Skip navigation

Eliminating Data from Solid State Hard Drives

by Terry Creek
Eliminating Data from Solid State Hard Drives




Solid State DrivesThose of you in the Information Assurance world know that classified Solid State Drives (SSD) cannot be sanitized by degaussing, but did you know that a recent academic paper was published detailing just how really difficult it is to securely erase a SSD?   The work is entitled Reliably Erasing Data From Flash- Based Solid State Drives by Michael Wei, Laura M. Grupp, Frederick E. Spada, and Steven Swanson.  The authors work at the University of California’s (San Diego) Center for Magnetic Recording Research.  The research is a bit technical for me, but some of the data is worth discussing here.


Secure erase commands, overwriting, and erasing individual files are all examined.  They conclude that built-in erase commands are effective, but they are not consistently and correctly applied by SSD manufacturers.  Overwriting usually works, but is not 100% effective.  Erasing individual files is the most difficult problem.  None of the existing techniques used were effective.  The authors make some recommendations for future SSDs, but what does that do for the security manager that has drives in service now?  If you have SSDs in an environment where they can’t be shared or have failed for some reason, your only choice is destruction.


The National Security Agency (NSA) requires that SSDs be disintegrated to a 2mm or smaller particle using a NSA/CSS evaluated Disintegrator.  Although SSDs can be disintegrated, you should use caution when doing so.  Small thumb-drive type products can be disintegrated in office Disintegrators if the volume is small and they are fed sparingly with other materials.  Full sized SSDs should be opened before destruction.  Boards/Chips should be removed and fed into an industrial Disintegrator (10 HP or more).  Housings can be discarded in the trash or your metals recycling program.  You should be aware that chips and circuit boards cause much more wear to knives than paper and plastics.  These items should be mixed in with your classified paper during regular destruction.  Try to avoid storing up large quantities and destroying them all at once.  Consider more frequent knife maintenance if you destroy these items on a regular basis.  If you have any doubts about destroying a particular item, contact your SEM Regional Manager.  They are always glad to meet and review your application.


 Lance said:
June 14, 2012 9:04 AM
Solid state is definitely the way of the future. I'm glad to see that when all these "new" drives get to EOL status that SEM will be able to destroy them.

Add Comment