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By Dan Goodin in San Francisco
21st February 2011
In research that has important findings for banks, businesses and
security buffs everywhere, scientists have found that computer files
stored on solid state drives are sometimes impossible to delete using
traditional disk-erasure techniques.
Even when the next-generation storage devices show that files have been
deleted, as much as 75 percent of the data contained in them may still
reside on the flash-based drives, according to the research, which is
being presented this week at the Usenix FAST 11 conference in
California. In some cases, the SSDs, or sold-state drives, incorrectly
indicate the files have been "securely erased" even though duplicate
files remain in secondary locations.
The difficulty of reliably wiping SSDs stems from their radically
different internal design. Traditional ATA and SCSI hard drives employ
magnetizing materials to write contents to a physical location that's
known as the LBA, or logical block address. SSDs, by contrast, use
computer chips to store data digitally and employ an FTL, or flash
translation later, to manage the contents. When data is modified, the
FTL frequently writes new files to a different location and updates its
map to reflect the change.
In the process left-over data from the old file, which the authors refer
to as digital remnants, remain.
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