount, unmount).

I recently purchased PGP Desktop for Mac, which (finally) features pre-boot whole disk encryption. I love the idea that my drive(s) would be encrypted, and that a password would be required even before boot, but I wasn’t sure what kind of performance hit I’d get if I used PGP on an entire volume. And so, I ran some benchmarks.

The results aren’t pretty. I ran the benchmarks on a solid state drive hooked up through an SATA->IDE bridge (I know — I’m sorry. It was the only option, given my setup). At small transfer sizes, the PGP encrypted drive actually performed admirably, especially when compared to an unencrypted spinning drive. But disk performance overall takes a HUGE hit — in many cases, the drive performed 80% slower when PGP encrypted with default settings.

Assuming the machine was loaded up with enough RAM, I’ll bet most people wouldn’t even be able to tell the difference when doing normal tasks like emailing and web browsing. Anyone who isn’t computer savvy probably wouldn’t care, anyway. I find that many casual computer users just accept that computers are slow instead of taking action to rectify the situation (e.g. buying more RAM, taking the CD or DVD out of a Windoze machine, closing some applications).

As a photographer and media-heavy user, I have abandoned all hope of using PGP Whole Disk Encryption on my active OS drives. But I may end up using it on backup drives; portable drives are easier to steal than are notebook computers, and I don’t want my backup drives to be an easy way to get data from me.

And now, for the benchmarks:

| San Francisco, CA | link | trackback | Oct 1, 2008 00:56:04
  • Wes

    Wow… those are some depressing numbers there.

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  • Robert Nicholson

    So, Here’s some depressing numbers. before and after from QuickBench don’t think I can use WDE and get benefit from my X-25M

    Standard Test Results (Cycles: 1) < Insert Chart Here > Seq. Read Seq. Write Ran. Read Ran. Write 4 KB 31.585 20.208 9.353 27.323 8 KB 58.744 45.162 20.763 27.078 16 KB 92.027 60.741 36.307 54.145 32 KB 112.122 29.952 63.771 19.485 64 KB 136.029 61.689 101.707 51.064 128 KB 169.068 67.01 140.681 44.506 256 KB 208.844 26.506 186.3 33.99 512 KB 229.571 57.076 214.202 49.319 1024 KB 243.366 51.743 233.922 42.058 Standard Ave 142.373 46.676 111.89 38.774

    Standard Test Results (Cycles: 1) < Insert Chart Here > Seq. Read Seq. Write Ran. Read Ran. Write 4 KB 18.242 11.874 11.602 11.584 8 KB 23.325 20.067 14.99 8.954 16 KB 25.948 24.82 21.583 19.924 32 KB 28.316 26.754 24.557 15.061 64 KB 28.626 25.994 26.767 22.005 128 KB 29.789 21.122 28.318 12.667 256 KB 28.556 23.153 28.637 18.969 512 KB 30.612 23.109 28.664 18.175 1024 KB 30.517 23.287 28.507 18.57 Standard Ave 27.103 22.242 23.736 16.212

  • Chris

    I wonder what difference the encryption settings make. Would the numbers look much better with 128bit encryption instead of 256? Some tests on this would be nice :-)

  • Mike

    Coming in wicked late on this thread, but I had to chime in. While I try not to get too wrapped around the benchmark numbers, I was thoroughly ticked to see my X-25M go from clean 190+ MB/s average read times down to 22MB/s after encrypting it w/ PGP WDE. While I did not try different ciphers w/ WDE, I did set up 2 separate virtual disks – one with AES256 and the other with CAST5. Doing some informal testing, I moved a couple of gigs worth of data to each virtual disk. CAST5 was marginally better, but the transfer times still sucked (somewhere around 15MB/s). It would have been nice to actually get some real mileage out of my $149 pgp license, but the performance hit just isn’t worth it.

  • user

    Thanks for the benchmarks. I was just looking into PGP and this shows me that I'm honestly better off avoiding it and figuring out another solution. The PGP people must really hate you. :-)

  • http://echeng.com/ Eric Cheng

    Well, I still recommend PGP WDE to friends on Mac OS who need WDE. It's our only option. ;)

  • Nathan

    PGP can get away with this poor performance because they do not face competition from FileVault and Truecrypt.

    Apple has not updated FileVault. Apple is so focused on iPhone/Pad it is not caring enough to have engineers re-write a little bit of cryptographic code to give the biggest spenders the experience for which they have already paid $1800-2800. This SHOULD be a real wake-up call to the iTools.

    Truecrypt is open source, but despite the “open core” of MacOS, and most open source programmers appear to not care about Mac users. More spesifically, they don’t care about Mac users that avoid the text shell interface. (The state of 7-zip on the Mac is a good second example.)

    Truecrypt’s updated code is 435% faster at AES operations…

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