Half of All Businesses Never Erase Sensitive Data: Survey

By Chris Preimesberger  |  Posted 2010-11-18 Print this article Print

Of the 49 percent of businesses that systematically deploy some sort of policied data erasure, 75 percent do not delete data securely, Kroll Ontrack said.

When eWEEK comes out with its end-of-the-year data center/storage trends story next month, one of those trends will be something called "data retirement."

Not data deletion or data reduction, data erasure, data destroying or anything similar. Data and files can somehow reappear from all of those practices, but data retirement really does excise the unwanted/unneeded stuff forever from storage.

In any case, a new Kroll Ontrack global survey released Nov. 17 on data wiping practices found less than half of businesses regularly deploy a method of erasing sensitive data from old computers and hard drives.

Of the 49 percent of businesses that systematically deploy some sort of policied data erasure, 75 percent do not delete data securely, Kroll said. This leaves most organizations highly susceptible to data breaches, which hit businesses at least once a year, according to another Kroll study-the 2010 Kroll Ontrack Annual ESI Trends Survey.

Several researchers have reported in recent years that breaches of this kind can cost enterprises millions of dollars in system repairs, litigation and lost IP.

The survey questioned more than 1,500 participants from 12 countries across North America, Europe and Asia Pacific regarding their data wiping practices, Kroll said. The report also revealed that 40 percent of businesses give away their used hard drives to other people; 22 percent admit that they do not know what happens to their old computers.

In total, more than 60 percent of all old business computers are fully intact with proprietary business data in the second-hand market.

"Three-fourths of businesses are deleting files, reformatting or destroying drives, or do not know how they are erasing sensitive data," said Jim Reinert, vice president of product development at Kroll Ontrack.

"Deleting files from a hard drive only marks the files to be rewritten, which may never occur. Furthermore, reformatting the drive only removes the entries in the index or table of contents that point to the data. And, physically destroying a drive is not a guaranteed method of protection, as Kroll Ontrack has been recovering data from severely damaged drives, such as the Columbia space shuttle, for more than 25 years."

Kroll Ontrack is a Minnesota-based provider of information management, data recovery and legal technology products and services.

Chris Preimesberger Chris Preimesberger was named Editor-in-Chief of Features & Analysis at eWEEK in November 2011. Previously he served eWEEK as Senior Writer, covering a range of IT sectors that include data center systems, cloud computing, storage, virtualization, green IT, e-discovery and IT governance. His blog, Storage Station, is considered a go-to information source. Chris won a national Folio Award for magazine writing in November 2011 for a cover story on Salesforce.com and CEO-founder Marc Benioff, and he has served as a judge for the SIIA Codie Awards since 2005. In previous IT journalism, Chris was a founding editor of both IT Manager's Journal and DevX.com and was managing editor of Software Development magazine. His diverse resume also includes: sportswriter for the Los Angeles Daily News, covering NCAA and NBA basketball, television critic for the Palo Alto Times Tribune, and Sports Information Director at Stanford University. He has served as a correspondent for The Associated Press, covering Stanford and NCAA tournament basketball, since 1983. He has covered a number of major events, including the 1984 Democratic National Convention, a Presidential press conference at the White House in 1993, the Emmy Awards (three times), two Rose Bowls, the Fiesta Bowl, several NCAA men's and women's basketball tournaments, a Formula One Grand Prix auto race, a heavyweight boxing championship bout (Ali vs. Spinks, 1978), and the 1985 Super Bowl. A 1975 graduate of Pepperdine University in Malibu, Calif., Chris has won more than a dozen regional and national awards for his work. He and his wife, Rebecca, have four children and reside in Redwood City, Calif.Follow on Twitter: editingwhiz

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