Sanitization, a word that is widely heard these days. Yes! You got it right. It’s been a year that every little thing is being sanitized in this world. Let that be eatables, belongings, or hands. Data stored on a memory device undergoes a similar process.

Data sanitization is the process of removing or deleting the stored data on a memory device so that it turns unusable or unrecoverable. It is a deliberate, permanent, and irreversible process. Any device that undergoes the sanitization process loses its residual data forever. Even using the most advanced forensic tools on the sanitized devices cannot help recover the sanitized data.

Performing data sanitization is essential for protecting business or government secrets. It’s also necessary for protecting personal information after discarding a memory drive.

Hackers usually use private information to look at old data drives. Protection of information while recycling any old data drive can be securely carried by data sanitization.

Methods used to perform data sanitization

Physical destruction, cryptographic erasure, and data erasure are the three different methods to achieve data sanitization.

1. Physical destruction

Physical destruction involves the physical breakage of storage media such as hard drives, laptops, mobile phones, and other storage media with the help of a professional-grade mechanical shredder.

Another complicated method used to destruct the data is degaussing or exposing the data to a magnetic field that neutralizes data, making it unrecoverable. Degaussing works only for hard disc drives and tapes and not on solid-state drives (SSDs). It is a permanent method that, once applied to a device, makes it non-usable forever. Even though this method is enormously influential, it seems to have a hazardous effect on the environment. Moreover, it also makes the recycling of devices impossible.

2. Cryptographic erasure

Cryptographic erasure is a quick and easy method. It involves performing encryption of data and then disposes or completely erases the key needed to decrypt the data. Even though the data is present on the original device, it is impossible to decode it without the key.

Cryptographic erasure uses a built-in or deployed encryption software on a storage device. Even though the cryptographic erasure is considered an effective way of data sanitization, the data remains inside the storage device, and so the process may fail to comply with regulation orders. To perform the decryption process, it needs to produce a certificate verifying the key’s removal.

3. Data erasure

Similar to cryptographic erasure, data erasure uses software to sanitize data. It securely overwrites the data with zeroes and ones that make it unrecoverable. Data erasure is considered the most secure form of data sanitization. After erasing the data, it ensures that the sanitization was successful by running a validation process. But to perform the task, data erasure takes more time as compared to other data sanitization methods.

The success ratio of data erasure is calculated based on the following three areas –

  • The software must comply with industry and organizational requirements.
  • Checking to verify if the overwriting process is performed on the entire device.
  • Produce a tamper-proof certificate proving that the overwriting was successful.

At times, a process called block erasure may also be performed. It is a process where software targets only block addresses or some particular places within the storage device that removes only targeted data.

Out of all these methods, data erasure is considered the best form of the data sanitization process. It assures the data owner that the information is no longer recoverable after performing a validation process. Moreover, it is also environmentally friendly as one can still resell the storage devices.

Data sanitization is often confused with other processes that erase data permanently but are unrecoverable. Some of these methods include data deletion, factory resetting, data wiping, reformatting, data clearing, data purging, file shredding, and data destruction.

Wrapping up

Data sanitization is similar to cleaning a house and getting rid of all those things no longer needed. It is impossible to bring back the stuff once thrown, no matter what actions are performed.

Following the above practices can help business organizations to perform data sanitization smoothly. In order to carry out data sanitization, it is important to obtain a legal certification.

All the above information reflects ‘what data sanitization means’ and ‘what different methods are used to perform data sanitization.’ But do you want to explore ‘Why do businesses need to undergo data sanitization!’ Please read on the next part to know more about it.

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