Claims of “Department of Defense approval” echo through the software wiping industry as means to ensure customers of securely sanitized media. However, the Department of Defense and all other affiliated government entities no longer approve of software overwriting as a method to securely erase data. Why is this exactly? Because overwritten data can still be recovered from a hard drive even after running the program several times.
Your sensitive information can still be recovered even after a hard drive is “erased” via software wiping programs. As of June of 2007, the Defense Security Service (DSS) no longer approves of any overwriting procedures “for sanitization or downgrading of Information Systems (IS) storage devices used for classified processing.” Furthermore, in the NSA/CSS storage device declassification manual, software overwriting or software wiping are not mentioned anywhere as means to reliably destroy data.
How can you be sure that you’ve securely wiped your computer clean? The answer is degaussing, and Proton offers secure erasure of data with no chance of recovery through its powerful degaussing machines, something that software wiping programs can’t do.
The standard known as DoD 5220.22-M is a software based data destruction method used in several file shredder and data erasing programs. File shredder programs are data sanitizing programs that take effect on individual files rather than an entire hard drive or storage device. DoD 5220.22-M is a process of overwriting data using reverse code involving encrypting old data with patterns of random characters, ones and zeros. It can be a long and taxing process as the storage device must be overwritten three times and verified continuously. After all the time and effort spent running the software wiping program and ensuring that it is effective, data can still be recovered from the drive.
The DoD 5220.22-M method outlines three passes: the first writes zeros and verifies, the second writes ones and verifies, and the third writes random characters and verifies. The three pass standard is designed to ensure that data is unrecoverable. How did creators come to the number three as enough times to be sure data is unrecoverable? Some software programs instruct users to overwrite their data only 1 time and some even 35 times! Based off the varied number of recommended passes for software erasing programs, we can come to the conclusion that there is no magic number of times that ensures data is unrecoverable because truly, software wiping is not an effective method period.
How can it be recovered?
When you delete a file on your computer it first goes to the recycle or trash bin; if you delete your files from the recycle bin or “empty the trash” it becomes slightly more difficult to recover files. Software overwriting works by eliminating the path that the computer utilizes to access the file, and then reassigning the space as being available for future use, so that future information can replace it on your computer. The wipe program itself does not immediately replace your information; it merely deems it as available space for new data to be stored.
Why use Software Overwriting if it doesn’t work?
So why is software wiping so commonly used when degaussing is NSA-approved and clearly the safer option? It could be because there is a plethora of free software overwriting programs available which are advertised with promises to safely sanitize your private information. Some even promise no possible data recovery. However, just as there are exorbitant amounts of free hard drive wiping software programs, there are as many data recovery software programs as well. These programs are not the best way to completely erase a hard drive.
Is there another way?
How do you wipe a hard drive safely? The alternative method, which actually destroys information and is currently NSA-approved, is degaussing, and it can be carried out with an automatic degausser or a degausser wand. There is no method or program which uses software wiping that is DoD approved; in fact, the only method of sanitizing hard drives, which is currently approved by the DoD’s Defense Security Service (DSS), is degaussing. Degaussers use a strong magnetic field to demagnetize data on a hard drive, leaving it in a magnetically blank or zero state. So long as you have a strong enough degausser for the data that you have, your data is unrecoverable after degaussing. In today’s world, a lot of our personal and identifying information is stored electronically. Consider entities such as hospitals, schools, pharmacies, and other businesses that may have personal information of their customers and clients stored on hard drives. When they intend to dispose of such information, it’s absolutely essential that this sensitive infor
mation is securely erased and actually unrecoverable. Even in your home office, or stored on your home computer, you may have information saved such as social security numbers, credit card numbers or other sensitive information that you want to be sure is securely erased.
Proton data security promises “simply brilliant degaussing machines” that you can trust to securely sanitize your hard drive of sensitive information. Degaussers range in size and power depending on the type of storage device. Proton degaussers are easy to use, portable, and made in the U.S.A. Proton provides a lightweight handheld Proton 1100 degaussing wand that fits right in the palm of your hand. Proton products include a floppy disc degausser and additionally, degaussing machines work on tapes as well as hard drives. These degaussing machines are the perfect addition to any business or home office and provide a sense of security in knowing that your sensitive information has been wiped clean from your computer.
In this day and age, data security is fundamental to our privacy and our safety. Crucial information in the wrong hands can be just as dangerous as a loaded gun. It’s important that we pay attention to where our private information goes and understand the technology so that we can be absolutely sure that when it’s destroyed, it’s actually gone for good.