Tech Me Out

Tech me out: A beginners guide to data sanitisation

Data sanitisation is the process of deliberately, permanently and irreversibly removing or destroying any data stored on a memory device, including everything from Hard Disk Drives (HDDs) used in data center server racks and home computers, right down to smartphones and MicroSD cards in consumer electronics.

What does it do?

All data which is collected or stored will eventually reach end-of-life or be deemed trivial, obsolete or redundant (ROT data). At this point it’s important to dispose of that data securely, which is where the sanitisation process comes in.

Common methods of incomplete data sanitisation include: Data deletion, cryptographic erasure, reformatting, factory reset, physical shredding and the use of free data erasure tools. The only way to be sure data has been properly sanitised however, is through a certified company that can audit the process.

Why should I care about it?

Today data breaches are an unavoidable reality due to targeted attacks, malicious software, or often human error. Data breaches are a major privacy and security concern for companies and their customers alike, hurting brand equity, customer loyalty and corporate partnerships, not to mention the cost of regulatory fines.

Everyone has a right to data privacy, and if you are disposing of an old device to be recycled or resold, make sure that device is securely sanitised to protect your data. One study analysed 159 drives purchased on eBay, sensitive data was discovered on 42% of the devices.

Who’s talking about it?

Since the implementation of GDPR in May 2018, data breaches and the ensuing eye-watering fines are now headline news. At time of writing this, there have been 421 fines under GDPR, amounting to €177 million.

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Written by Josh Cobb

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