SECURE SSD ERASURE

1. March 2011, 18:32 | by WD Milner | Full Article |

California researchers recently published a paper at the Usenix conference on File and Storage Technologies that examined the effectiveness of secure erasure methodologies on SSDs (Solid State Disks).

The researchers came to several worrisome conclusions:

  • Attempts to degauss an SSD does not erase any of the stored data.
  • The ATA and SCSI command set features for securely destroying data on an SSD, ie. "ERASE UNIT", were only available on 8 of the 12 tested drives and only worked on 4 of those.
  • While repeated overwrites of the entire disk can successfully destroy data, because of the FTL (Firmware Translation Layer), the procedure is more complicated and time-consuming than on a hard disk drive.
  • The ability to securely destroy singular files on an unencrypted disk, is nearly impossible on an SSD, leaving behind four to seventy-five percent of the data.
  • Encrypted SSDs provide the most practical form of protection as disks can be safely decommissioned simply by deleting any encryption keys and then running a full DoD compliant erasure to ensure any keys are non-recoverable.

"I don't think anyone ever knew about this," commented security technologist Bruce Schneier.

The paper has some charts that quickly show the problems inherent in decommission of a solid state drive. Securely erasing an unencrypted SSDs after they have been used is very difficult to impossible. There are SSDs with native encryption capability that can prevent data from being seen after a drive reaches EOL (End Of Life) or is reallocated to a different use.

The conclusions then are obvious: to fully secure data while taking advantage of the performance benefits of SSDs, they should always be fully encrypted at the time they are placed into service.

Note the same applies to other solid state storage such as USB flash drives.

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Categories: ,
Keywords: SSD,secure,erasure,encryption

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