When we talk about data management, the natural stopping point for any conversation is “data wiping”. Despite that, people often get wrapped up in the glitz and glamour of data management, synchronization, and other pit stops along the way without actually understanding what data wiping is at a base level.
That’s a shame - data wiping, although it might seem like a boring topic, is actually as important as it is fascinating. In this piece, we’re going to discuss data wiping, what it actually is, and how it works. We’ll highlight a few pieces of technology that can make data wiping more effective, efficient, and complete, and explain why it’s such an important thing to do.
What is Data Wiping?
To put it simply, data wiping is simply the act of removing data from a medium. That’s simple enough, right? It’s like erasing a VHS tape (for those of us old enough to remember those), or deleting content on an SD card or USB drive.
That’s the simple answer, but it’s an incomplete one. The better question to ask would be “what is proper, effective data wiping?” To answer that question, we need to talk a little bit about how data is written to a drive.
When data is written to a physical drive, the metal platters inside the hard drive encode the data in binary 1’s and 0’s. This magnetic medium of data storage works great, as it has good longevity, doesn’t degrade very quickly, and has good dependability.
These qualities come at a cost, though - because the data is written in this way, data leaves a trail. This trail can be exploited, and with the proper technique, even deleted data can be retrieved.
Think of it this way. Imagine a wall being spray painted with graffiti, and left for a week. A cleaner comes out to clean the paint off the wall. Even with the paint washed away, it still leaves a “space” underneath the paint where grime and dirt didn’t adhere. Even though the graffiti is gone, the message is still there, waiting to be read.
Data works in exactly the same way. Modern systems don’t really “delete your data”, despite their statements of “deleting”. What they actually do is look up where your data starts and ends, and then removes the chunks of data referencing these points. By doing this, they can “delete” the data, marking it unneeded, allowing you to write over the data set at any time.
This might speed up your system and make deleting quick, but you’re not actually deleting anything. Deleted data may still lurk on your computer, and with the proper tools and techniques, this data can be retrieved. Just like the graffiti on the wall, evidence is left behind.
Data wiping then, at least effective data wiping, not only gets rid of the data, but gets rid of all the vestiges of the data down to their “spaces” underneath.
How Does Data Wiping Work?
So now that we know what the problem is, how does effective data wiping do what it does?
Again, let’s go back to that graffiti analogy. It’s not that we want to get the paint off the wall - it’s a nuisance, sure, but the paint isn’t the main issue. What we really want to do is get rid of the message off the wall. It might be offensive, it might be revealing, it can really be anything, but at the end of the day, we want the message to be unreadable.
Therein lies the problem, of course. We know if we just pressure wash the wall, we’re going to leave behind that “space” underneath, the clean space that betrays the content of the message we’re trying to remove. With that in mind, what can we actually do?
We do have on solution, and it’s a quite effective one. Keep in mind that we’re not trying to remove the medium - in this case, the paint - but rather the message. With this in mind, we can very easily paint over the graffiti in our own paint.
By painting out a section on top of the offending content, and letting it dry, we can basically use that space underneath to our advantage. When we go to wash off the new paint, we’re left with a huge space underneath, sure - but it’s one that covers the original message, and gives us a bright, new, clean space to work with.
We’ll end up with a big square empty space, but that’s fine, because the end goal is to remove the message, not necessarily the medium the message was made in.
This is the principle behind data wiping. When we wipe data, we take a look at the sum total of 1’s and 0’s, and we blank them - sometimes multiple times. We replace all those numbers with straight 0’s, straight 1’s, and more straight 0’s, over and over. This not only removes the data, it permanently removes any record of the data having existed.
Why This is Important
It’s important to keep in mind that this data signature that’s left behind, this empty space, is very dangerous. We tend to think of “recovering data” as a complicated thing best left to techies and hackers, but in reality, it takes very little specific skill to recover data.
The scary part is that this barrier to recovery is decreasing by the day as new programs are released allowing for “one click” data recovery. These solutions are designed to enable a user to run an application and recover all the data hidden on a hard drive with ease. While these solutions are great when data is accidentally deleted, when we’re trying to delete it, it’s a very bad thing indeed.
Imagine all of your most intimate secrets, your tax forms, your kids’ pictures, your school projects, or your secret company development roadmaps - all of them are exposed unless you properly wipe your data.
When discussing issues of security, what we’re really talking about is your exposure and vulnerability. Every company and individual has an “exposure surface” that indicates how threatened they are by data exposure. The less data is exposed, the lower your exposure surface, and thus threat. The more data is exposed, the greater your exposure surface, and thus threat.
Using proper data wiping minimizes this exposure, securing businesses from external threats and corporate espionage, individuals from exposure of personal data, and more. The name of the game is to protect your data - and if you’re not properly wiping, your data can be protected by the best anti-virus and security software in the world, and you’d still be just as vulnerable as if you had nothing.
Clarabyte Data Wiping
Clarabyte is a highly effective and secure wiping tool that you can use today to completely and irreversibly erase this data. Because Clarabyte conforms to the major international standards for data destruction, you can be assured that data is completely wiped away, not simply “unmarked” and exposed for easy recovery.
By using a variety of patterns for overwriting and deleting data, Clarabyte can ensure complete and irreversible data wiping for almost any situation. Wiping data when selling a computer, eliminating personal files or documents, even giving new life to old electronics by clearing clutter and mess - all of this can be had with the Clarabyte Data Wiping solution.
For businesses, Clarabyte offers world-class data wiping that conforms with international standards and restrictions, protecting businesses and individuals from legal and ethical concerns due to confidentiality of customer information.
Finally, for individuals, Clarabyte offers peace of mind, knowing full well that your data is not only securely deleted, it’s permanently deleted, prohibiting criminals and others from accessing anything they’re not supposed to.
Your data is your personal self on the internet - don’t put it at risk!