Researchers looking into reliable methods of wiping SSD and flash drives have recently pointed out that conventional methods used to wipe magnetic based hard drives are not reliable enough to work on SSD’s or Solid State Drives. The tech department at the Department of Computer Science and Engineering uncovered many problems trying to wipe individual files and also whole disks.
12 unnamed SSD drives were tested and only 4 of them successfully erased the test fingerprint image. 4 of the reminders did not support data erasure and the others failed even though they reported success but the data was still able to be found. The researchers also tried a NSA degaussing machine and as expected it also failed to wipe the data on the SSD’s.
The difference between magnetic media and SSD drives is that SSD Drives save data to physical pages but erase from logical block addresses, a process which is managed through a flash translation layer. By doing this there a mismatch between where the ATA or SCSI drivers think the data is and where it actually is which the drives compensate for by copying data around causing it to leave traces of data scattered around for retrieval.
Users need to be aware that they cannot use traditional methods of wiping their SSD drives such as with a program called R-Wipe and Clean. IT departments are having a difficult time trying to destroy important files as well such encryption keys and other company documents without destroying the whole drive.
There is however ways around this. In theory you could create an encrypted container on the SSD with a key file located separately. As long as you delete the key file the container would be unable to be mounted, however the data would still be there. You could do this with programs such as True Crypt.
Since Sanitizing storage media to reliably destroy data is an essential aspect of overall data security we recommend you take a read through this report from the Department of Computer Science and Engineering on how to successfully erase the data from SSD and flash drives.
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