Last week I chatted with Michelle Dennedy, Chief Privacy Officer for Sun Microsystems Inc., about a new data erasure service the company is offering as part of Sun’s recently announced Datacenter Services suite that could help avoid serious data loss or data breaches.
“When people move their storage and server arrays from location A to B, these systems are loaded with sensitive customer data, and if one asset falls of the truck, they would be out millions of dollars in data and in a lot of trouble,” Dennedy said. “Also, when someone comes in to repair systems they have access to all of the data on those systems,” so erasing the data is a smart move.
For example, I recently read this article about a private contractor who downloaded sensitive data from a U.K. government system onto a memory stick, and then lost it. And another story, also from the U.K, reported that a computer disc containing the medical records of more than 38,000 National Health Service patients went missing when it was sent to a software company to be backed up, ironically, in case the records got lost.
While Sun didn’t divulge the specific customers or incidents that inspired this new service, I imagine they where similar to those reported above. Dennedy said Sun’s new data erasure service was created to prevent vulnerabilities when repairs are being done by a third party or when systems are being re-deployed to a new site. “You should know that if you lose a piece of equipment, you are losing only that silicon and not the data that was on it,” Dennedy said.
Another time to erase data is when a system is decommissioned and disposed of; many companies don’t think about erasing the data before ditching the old hardware, and that data could end up in the wrong hands, according to Dennedy. “It isn’t that they don’t care, but there is some ignorance about the massive amounts of data contained by the people getting rid of the equipment,” she said.
“Our technicians will administer software based erasure service for storage and servers, and will hand over a certificate to say, this is no longer an information asset,” she said. Sun is offering the service to non-Sun servers and storage as well.
Of course, users can erase data in their own systems using hard drive erasing software (a simple Google search yields over 480,000 results) and there are hundreds, if not thousands, of other companies offering this service, along with a certification, as well.
It is unfortunate that we live in a time when there are so many criminals waiting in the wings to steal data; the market for stolen data is about $276 million, according to Symantec Corp. Knowing this, taking every precaution to secure customer data with services like those from Sun and other companies is very necessary today.