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Disk Sanitizers

this page includes articles and info about:- disk erase hardware, erase software, mechanical disk shredding and tape media degaussers
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Do You Really Need Disk Sanitizers?...............
by Zsolt Kerekes, editor

First it was SCSI, then a few years later RAID, then after that came SAN, quickly followed by NAS and iSCSI. Well at least the "SCSI" part seemed like an old familiar.

It's a shame that all the stuff you learned about the different types of (what we must now call) "parallel SCSI" - LV something or other - no longer adds to a high score in a CV.

Somewhere in the dim distant mists of storage memory (though not necessarily in this order) came SATA, then another comeback for SCSI again, D2d, VTL and the list seems endless.

Now it's ...SSDs, MLC, SLC... and Disk Sanitizers?

Isn't the storage market complicated enough already?

Do you really need to start worrying about something else you've hardly ever heard of?

Before you answer that - here's a much simpler question.

What do you do with your old credit card when the new one arrives? Do you drop it on the street? I don't think so? How about advertising it on eBay? - One old credit card - expiry date nearly over - no longer needed by current owner - going cheap.

How about that new copy of your customer list that the marketing people have been promising you for the last 6 months? When it finally arrives so you can use it at the trade show you're exhibiting at - do you just throw the old one in the trash?

ILM (Information Life cycle Management) became a fashionable term in storage circles about 5 years ago. Like most marketing buzz words - the ILM hype was focused on whatever the vendors were selling at the time. ILM ISVs were mainly selling themselves to bigger storage companies... with a company lifecycle which didn't include much more time than writing a few press releases about the ver 1.0 release before the money from the VC in the wall machines was spent.

But beneath the surface glitter of acronyms there are some useful concepts in the ILM which are still relevant today.

What happens to your data when the storage media they are stored on gets too old?

The afterlife for things like disk drives and RAID systems is not something that most of us think about much. It's not the glamorous end of the storage market.

In the home market maybe your old PCs are stored in the garage. It's a myth that you can give them to the kids. In my experience - the kids always demand and get the newest fastest PCs - much more powerful than the ones that we use at work. Most of your old PCs were probably still working you stopped using them. Maybe that means your old email accounts and bookmarks work too. How long would it take someone to try requesting the main online banks that your password details should be emailed to your old machine? Even if your old PC stopped working and you threw it out - the disk drives can be recycled by environmentally friendly agencies who do deals with your garbage collection company.

In the corporate and government markets - recycling is done wholesale. When new PCs are bought the old ones are traded in or disposed to brokers hundreds or thousands of machines at a time. Someone else is taking care of the problem for you. Or are they?

There's a lot of evidence from security companies like Pointsec that a worryngly high percentage of second hand / refurbished hard disk drives bought on the open market still have readable data.

Yes they were "wiped" clean by commercially available utilities.

Yes the disks were reformated.

But both processes are undoable in a matter of seconds. Many disk wipe utilities are simply that - useful utilities that make it hard for you to see the data on your disk drive. But unless they follow algorithms used by the military, the files they cover up can be easily read by data recovery software.

There are 3 common types of product and service which address the Disk Sanitizer market.
  • software - useful for using on one machine or a low number of machines.
  • hardware - which wipes a batch of disks clean at hardware speeds - and is useful if you're recycling hundreds of drives.
  • services - which mechanically break the disks into fragments which are considered too small for criminals to do anything with. (Although a good data recovery company or your intelligence agency cmay still be able to read files off a 1 inch fragment off a broken disk drive).

The best approach for you to take with maintaining your own data privacy depends on your own situation. But just as you wouldn't throw your old credit card onto the street - think about what's happening to those old disk drives next time you buy a new PC, server or RAID system. And make sure that your broker - if you use one - is using a product which actually works.

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Pointsec found that they were able to read 7 out of 10 hard-drives bought over the Internet at auctions such as eBay, for less than the cost of a McDonald's meal, all of which had "supposedly" been "wiped-clean" or "re-formatted".
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When Disk Sanitizing Won't Do the Job

Editor:- July 13, 2005 - Just thought I should mention on this page that there's one situation in which disk sanitizers won't protect your valuable identity or other confidential info no matter how smart the software.

This warning thought was triggered by my own recent experience in which a hard disk I was using for backup failed in the write mode - but its contents (the old backups) were still readable. In that case the only way to ensure that no one else can steal your data is physical destruction.

I was helped out in this by Sam, the 11 year old son of some college friends who were visiting. We took the disk drive out to the back of the barn and Sam sanitized it using a combination of sledge hammer and log splitter. The disk platter, bent split and shiny but no longer readable, was saved as something he was going to save on his wall as a momento of the experience.

We sanitized a 486 PC tower after that - which is one of about a dozen old PCs we have been wondering what to do with and storing in a shed. That had two disk drives - so Sam's younger brother (6) was able to get in on the act and sanitize one for himself too.

You can never be too young to learn the importance of data security - or how to wield a large ax safely for chopping firewood. These are important things to know. But readers should not try this themselves without the supervision of an experienced log slayer.
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Did You Know?

D
isk Sanitizers are entirely different to Telephone Sanitisers. If you were looking for the story of the Golgafrinchan Telephone Sanitisers in the Hitchiker's Guide to the Galaxy see the BBC's Hitchiker's cult page.
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Disk Sanitizers
Is it true that the Queen's apartments are
dusted clean by those bushy hats?
Megabyte was sworn to secrecy.
Hard-Disk Risk
Fast Purge and Secure Erase SSDs
A Study of Disk Sanitization Practices
the Dangers of Removable Storage Media
Passwords Can Sit on Hard Disks for Years
How to Destroy a Hard Drive in 5 Seconds
Tutorial on Disk Drive Data Sanitization (pdf)
Data Remanence in Flash Memory Devices (pdf)
Sanitization Methods for Cleaning Up Hard Disk Drives
Secure Deletion of Data from Magnetic and Solid-State Memory
news from NAID (National Association for Information Destruction)
Privacy and Security Regulations, and How they Impact Storage Systems
Impact of Compliance and Risk Management on Archival Storage Strategies
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fast erase / purge MIL SSDs
The need for fast and secure data erase - in which vital parts of a flash SSD or its data are destroyed in seconds - has always been a requirement in military projects.

Fast Purge flash SSDs directory & articlesAlthough many industrial SSD vendors offer products with extended "rugged" operating environment capabilities - and even notebooks SSDs come with encryption - it's the availability of fast destructive data purge which differentiates "truly secure" SSDs which can be deployed in sensitive applications.

Who makes these SSDs? How do they work? And what are the characteristics and limitations of the various methods used? Click on the link above to find out more in my special article / directory about fast purge SSDs.
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SSD ad - click for more info
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Fusion-io can do secure erase in less than 60 seconds

Editor:- September 15, 2011 - Fusion-io today announced that its new SureErase data sanitization tool has been confirmed as meeting Department of Defense sanitization standards by the Defense Information Systems Agency.

SureErase enables users to securely remove/erase all data on any ioMemory-based technology, following DoD/NIST standards, regardless of capacity, in less than 1 minute.

Editor's comments:- although that sounds like a long time - relative to fast purge SSDs (and it is too long for some applications) nevertheless when you take into account that many of Fusion-io's PCIe SSDs have multi-terabyte capacities - it's impressive.


Did encrypted HDDs choke the sanitizer market?

Editor:- Self-Encrypting HDDs for Servers (pdf) - is a white paper by Seagate which makes good reading for those interested in server disk security.

It's easy to be wise after the event - but I see now that the rapid industry take up of FDE (full disk encryption) may have been a factor in capping the size of the disk sanitizers market. I thought that market would be a lot bigger by now.

A Hard to Duplicate Offer on Hard Disk Duplicators

Chatsworth, CA - February 3, 2009 - Aleratec Inc. launches the 1:5 HDD Cruiser - a 5 way hard disk drive duplicator and 6 way sanitizer for SATA drives combined in a single unit (ERP $1049).

The base unit is designed for 3.5" drives, but an optional $105 kit converts it over to 2.5" operation. Duplication speed is approximately 40MB/s. As an introductory promotion Aleratec is offering a free 3 way PATA disk duplicator to customers who buy the 5 way model this month. ...Aleratec profile, Disk Duplicators, Disk Sanitizers


Sun Enters the Disk Sanitizer Market

Santa Clara, Calif - November 25, 2008 - Sun Microsystems, Inc. today entered the Disk Sanitizer market.

Sun Data Protection Services, Data Erasure, is a new on-site service to help enable customers to remain compliant with internal corporate data erasure policies during the removal, redeployment or relocation of equipment containing sensitive data. The service also empowers customers' to become compliant with the ever increasing policies of regulatory agencies for the removal or destruction of data, by providing a global, audit-ready solution that erases data at the platter level. Sun has been using the same data erasure service internally to prepare company assets for reassignment and redeployment.

Drew Hughes, technical program manager at Sun Microsystems said - "When we work with a government client to transfer equipment from one resource to another, we use the Data Protection Services Erasure to ensure that our services team has no data compromise."

Industry research (from IDC) indicates that most midsize to large corporations replace about 25% to 33% of their IT equipment on an annual basis. Each event in the equipment life cycle can expose sensitive corporate or customer data to possible breach or compromise. ...Sun Microsystems profile, Storage Services , Disk Sanitizers


Royal Bank of Scotland's Customer List Sold on eBay

Editor:- August 26, 2008 - the leading story today on the UK's BBC broadcast news was that 1 million bank customer records had been found on a disk bought for $70 on eBay.

This is the 2nd major data security story to hit the headlines in less than a week. The earlier case involved the loss of UK police records containing data for thousands of criminals.

The prisoner records are still missing, but the bank customers in today's story can breathe a sigh of relief that the purchaser of the unsanitized disk was an honest citizen.


Aleratec's Disk Sanitizer gets Military Citation

Chatsworth, CA - March 3, 2008 - Military Embedded Systems magazine has commended Aleratec Inc. for its new stand alone HDD Cruiser - a hard disk drive sanitizer and duplicator all in one unit.

The HDD Cruiser will simultaneously sanitize up to 4 hard drives to assure that all confidential data is unreadable. It can also duplicate up to 3 HDDs simultaneously.

"We are very proud to be recognized for our developments by Military Embedded Systems Magazine" said Perry Solomon, President and CEO of Aleratec. "...We made the HDD Cruiser the complete tool, it can also make exact duplicate copies of hard drives to expedite setting up new PCs or recycling old drives with new site licensed operating systems and standard applications which is particularly useful when drives have already been used and need to be set up for a new project." ...Aleratec profile


WiebeTech's Low Cost Disk eRazer

WICHITA , KS - November 12, 2007 - WiebeTech today unveiled its Drive eRazer family for IDE/PATA and SATA hard drives.

The standard model (price $99.95) can erase a 250GB drive in under 2 hours. Operation is easy. Simply connect it to a drive and flip a switch.

"As many people discover too late, trashing a file does not erase it from a hard drive," said James Wiebe, president/CEO of WiebeTech. "It is fairly easy for someone else to recover files from used hard drives. As a test, we bought used drives on eBay and recovered everything from corporate data to email conversations to financial data to legal documents. Drive eRazer is the easiest, most economical solution available to prevent others from seeing your files." ...WiebeTech profile, Disk Sanitizers


This Email will Self Destruct in 72 Hours

CHICAGO, IL - October 16, 2007 - Ocean Tomo Auctions, LLC today announced it will sell several lots of patents relating to data storage at its Live Intellectual Property Auction on October 25th at The Palmer House Hilton in Chicago.

One patent addresses a self-destructing document or email messaging system that automatically destroys documents after a predetermined period of time.

Another Lot in the Data Storage category, which includes a substantial portfolio of U.S. patents, generally relates to data storage devices, disk drives, and other aspects of storing digital information by magnetic and optical data storage technologies.



SafeErase 3 for Windows Vista

Berlin - May 15, 2007 - O&O Software GmbH today releases SafeErase 3 for Windows Vista.

With 5 different deletion methods complying with recognized international standards, the user can create individual configurations, adapted to each scenario. The deletion methods differ from each other in the number and the way data is actually overwritten. As well as the standard deletion procedures of US DoD and German BSI, users can also select the Gutmann Method, which meets the highest possible security criteria and overwrites data up to 35 times The full version costs EUR 29.90. ...O&O Software profile, Storage Software, Disk Sanitizers


Hard Drive Cleanser Wipes Vista

Burlington, MA - March 14, 2007 - Acronis, Inc. announced that its Drive Cleanser 6.0 (typical list price $49.99) now supports Microsoft Vista.

"Acronis Drive Cleanser has been honored on multiple occasions as the best disk wiping application on the market," said Walter Scott, CEO of Acronis. "The addition of Vista support means that now users of virtually all versions of the desktop Windows OS can, with complete confidence, delete the data from any partition or the entire hard disk and know the data will never, ever be resurrected for purposes such as industrial espionage or identity theft. The product is used by corporate customers and consumers to wipe an old hard disk before it is disposed of or repurposed as additional storage." ...Acronis profile, Disk Sanitizers


Blancco Offers Nonprofit ORGs Free Disk Wipes

JOENSUU, FINLAND - October 30, 2006- Blancco announced today that they will make available donations of their data erasure software to eligible nonprofit organizations via the nonprofit technology website TechSoup.

Each nonprofit organization with 501c3 designation will be entitled to 500 Blancco licenses. Like commercial enterprises, nonprofits face a critical challenge when they want to recycle, resell, or reuse obsolete computers: the data remaining on the hard drives need to be professionally wiped in order to maximize data security and prevent data leaks or identity theft. The software is operated from a central server, so users do not need to install the software on each computer prior to data wiping. It is designed not only for PCs and laptops but also for servers with several hard drives. ...Blancco profile, Disk Sanitizers


Thumbs Up for Mainframe Disk Sanitizer from Down Under

Little Falls, NJ - September 5, 2006 - Innovation Data Processing, today announced that its FDRERASE for the IBM z/OS environment has earned a place on the Australian Defense Signals Directorate Approved Products List as a Media Sanitisation product with a conformance claim of EAL2+.

"You expect Defense and National Security agencies to have strict rules," said Thomas J. Meehan, Innovation's Vice President of Advance Technology. "FDRERASE today, is the only DSD certified solution available for securely erasing disks in z/OS environments. ...because of this FDRERASE is especially popular with banks, card payment service providers, educational institutions, financial intuitions, government agencies, hospitals and insurance companies all of which have legislated Personal Identity Information Protection obligations, to securely erase data when leaving a DR site or disposing of disk storage systems." ...Innovation Data Processing profile , Storage Security, Disk Sanitizers


Fujitsu Launches Tape / Disk Degausser

Sunnyvale, CA - May 30, 2006 - Fujitsu Computer Products of America, Inc. today announced the Mag EraSURE Professional Value desktop degausser.

The product is an effective, economical solution for industries that require fast and secure removal of magnetically recorded data from hard disk drives, removable disks and backup tapes. The Fujitsu Mag EraSURE family of products utilizes a rare earth permanent magnet to degauss magnetically recorded information. Data becomes permanently unrecoverable by commercial means once exposed to the powerful magnet in the device. In addition to purging recorded information on the storage device, including servo and calibration data, the degausser also destroys most read/write heads.

A key feature of the Fujitsu Mag EraSURE is its user friendly operation. Users simply insert the drive into the degausser and push the button; the device handles the rest. It can operate 24x7 with no-wait duty cycle and accepts a wide variety of media:- hard disk drives - up to 3.5" and 1.6" height and floppy, Zip, Rev and Jazz media. Also backup tapes:- SDLT, DLT, LTO/LTO2, DAT, TRAVAN, AIT, QIC, 8mm. The Mag EraSURE P2V is priced at $13,500. ...Fujitsu profile, Disk Sanitizers
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