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The Problem of Data Remanence

Although a typical data deletion removes the markers for the location of the data on the disk, the data itself is not totally deleted. Typically the data remains until it is overwritten by new data. So the deletion of data on a disk is actually just the computer's way of reappropriating space on the disk. The data is not actually removed.

Likewise, there are various deletion standards. When data is deleted (erased or removed) from a disk, a residue can remain due to a nominal delete operation or physical properties of the storage medium. This data can be accessed by laboratory techniques. So, depending on the standard used,sensitive information may be at risk.




Different Deletion Standards provide different levels of deletion. Like chalk from a child's game of hop-scotch being gradually washed from a sidewalk by repeated rains, data on a disk is gradually wiped away by repeated passes of the deletion processing.

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Data Deletion Standards


Data Deletion Articles


Think of 1 "Pass" in a deletion standard as being 1 rain shower on that child's chalky sidewalk.


Included here are some articles explaining the various data deletion standards and their value.


U.S. DoD 5200.28-STD (7 passes)

VSITR, German Standard (7 passes)

NATO Data Destruction Standard (7 passes)

GOST P50739-95-Russian Standard (7 passes)

NCSC-TG-025 -
The National Computer Security Center Standard
(4 passes)

U.S. DoD 5200.28-M (3 passes)

RCMP TSSIT OPS-II, Canadian Standard (3 passes)


Data Remanence:
Wikipedia definition and discussion on the causes of
data remanence. This a plainly written and understandable piece: 

Data Erasure:
Wikipedia definition and discussion of software based
Data Erasure to ensure the complete removal of data.

Department of Defense article 5200.28



Data Encryption Articles


Other Resources


  • The growing impact of full disk encryption on digital forensics Visit Site
  • Hard Drive Passwords Easily Defeated; the Truth about Data Protection Visit Site

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