Data Sanitization is defined as the process of editing high priority database or documents where crucial data stored needs to be securely concealed. Critically acclaimed as an anti - forensic method, the process can be either erasing the information off the records completely or display the information masked from the unauthorized users. The process can be traced back to the time when we didn't have computers. People used to hide information by masking them efficiently such as in case of maps information used to be hidden to protect treasures from getting revealed. Following could be achieved with data sanitization :
The digital media spread offline and online is quite cumbersome to sanitize as machines oppose the need of data sanitization / data erasure. Machines built to store and create data follow a simple norm that is to retain the data no matter what the condition is; this makes the cyber world a harsh reign to conquer. While modifying or erasing digital information, some or almost every bit of the previous data is kept accessible in the storage. Storage mechanism as RAM keeps a local cache of the data in order to maintain easy access & high speedy performance of the machine. This allows users to retrieve redacted data access easily despite normal erasure.
Machines are backed up by large number of data retention techniques researched & adapted over time. Preserving a data cache, hard backups, cloud backups, undo buffer, trash can & maintaining a revision history are amongst the few techniques data is backed by. When we delete or modify the data it is only erased from the Index, the actual data still resides in the physical disk and takes a large amount of time to wear off permanently. These orphan data can be easily traced and restored back.
Even when we are interchanging information in any form that might be offline or online leaves multiple traces which makes the sanitization a tough job to excel. Techniques such as removal of Meta data, shredding or wiping clean the revision history serves as a solution to some extent. However remnant Data is a hurdle which only data sanitization can conquer.
The process is often tried to establish using the operating system residing on the target storage media, it is nearly impossible to do that securely. The media should be detached and sanitized on a separate operating system consisting of administrative rights to access the possible memory locations on that disk.
Whenever we try to approach sanitizing data the first step that comes logically is to either add an extra layer on top of the information or cloaking the data to make it invisible. Both the techniques fail as the data is still present in the storage media/document. The feasible technique data is to either modify the Meta data or redact & create a fresh copy of the data. But we need to achieve elimination of remnant data, to do that we need to follow proper authorized techniques such as:
Government bodies posed proper penalties on improper sanitization techniques as classified information possess a risk of leakage causing multiple issues to harm them respectively. Some nations declared legal penalization upto imprisonment, if either the data is not sanitized as per the guidelines or gets leaked somehow.
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