Use Secure Erase Method to Securely Wipe SSDs

“So, how did the data leave the company?” He could feel the sweat running down the back of his neck as the attorney’s frowning face leaned in closer. “I don’t know!” he replied, searching his memory for a missed step, where something might have gone wrong. Suddenly he awakened with a start. It was just another data security nightmare.

Have you ever had that experience? Such hypothetical nightmares are far less common since Intel IT adopted the use of secure erase -- a method for securely wiping self-encrypting Intel® Solid State Drives (Intel® SSDs).

Then: Securely Erasing SSDs Was Time Consuming and Complex

Intel is a global corporation with nearly 105,000 employees occupying 153 sites in 72 countries. Most employees’ primary computing devices are equipped with a self-encrypting Intel SSD. Our device refresh cycle of two to four years is designed to enable Intel employee to use the latest Intel® technologies, which in turn drives increased employee productivity, innovation, and job satisfaction. To maximize our hardware investment dollars, we repurpose hardware whenever possible, such as sending a used, but not used-up, SSD to an Intel lab when an employee gets a new SSD. Sometimes older or damaged SSDs may be at the end of their useful lives. As a result, we find ourselves wiping about 20,000 SSDs per year.

Of course, data breaches and data loss are top of mind for information security professionals. Seems like a new corporate data breach makes the news at least once a week. It’s no wonder IT professionals have nightmares:

To protect the corporate data and employee personally identifiable information stored on drives due to be repurposed or EOL’d, we instituted a “no drive leaves Intel” policy about 15 years ago -- meaning that no drive could be reused or resold outside Intel. All drives were wiped with a time-consuming (sometimes taking 5 hours or more) wipe process. Those that couldn’t be reused internally were part of a process that included packing them in 55-gallon barrels and shipping them to a service provider who shredded and smelted the drives down for precious metal recycling. In the meantime we logged and tracked every drive at every step of the process. Managing this complex, legacy drive-destruction process across Intel’s worldwide presence was complex and time consuming, but important for the protection of our company.

Now: Secure Erase Method to the Rescue

The good news is that with Intel’s implementation of secure erase the SSD wipe process now takes just a few seconds. It purges all existing data (called a NAND block erase) and generates a new media-encryption key (called a crypto erase) to help render even retired blocks of memory unreadable. Secure erase works with the entire Intel® SSD Professional Family. The combination of NAND and crypto erase is considered a “double purge” according to the National Institute of Standards and Technology* (NIST*) guideline for secure erase.

After an SSD has been wiped using the secure erase method, it’s just a paperweight -- we are confident that that secure erase, combined with the Intel SSD Professional Family, is the most secure and efficient way to store and protect Intel’s confidential information. We are so confident in fact, that secure erase has made it possible for us to nullify the “no drive leaves Intel” policy, and we plan to explore opportunities to reuse SSDs outside of Intel, such as donating them to schools or other nonprofit organizations.

Secure erase has helped erase my data security nightmares. It has simplified the tracking necessary for drives that must be destroyed, and is more secure and cost efficient than our legacy wipe processes. The recent IT@Intel white paper, “Secure Erase for SSDs Helps Sanitize Data and Boost Efficiency,” provides more information on how we’re using the secure erase method to wipe SSDs at Intel.

Tomorrow: Secure Erase SSD Wipes Could Be Even Easier and More Efficient

Looking forward into 2017 and beyond, we are investigating the use of Intel® Remote Secure Erase, which initiates the secure erase method from the IT management console. Intel Remote Secure Erase takes advantage of Intel® Active Management Technology, part of Intel® vPro™ technology. This means we could wipe the primary drive on local or remote PCs, with or without a functioning OS or management agent. Intel IT is not yet using Intel Remote Secure Erase, but our validation of the secure erase drive wipe method has already set the stage. When I think of all 72 countries where Intel has employees and all the different regional security regulations, combined with the fact that since Intel’s workforce is hyper-mobile and at any given time 50 percent of our client devices are off an Intel site, Intel Remote Secure Erase could potentially be a powerful antidote to at least one source of my information security nightmares.

Secure Erase for SSDs Helps Sanitize Data and Boost Efficiency BriefRead the IT@Intel White Paper “Secure Erase for SSDs Helps Sanitize Data and Boost Efficiency.”