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Home » Resources » Is a Low Level Format Enough to Guarantee Data Sanitization?
Historically, many organizations have used various forms of formatting (low level format, deep format, full format, etc.) as their process for removing data during asset decommissioning. This has resulted in both process inefficiencies and severe data breaches.
Formatting can go by many names, such as low level format, deep format or full format. This summary will outline why none of these formatting options can be the foundation of a secure decommissioning process.
Note that you will also find several OEM alternatives to formatting that are referred to as “erasure.” These methods also have limitations and do not meet the guidelines for true data erasure, which features a chosen erasure standard, verification and certification.
In modern operating systems, there are typically two options for formatting: a format and a quick format. Quick format is not an erasure solution because it only removes the index, but a full format attempts to overwrite the diskspace visible to the OS with zeroes. If everything goes perfectly, then the one round of overwriting with zeroes will remove data to a large extent. However, the reality and level of detail that you need to consider is a bit more complex.
The key issue with formatting is that there is no way to confirm that the data is gone. Verification and certification (as shown in this example report) are key for security and auditing purposes.