Selecting A Data-Wiping Utility

Jul 1, 2008 12:00 PM, By Henrik Andersen

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In today's corporate environment, almost 98 percent of intellectual property is stored electronically, and data security is a vital factor from acquisition to disposal. When retiring old computers or systems that contain proprietary information, it's easy to neglect taking steps to ensure that the information is permanently wiped from these drives. Not doing so increases vulnerability to major security breaches. As a matter of fact, 65 percent of organizations still do not have a practical approach in place to dispose of their company's old electronics properly and to destroy confidential electronic data.

At the end of the day, companies need a total solution to tackle all their end-of-lifecycle issues. Here are guidelines managers and IT personnel responsible for hardware disposal and data security should use when selecting a data-wiping utility.

  1. It should actually wipe data. The only way to ensure data is gone is to overwrite it. Taking away the pointers means the average user cannot find the drives or files, but the data still exists. A professional information hunter can retrieve data from a drive that has only been deleted and/or reformatted.

  2. It should wipe all the data. Currently, there are products available that allow the consumer to wipe only selected files, folders or drives. Deploying a “partial” wiping utility can leave a company exposed, as most computers contain copies of files in other locations.

  3. It should be certified, meaning that authorities have tested it and certified that the standards the product says it adheres to are met. Many wiping utilities on the market are not certified.

  4. It should be flexible. Look for a product that can fit into any kind of system and does not require system configuration.

  5. It should offer erasing reports. Such reports verify or confirm that what you told the tool to do was actually done.

  6. It should ensure security measures are met. Select a tool that has a licensed authorization to ensure that only those who are supposed to be using the erasing tool are.

HENRIK ANDERSEN is responsible for the erase product portfolio at Kroll Ontrack, Eden Prairie, Minn. Andersen's attitude toward technology is that it should be “simple.”

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