When You Wipe Disk Files, Is the Data Really Gone?

Can you assume that when you press delete on your computer that the file is really gone? Can it be retrieved?

Data-deletion is not just dragging a file to the recycling bin, reinstalling your operating system, or reformatting your drive. None of these methods really delete your files. Instead, they have only been marked to be written over and the directory reference to the data has been removed. The deleted file is still there, and can be recovered with easily-obtainable software. To wipe disks completely and ensure the data is permanently and securely erased, a destructive method must be used.

Whether you want to sell or donate your computer or if you are a business, a hospital, government, banker, or computer reseller you need to wipe disks to ensure private data is properly secure. Most governments require data erasure processes to meet certain guidelines when retiring a computer or drive. By taking active steps to protect your data, you can safeguard sensitive information.

Why Trashing the Document Isn't Enough

Trash Can or Recycle Bin Doesn't Remove Data

After dragging to the Trash Can/Recycle Bin, what happens to those files? When you view the contents inside the recycle bin the file is still there. Moving a file here is similar to moving it to anywhere, it's basically a holding area. It allows the user to recover files that have been deleted prematurely. After you empty the Trash Can/Recycle Bin, the document is marked as available for rewrite. At anytime it can be restored until the file has been overwritten.

Formatting Does Not Get Rid of Data

Formatting the drive is no more secure than emptying the Trash Can/Recycle Bin. Some data will still exist and can be recovered. What has happened is all localized information about the file system is erased. The operating system no longer sees the file system or data, but it's still there.

Other techniques

Other methods of getting rid of data for good include: overwriting, degaussing, encryption and physical destruction. Each has various pros and cons. Below is a quick overview:

  • Overwriting is referred to as wiping or shredding. It is a popular way to wipe disks because it's cost effective. Since the disk is not destroyed it can be used again.
  • Degaussing is the realigning of a magnetic field of a disk. This will render hard disk drives inoperable, while solid state drives will not be affected.
  • Encryption of files makes accessing the files more difficult, but can be subverted using a key-logger or various decryption methods.
  • Physical Destruction can be separated into 3 categories:
    • Chemical exposure to a corrosive substance until the drive is inoperable.
    • Phase transition or liquefying it.
    • Grinding, which is pulverizes the drive into small bits and fragments less than 1/250th of an inch, leaving any data still intact impossible to recover.

The Best Way to Wipe Disk Data

Certified data erasure tools are the best, most cost-effective way to ensure data has been deleted. Many enterprise-sized companies still physically destroy hard drives. But the logistics of grinding makes it cost prohibitive. A chain of custody is required, which increases data being compromised. Reports are vulnerable to human error. The cost is double that of wiping the disk. By using software to wipe disks, you can take the risk out of shipping large amounts of drives. Wiping can be done in a remote location; you don't have to move sensitive hardware. Our product works on all hardware types and configurations including: desktops, laptops, servers, RAID configurations, and other storage media. Once the wiping is complete a log file is generated and can be emailed or stored in a database. Wiped drives can be securely re-used or donated. The cost is less than half of physical drive destruction. Once the hard drive is wiped, the data is unrecoverable.

WipeDrive Is a Certified and Trusted Solution

Our wiping technology is used to wipe disks securely by government entities, including the Air Force and the Department of Defense, National Security Agency, United States Navy and others. WipeDrive is the only software that has been certified to NIAP's EAL4+ Standard. By being EAL4+ certified, WipeDrive meets the criteria for over a dozen other wipe disk standards, including:

  • Sarbanes-Oxley
  • HIPAA
  • Common Criteria Evaluation
  • FACTA standards
  • U.S. Department of Defense 5220.22-M