By Henry Baltazar  |  Posted 2006-01-02 Print this article Print

In the old days, many IT managers used drills and hammers to physically destroy hard drives containing sensitive information. Now, Intelligent Computer Solutions Inc.s IM WipeMasster appliance takes that kind of hardware out of the data destruction process.

The IM WipeMasster, available now, thoroughly sanitizes and encrypts old hard drives, removing sensitive information at a reasonable price.

With compliance regulations such as HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) forcing IT managers to keep certain information confidential at all times, tools such as the IM (which, according to the company, stands for Image Master) WipeMasster will likely become more commonplace at organizations of all stripes.

Most IT managers rightfully focus their attention on retaining and preserving data, but given the sensitive nature of business information, they also need to remember that improperly discarded data could come back to haunt them.

Although there are a number of free and inexpensive encryption tools that can be used to sanitize hard drives, these software solutions cannot match the speed and ease of use of IM WipeMasster, which is priced at $2,500.

In tests at eWEEK Labs, we were impressed with IM WipeMassters ability to quickly and thoroughly sanitize hard drives.

For example, IM WipeMasster was able to sanitize our older Samsung 40GB test unit at 1.5GB-per-second speeds; the device should be able to sanitize newer hard drives at rates closer to 3GB per second.

With its high speed and ability to sanitize as many as nine drives concurrently, the IM WipeMasster is ideal for larger shops that must periodically return leased machines to manufacturers.

For shops that must conform to Department of Defense levels of security, the IM WipeMasster has a WipeOut DoD setting, which will completely overwrite a drive six times and then write a designated code over the drive on the seventh pass.

Why sanitize?

Physical security is the most commonly overlooked point of vulnerability in an IT shop. Most IT managers will spend thousands or even hundreds of thousands of dollars on network security technologies such as IDSes (Intrusion Detection Systems) and firewalls, when one stolen drive could easily expose all the information they are trying to protect.

For IT managers who dont want to fork over $2,500 for the IM WipeMasster, a number of free and inexpensive solutions are available. For computers running Linux, Wipe is a freely downloadable solution (at wipe.sourceforge.net) and can be used to sanitize on a file level, in addition to complete hard drive sanitizing.

On the Windows side, Heidi Computers Ltd.s Eraser is another freely downloadable solution for sanitizing hard drives. Eraser can be used to erase individual files and folders or complete hard drives.

To boost security, Eraser can also be used to destroy Microsoft Corp.s Internet Explorer caches and cookies, making it a good daily maintenance tool. More information about Eraser can be found at www.heidi.ie/eraser.

However, no software package weve seen can match IM WipeMassters speed and ease of use. In addition, in situations where damaged hardware is being sent back for repairs, IT managers who cant get the machine to boot up could just yank the hard drive out of the system and let IM WipeMasster sanitize the disk.

We believe IT managers also will find IM WipeMasster useful for erasing hard drives in systems that may have viruses and should not be introduced to the corporate network.

However, as a stand-alone appliance, IM WipeMasster does not have the reporting capabilities for keeping track of the drives it has sanitized. Rather, it can keep track only of partition information and low-level software debugging statistics.

The IM WipeMassters interface is fairly easy to navigate, with the screen doing a good job of showing the status of the appliance. In addition, the digital gauges on the interface quickly informed us of the speed at which the IM WipeMasster was sanitizing drives and the progress of each wipeout operation.

Senior Analyst Henry Baltazar can be reached at henry_baltazar@ziffdavis.com.

Next page: Evaluation Shortlist: Related Products.


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