How to Securely Wipe Hard Drive Data

You could be looking to free up space on your hard drive to save other data. Or, you could be considering upgrading your electronics by phasing out the old ones. Whether you’re an individual user or the owner of a business, you must take care to erase the information saved in the devices. When looking for the best tools to securely wipe hard drive data, understand that simply deleting the files will not secure any Personal Identifiable Information (PII) on them.

It will interest you to know that according to Small Business Trendz, close to 60% of businesses close down within 6 months of a data breach. Also, keep in mind that the 2017 Identity Fraud Study reports declared by the Javelin Strategy & Research show that in the year 2016, 15.4 million Americans lost close to $16 billion to identity theft. These figures are a clear indication that you need to exercise utmost caution when handling the sensitive data on your hard drives.

By Deleting Files, You Only Remove the File Name

When you hit the delete button for any file or format your hard drive, the information is not removed. You only erase the file name from the index. Using a file recovery program or the particular hardware, knowledgeable hackers can get access to the information. If you intend to reuse the hard drive in your organization, erasing the information is sufficient. However, if you intend to sell the old hardware, make sure to wipe hard drive data before disposing of it. Take care that when you begin the steps for proper hard drive disposal, create backups of the data by copying and saving it on a removable USB drive.

Choose an Effective Strategy to Wipe Hard Drive Data

You can choose from the various tools available to securely wipe hard drive data depending on the hardware and operating systems you have installed. For instance, some computers have multiple drives installed in them. By using the Disk Management Tool in Windows, you can view the drives and select options for wiping a specific drive. Search online for the appropriate software for hard drive wiping and run it to protect your PII.

Darik’s Boot and Nuke (DBAN) Disk Wiping Software

DBAN is possibly the most popular software that can help wipe hard drive data. You can download the ISO file of the program free of cost from the internet and save it by burning on a CD, DVD, or USB drive. Run it by following the directions and booting it from the saved device. Soon your hard drive will be ready for accepting new files. Once you’ve run the program, check if the operating system in your computer tries to start up like before. If it does, you might want to run DBAN again.

Keep in mind that this hard drive wiping software is effective for any kind of operating system since it works independently of the OS. The hard drive data wiping process can sometimes take several hours to complete but you can rest assured that the data removal process is thorough.

Three-Pass and Seven-Pass Overwriting

The U.S. Department of Defense has specified the “Short” specification or the Three-pass and Seven-pass overwriting methods. By writing characters over the data three or seven distinct times, the software makes it impossible to decipher the information originally saved on the files.

Peter Gutmann Erase Method

Developed in the year 1996, the Peter Gutmann Erase method overwrites the hard drive 35 times. In this way, the tool prevents the information from being deciphered. This system writes random characters for the first 4 and last 4 passes. From Pass 5 to Pass 31, the tool uses a complicated system of overwriting to protect PII and other sensitive information. Some tools use the Gutmann method to overwrite the free disk space on hard drives so that any file recovery programs cannot use them to decipher deleted information.

Disk Encryption

Although time-consuming, disk encryption is yet another effective tool to help you in complying with data destruction best practices. Encryption tools like TrueCrypt can help you protect specific files that you don’t want to be copied. Alternatively, if you have Windows Vista, Windows 7, or higher, you can use the inbuilt encryption tools. Like, for example, BitLocker that can wipe hard drive data in addition to password caches and system files. The DiskCryptor is a third-party tool that also works well to help secure the information on your hard drive.

Choose Specific Data Wiping Modalities According to Your Hard Drive Type

Aside from the conventional hard drives, some computers may have Hybrid or Solid State Drives (SSD). Accordingly, you may need more sophisticated methods to ensure that your information is secure. SSDs come with wear-leveling algorithms to write data in an even pattern. These disks typically include the Secure Erase program that you can use to wipe hard drive data. However, it’s possible that your computer does not include the program. In that case, you’ll need to use two third-party programs that can activate the Erase command. These tools are the Parted Magic and Secure Erase by the Center for Magnetic Recording Research.

Invite the Experts for Assurance and Efficiency

You may be dealing with PII or the information that the stakeholders of your business entrust to you. It is absolutely essential that you take the proper steps to wipe hard drive data and protect the information. Accordingly, it is advisable that you work with a certified data destruction service that will use optimum methods to securely erase your hard drives. Expert professionals provide onsite and offsite services using approved protocols to help you. Once the process is complete, you’ll receive the necessary certificate that keeps your business indemnified.

References:

How to Wipe a Hard Drive

How to Securely Erase Your Hard Drive

Identity Theft And Cybercrime 

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