The Risks of Residual Data


Is your data ever really gone? A report published by the National Association for Information Destruction (NAID®) revealed that 40% of second-hand devices still held personally identifiable information. Smartphones, tablets, and hard drives were subjected to recovery attempts using software freely available online, nearly half of which yielded personal information. “NAID employed only basic measures to extract data – imagine if we had asked our forensics agency to actually dig!”

So, why do our devices hold onto residual data?

When you delete files, your operating system doesn’t just annihilate that information. Rather, the system deletes the file path pointing towards the data. 

We tend to believe the files are no longer present when in reality systems leave the information intact while attributing it as “free space.” Until operating systems actually write new data over the allocated “free space”, those files and the information included still exist. This poses large risks, both personally and professionally.

Individuals and organizations (and even third-party contractors) are responsible for ensuring their data isn’t made publicly available. The implications of data breach reach far and wide with fines, ransom, insurance costs, and even lawsuits. More than ever it’s important to keep your personal and professional data as secure as possible, and that means properly disposing of your old devices.

Data Destruction Methods

When it comes to discarding or recycling your devices, there are three available methods: Destruction, Formatting, and Degaussing.

Destruction: Devices set for destruction are shredded, completely obliterating data into unsalvageable pieces. This leaves zero chance for data recovery, and the shreds can even be recycled afterward.

Formatting: Devices that are formatted are wiped of information, but as we’ve learned previously this doesn’t actually mean your data is destroyed. Because the device is still intact, recovering information is still possible.

Degaussing: Devices such as hard drives read and write information onto magnetic disks. Degaussing neutralizes these disks with powerful magnetic fields, forcing data into an unreadable state. This renders the device completely unusable.

Which Data Destruction Method Works Best?

Of all three methods, destruction is considered the most secure (and cost-efficient). Formatted devices can often be recovered with the right tools, and even though degaussed devices are impossible to recover, it’s often costly. Hard drive destruction not only ensures complete annihilation of your data at low cost, but can be recycled into new material thereafter.

In today’s technology-driven world, information is always at risk. It’s important to take key steps to ensure that you do not leave any room for error in your data security measures. Secure destruction services, like those we offer at Augusta Data Storage, offer end-of-life solutions for your hard drives, server drives, and other digital devices where residual data may pose a risk.