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Data Destruction Method Comparison
- When executed using approved devices, NIST rates physical destruction of media ss the most secure method sanitization. After media are destroyed, they cannot be reused as originally intended.
- Highest level of security: assures that data is unrecoverable by any commonly accessible means.
- Large amounts of media can be destroyed at once.
- May be used in combination with electronic data destruction methods for certain high security scenarios
- Different types of media can be destroyed simultaneously.
- Cannot provide verification of the destruction process as required for regulatory compliance unless electronic data purges also take place prior to physical.
- Hard drive or other media is no longer usable; econmically wasteful, environmentally questionable.
- Typically outsourced to a metal destruction or incineration facility, which may compromise control.
- Specific safety, hazmat, and special disposition requirements.
- Solid State media requires special destruction methods in order to be effective.
- Highest security rating that does not involve physical destruction of the hard drive.
- Does not destroy hard drive; the drive may be reused or sold.
- Portable solutions are effective for on-site purging because no software need be loaded onto the PC.
- Green solution uses less energy than other methods.
- Can be significantly faster than clear methods.
- Provides certification and a defendable audit trail.
- No safety or hazmat issues.
- Some solutions require that drives be physically removed from the PC.
- Poses the risk of leaving drives in a locked state if not administered correctly.
- Not usable if hard drive is damaged.
- Only supported by ATA (SATA / IDE) drives.
Software Overwrite (Clear)
- Rated by NIST as equal to firmware-based purging and does not involve physical destruction of the hard drive.
- Hard drive may be re-used.
- May be deployed over a network.
- Widely available commercially or as freeware for low volume requirements.
- Some solutions offer validation and reporting utilities.
- Viable for in-house computers.
- Quality tools can offer an automated audit trail with detailed reporting.
- May be time consuming, especially for multiple passes.
- May have high long-term, usage-based costs.
- Not portable for off-site hard drive sanitization.
- Not usable if the hard drive is damaged or is not writeable.
- Not all overwriting tools are able to erase data on the locked/hidden sectors, thus compromising data security.
- Many freeware/shareware tools exist which perform an incomplete erasure putting a company at risk of a data breach.
- Highest security rating that does not involve physical destruction of the hard drive, although the hard drive is rendered unusable.
- Capable of destroying all the data on the hard drive, especially older units (especially hard drives that require a weaker electromagnetic field).
- Relatively fast process.
- Can also be used to destroy data on other magnetic media.
- Destroys hard drive permanently; not a "green" solution.
- Cannot provide verification of the destruction process as required for regulatory compliance.
- May be less effective on newer drives with thicker shielding.
- Drive must be physically removed from the PC.
- Generally requires a third-party vendor and may compromise care, custody and control protcol.
- Cannot be used for Solid State Drives or Flash media
- Not considered by NIST as a viable means of removing data
- Allows easy access to files and should not be considered a secure solution.
- Does not offer a formal record of data destruction