Data Destruction

One of the services offered by Solidarity IT is destruction of data to military standard. This is a impressive sounding term, perhaps bringing to mind the image of someone strapping a bomb to an old computer. What it actually involves however, is much less dramatic, but certainly more practical, and actually leaves the hard drives safely usable or sellable afterwards.

What it really means, is simply a way of deleting data from a hard drive that much more through than simply emptying the recycle bin. Which makes data truly unrecoverable instead of leaving traces on the hard drive. Since the military is especially concerned about the threat of secrets leaking out, anything they would use to erase data should be an excellent choice anywhere else.

So then, why isn’t normal delete and emptying the recycle bin actually good enough? If a computer tells you the file is permanently deleted, how can it be recovered? To explain further, I’m going to use an analogy of a whiteboard.

So, imagine that all the data is stored as information on a whiteboard. When you save a file, you’re allocating a space on that whiteboard for writing that information. If you’re low on space on the whiteboard, you can erase existing data to put it in that place.

In order to keep track of everything, part of the whiteboard contains a list of all the files stored. Erasing data takes time, so it’s faster to simply modify the list of files instead. Moving a file is quick because you only change the entry on the list. Deleting is also quick, because you only remove the entry on the list.

Since there’s no record of the file anymore, the computer ignores the data there, and regards it as space that can be used for new files. This is fine for your standard day-to-day computer use, where your priority is keeping things organised quickly.

However, while the old data might get overwritten with new data, it’s not guaranteed. The data is still there, it just doesn’t have anything pointing to it. Files that are supposed to be permanently deleted can often be recovered by using programs that take a close look at the raw data.

This is a problem if you’re looking at selling or getting rid of an old computer, as you don’t want to risk handing over sensitive personal data to a stranger. The solution then, is to use special programs designed to erase hard drives properly, so that it’s impossible for any of the data to be recovered if the hard drive is sold or lost.

Computers are fairly well known to store data as 0’s and 1’s, with the arrangement of these digits being used to represent larger numbers, which can then be arranged to represent anything else. If you go through the entire hard drive changing every single digit to a 0, that’s like rubbing down the entire whiteboard.

To be absolutely sure that your data isn’t recoverable at all, we then go through the entire drive again, setting every single last digit to a 1. Using our whiteboard analogy, we now cover the entire whiteboard in marker pen.

Repeating the process several times, setting everything from 0 to 1 and back to 0, completely erases the data as if you’d just wiped clean and written over a whiteboard again and again.

It’s a much more thorough process than simply emptying the recycle bin, and it takes much longer, so it’s only done when making sure that sensitive data is destroyed. Afterwards, it doesn’t matter who gets the hard drive, because there’s simply no trace of the original data left.

So that’s what it means to destroy data to a military standard. It’s a way of making sure your old hard drives can be sold or disposed of without fear of sensitive data being stolen.

Data destruction is a service that Solidarity IT can provide, if you have any further questions, feel free to contact us on 01392 984873 or email us at help@solidarityit.com

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