Researchers wary of SSD security

Academics in California claim solid state disks are tougher to clear data from than hard drives and could pose a risk to security.


Traditional methods of clearing data from hard disks are not as effective on solid state disks (SSDs), posing a possible security risk.

So claims research from the University of California in San Diego, which suggests that a number of methods used to securely remove data failed to do so on the faster format.

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The researchers warned that users needed to think first about encryption rather than retrospectively securing SSDs.

Of the 12 drives the study examined, only eight contained ATA and SCSI command set features for removing data and only half of these actually worked.

Continually overwriting data on SSDs is feasible but time consuming, the research found. However both magnetically destroying the electronics on the chips known as degaussing and single file sanitisation deleting unencrypted files one by one failed to securely remove the data.

"To properly secure data and take advantage of the performance benefits that SSDs offer, you should always encrypt the entire disk and do so as soon as the operating system is installed," said Chester Wisniewski, senior security advisor at Sophos.

"Securely erasing SSDs after they have been used unencrypted is very difficult, and may be impossible in some cases."

Although the adoption of SSDs has continued to rise, it has still not taken over the market as many predicted it would in 2010.

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However, price per GB for NAND flash memory is falling and the major barrier to SSD adoption has been the expense.

Now it seems SSD adopters have security to contend with as well.

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