Why do I need to wipe data?
At some point every PC, laptop or storage device will be replaced. This may be due to failure of the device or it simply reaches the end of its intended life cycle and needs to be replaced by quicker, more powerful computers. Before replacing and recycling old PCs with any type of “hard drives”, all data should be erased. Failure to do so can lead to facing serious consequences.
This is as true for a home user as it is a business. Nobody wants their personal documents, which can include banking information to fall into the wrong hands, aiding identity theft and fraud. For businesses, it should be an even bigger concern. Failure to properly wipe all machines can lead to customers’, employees’ and other commercial data from being exposed leading to large fines and penalties.
In 2012, the ICO fined NHS Surrey £200,000 for failing to ensure that their IT asset disposal partners properly wiped patient information from old machines which were later sold on an auction site. Several of these computers still contained data stored on the hard drives.
Public reports about the NCIX declared bankruptcy in December 2017, stated their assets were put up for sale by auction. The NCIX server farm was purchased at the auction, then later offered for sale on Craigslist. None of the servers, desktops, or hard drives had been wiped and contained employee, and customer details that was easily accessible. This included payroll information, residence and email addresses, payment information and even Canadian SIN numbers.
What is data wiping?
Contrary to the term “wiping” “erasure” or “erase”, secure data erasure operation involves overwriting all accessible areas of a disk one or multiple times with a known sequence of data, thereby making retrieval of original data impossible.
Data stored on a disk is not deleted – it is overwritten with new data in a specified pattern to make every trace of original data disappear.
Regardless of the data pattern written to the disk, the disk is not emptied, instead it is filled with new data specified with the pattern.
Why doesn’t deleting files work?
When a file is deleted using Windows, Linux, or another operating system, the file isn’t actually removed from your hard drive. Instead, the sectors where the file were stored are marked by the operating system “unused.” At some point in the future the operating system will write over these unused sectors. However, by using recovery utilities it is possible to recover the data before the operating system over writes these hard drive sectors.
Why do some hard drives take longer wipe than others?
Secure data erasure or disk wiping is a time-consuming activity and the time it takes to wipe a disk fully depends on the sustained disk write speed of the disk being processed.
As expected, a disk media fault may lead to unforeseeable erasure times. Each organisation may have its own policy on deploying disks with different health levels. By default, ZeroData Windows is set to continue erasure no matter how many disk errors are encountered, however the number of failures can be specified by the user to meet organisational guide lines.
ZeroData Windows uses proprietary disk write operations to achieve maximum sustained write performance, ensuring efficient data wiping speeds.
What are firmware based erasure commands?
Secure Erase is a set of commands available from within the firmware on PATA and SATA based hard drives. SCSI/SAS and NVMe hard drives have a similar capability using Format Unit command. Some disks that have cryptographic capabilities also support SANITIZE command set as well; some other disks support TCG Opal and have their own cryptographic erasure methods.
SANITIZE operations are optional in IDE/SATA, SCSI/SAS and NVMe standards, and consist of three firmware commands: Crypto Scramble, Block Erase and Overwrite. ZeroData Windows is able to apply these commands depending on the disk type with added verification.
Secure Erase completely overwrites all of the data on a hard drive. With Secure Erase the writing occurs from within the drive, meaning the drive’s write fault detection prevents any misses. This makes Secure Erase a very fast way overwrite data.
It is not possible to run firmware commands on a hard drive like other commands running from within Windows using the Command Prompt. Secure Erase commands can only be executed when using a program, such as ZeroData Windows, that interfaces directly with the hard drive. ZeroData Windows has 11 wiping methods based on National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) Guidelines and firmware based erasure commands.
SSD Secure Erase
Solid State Drives (SSD) have become a very popular storage option. SSDs differ from traditional magnetic storage by using flash memory. This means that many traditional data wiping methods – including degaussing – will not wipe a SSD.
Accessing and erasing all areas of SSD drives is more complicated than magnetic hard disks. Applying firmware commands between erasure passes has been shown to leave some data behind.
Research suggests that a two pass random data stream is sufficient to erase all prior data on SSD drives. ZeroData Windows SSD propriety ‘Optimised Data Erasure Methods’ consist of 2, 4 and 6 rounds of overwrite with random data stream. It applies a series of random data stream overwriting rounds without any firmware commands between them. Nothing gets closer to erasure than this methodology.
The new General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR) brought in by the European Union dictates stricter guidelines for the collection, storage, and disposal of consumer data. Stricter regulations with data handling also bring harsher penalties of up to twenty-million Euros for those found to be non-compliant.
The new regulations now apply to both data controllers, and data processors (companies that offer disposal services, ITAD). It is now required for both parties to maintain records of data destruction in order to show compliance.
ZeroData Windows can help data processors (computer refurbishers, ITAD or IT asset disposition) ensure they meet GDPR requirements.
Its Reports can capture customer details, erasure protocols used, plus other customer specific information, which can be saved to a GDPR compliance tracking system. Proving where the disk came from and how it was processed to remove data is a requirement. Each generated reports is tamper proof and has a secure digital signature for material evidence.
ZeroData Windows offers flexibility with a variety of data wiping methods and reports to meet the customers’ requirements. Disks, SSD and ATA firmware are securely erased with verifications ensuring that there is no data left after erasure.
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