Securely Erasing Data From Solid State Drives

Boasting performance that is an order of magnitude faster than traditional Hard Disk Drives (HDDs), Solid State Drives (SSDs) are quickly becoming a must-have upgrade for desktops and laptops. While HDDs utilize spinning platters that encode data magnetically, SSDs make use of solid-state memory that stores data electronically, therefore eliminating all moving parts and magnetic sensitivity.

While SSDs offer vast performance improvements over traditional HDDs, they introduce new issues for users that would like to wipe data from their SSDs. As pointed out by a recent Ars Technica article, the usual protocol of “secure deleting” files by writing zeroes to the disk multiple times does not work with SSDs. Because of the way SSDs work, there is no way to know a file has been truly erased.

While SSD manufacturers are working on adding “secure erase” functionality to their drives, currently the only way to ensure data on an SSD is truly “erased” is to encrypt the contents of the SSD. By encrypting the disk’s contents, you ensure that even if the files contained on the SSD aren’t truly destroyed, a thief or subsequent owner of the drive can’t retrieve the contents of your files without your encryption password.

For more information on encrypting your hard disk, see my Ten Best Practices for Securing Your Practice’s Data article from the ABA’s Law Practice Today.

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Comments

  1. Many authorities, including the Information and Privacy Commissioner of Ontario, say that the only really safe way to delete information from a hard drive (to say nothing of a solid-state drive) is to destroy the hard drive physically.

    Presumably that system will work for an SSD too.

  2. Thanks for the note John – and indeed, that may be the best way of guaranteeing data on an SSD is destroyed.