Why Erasing Your Hard Drive Isn’t Good Enough
As technology gets more advanced, it’s becoming more and more difficult to truly delete information.
If you’re getting rid of a hard drive, simply deleting the data before disposal won’t safeguard your confidential corporate, financial or personal information.
A 2015 study by Blancco Technology Group found that 75% of used hard drives still contained sensitive or personal information that had been “deleted.”
Here are the various ways to remove data from a hard drive, how they work, and what their weaknesses are.
You’ve deleted your files and taken the extra step of emptying your recycle bin. Unfortunately, you haven’t done much to protect your data.
Attached to every file is an electronic “pointer” that tells the operating system where on the hard drive the file is located. When you delete a file, the pointer is removed and the space on the drive that holds the “deleted” files is marked as empty. But it’s not empty—it still contains the data you thought you deleted, and that data will stay there until it is overwritten by new data. Until then, it can be easily retrieved with a basic data recovery program.
The next step up from deleting all files is reformatting the hard drive. But while reformatting makes it harder to retrieve data, all the information is still there.
Both Mac and Windows operating systems allow you to do a quick format or a full format. A quick format creates a new partition on the disk that doesn’t have any information about the data that was on the disk before the format. However, a data recovery utility can get access to that hidden data as long as it hasn’t been written over with new data. In the Blancco study, 61% of the hard drives that still contained data had been quick formatted.
A full format also creates a new data sector, but it also writes zeros over the old data. A full format makes it much more difficult to recover information, but a data recovery expert equipped with the right tools can do it.
Wiping & File Shredding
There are programs available that can be used to thoroughly “wipe” your hard drive by writing over the data on the drive so all deleted files are erased. While more effective that deleting or formatting, data wiping software offers no guarantee of data removal, and no audit-ready reporting for regulatory compliance.
File shredding applications work in a similar fashion, but for individual files. When you “shred” a file with one of these programs, it deletes the file and writes new data over it so it’s truly gone. However, it is a time-consuming process and you must be careful to track down and shred all the copies of the file—if there are other versions of the same file, perhaps in a different folder on your drive, the copies will not be automatically shredded and will remain accessible.
What if you drill holes in the drive? Still not safe. While the holes will obviously prevent recovery of the data they remove, the intact parts of the drive can still be accessed, and any files that didn’t get drilled could be recoverable.
Using a secure, professional hard drive destruction service will ensure that your data is never compromised. PROSHRED Connecticut does on-site hard drive destruction so you can watch the process and verify that it was completed. PROSHRED also provides a detailed certificate of destruction so you can document that you have destroyed any sensitive documents appropriately, and in accordance with the federal laws relating to the safeguarding of confidential documents.