Decommissioned Hard Drives: How To KNOW your Data is Destroyed without Creating Toxic Waste or High Cost

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There are basically four ways organizations try to deal with old hard drives and the risk of exposing the sensitive data on them:

  1. Stockpile in a storage room “until we figure out what to do with them”
  2. Degauss
  3. Physical destruction (aka “shredding”)
  4. Data erasure

Stock piling old hard drives isn't a long term solution and it's dangerous. Where do you store them? How secure is that storage? What else is stored there and who has access? As time goes on, how do you possibly account for every drive? It's like storing nuclear waste - sooner or later it leaks and you have got a disaster on your hands.

Degaussing equipment is costly and requires training, not to mention the decreasing effectiveness due to increasing drive density. It also depends on the operator to carefully degauss each drive and for the proper amount of time for that drive. Degaussing also damages the servo in the drive which means the drive can't be re-used in a recycling programs.

There are some very cool and powerful machines that literally shred drives into a pile of little pieces of plastic and metal. Vendors promise this material can be recycled safely, but a machine that reduces a hard drive to a pile of shrapnel isn't cheap or low maintenance. Fun to watch, perhaps, but not very ecological either.

In addition, more and more drives contain flash memory to support hybrid drive or SSD technologies. Does shredding or degaussing guarantee that data is destroyed as well? In my upcoming webinar I will discuss all four of these ways of dealing with decommissioned hard drives.

But I'm going to focus on data erasure because, if done right, it can actually be the most secure, most cost-effective and provide the best documentation as proof for auditors and regulators.

First, I will discuss what it takes to securely erase a hard drive, both magnetic and flash-based, via software.

  • How do you know that the data is really gone for good?
  • How many passes are really required and in what pattern of data?
  • How does flash and magnetic data erasure differ?
  • How does RAID affect the issue? Many storage devices have embedded RAID but present the entire array as one hard drive to the data erasure software so the program needs to be smart enough to detect and dismantle arrays so that it can get to the actual bits on each drive.
  • What about remapped sectors and hidden areas?

I will show you a free utility for erasing magnetic hard drives called DBAN which is useful for some situations involving all-magnetic ATA, SATA or SCSI drives.

But then I'll move on to fulfilling larger-scale, enterprise requirements for secure data erasure dealing with multiple drives that may include hybrid, SSD, NVMe technology and other interfaces like SAS, Fibre Channel and USB. And the need for digitally signed documentation that includes operator, device make, model and serial number so that you are ready for auditors and regulators.

My sponsor, Blancco Technology Group, will demonstrate their comprehensive secure data erasure solution for enterprises. Their solution is impressive in its level of automation, auditing, documentation and scale.

Join me for this real training for free ™ event. Please register now.

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