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Securely erasing data from SSDs

Broken Flash DriveRemoving data permanently from storage devices is critical to any organisation’s data management. Yet securely erasing data from solid state drives (SSDs) can be tricky.  The results of a recent study on the topic from the University of California in San Diego prove this point.  Researchers from the Department of Computer Science and Engineering and the Center for Magnetic Recording and Research discovered that after a series of data recovery tests they found that existing disk sanitisation techniques were ineffective since the internal architecture of an SSD is very different from a hard disk drive.  According to their report, “reliable SSD sanitization requires built-in, verifiable sanitize operations.”

Performing secure data erasure on hard disks can be achieved relatively quickly by overwriting data using mechanical hard drive software. This ensures that it is not recoverable by data recovery tools. However, this method is ineffective when it comes to SSDs, since it’s difficult to specify the exact location of where the data is stored to overwrite it. This presents serious security issues for anyone wanting to throw away hardware or give it to a third party, as data on the SSD could be recovered by the new user.

Kroll Ontrack has performed many data recovery operations to confirm that it’s almost always possible to restore data from SSDs if only currently available software techniques for securely removing individual files were used.  The University of California’s research does stack up.

It’s important to stress however, that data recovery from new technology such as SSDs can be very time-consuming for most people because of the need to research the algorithms used to originally store the data. If the job needs to be done fast, it’s best left to the experts. Kroll Ontrack has recently discovered a way to automate many of the recovery processes involved, ensuring a significantly more efficient recovery for a rapidly growing SSD market – a market which could spell the end of hard drives forever. This is great news for those wanting to recover data but bad news for those hoping to permanently destroy it.

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