Did you know that there were close to 3,000 publicly-reported breaches in the U.S. in 2021? That signifies a 10% increase from the previous year according to Security Magazine!
Names and social security numbers, in turn, were the most commonly stolen information.
That can happen to you, too, if you only perform data deletion on a computer you’re about to dispose of or recycle. In such cases, it’s best to carry out data erasure instead.
But what exactly sets deletion apart from erasure? And when should you use which?
This guide uncovers the truth about both processes, so read on.
What is Data Deletion?
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Data deletion is a process that only deletes the pointer (i.e., a file’s address). Doing so renders the contents of that deleted file invisible and inaccessible. It then moves the deleted file to a designated folder hidden in a storage medium.
So, when deleting data files, your computer only removes their original saved address. It then moves and hides the files (and their contents) somewhere else in your hard disk drive. In short, the actual contents of the deleted files remain in the computer’s storage medium.
For that reason, a deleted file’s contents are still retrievable with recovery software.
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What Then is Data Erasure?
Also called data wiping, data erasure destroys the contents of an erased file. It permanently overwrites the data encoded in the file, rendering it unreadable. So, even if a hacker retrieves the file, they can no longer access the original information.
To perform data erasure, you need specific data erasure or destruction software. By contrast, you only have to press Shift + Del in Windows or Option + Command + Delete in macOS.
Moreover, data erasure software is storage media-dependent (i.e., computers vs. smartphones). For example, as per Certus.software/en/itad/, you need to use one for storage devices and another for hardware. There are also programs specific to mobile devices, software, and web platforms.
In addition, data erasure software must meet stringent data compliance laws. A perfect example is the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). Another is the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) and the Common Criteria EAL3+. Cyber security trends will give you more updates.
When Should You Use Which? Data Deletion or Data Erasure?
You can opt to delete data files if your only goal is to create empty storage space for new content.
For example, suppose your computer is running out of space, and you have tons of new files to upload. In that case, you can send old data to the Recycle Bin (Windows) or Trash (macOS). You can also delete all Recycle Bin or Trash files by emptying either folder.
If you’re disposing of, giving away, or recycling electronics, go for data erasure. If you don’t, you risk having your only-deleted data recovered by hackers. They can then steal that precious information and sell it or use it for their financial gain.
Keep in mind that a single data breach, on average, can lead to a staggering cost of $4.24 million. So, it’s no wonder that all it takes is one such incident to shut down 60% of small to medium businesses.
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Avoid Data Theft With Data Erasure
Remember: Data deletion only removes a file’s stored address, not its contents. By contrast, data erasure overwrites and, therefore, destroys the file’s contents itself.
So, if you’re letting go of a computer, make sure you erase and not just delete all its contents. That can help prevent you from becoming a victim of data breaches and theft.
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