Higher Education Institutions are the #1 Target of Hackers Worldwide

According to a 2013 report published by FireEye.com, higher education institutions are the #1 target of hackers worldwide. Below is the top-10 list. Click here for the report in PDF format or click here for a real-time map showing current attacks.

Top Ten Vertical Targets: Worldwide

Based on the highest number of targeted operations discovered by FireEye threat prevention platforms in 2013, the top ten industry vertical targets are listed below. Each of these verticals possesses substantial intellectual property value, and often plays an important role in national security affairs.

  1. Education: universities are home to cutting-edge research and emerging technology patents; unfortunately, their networks are large and porous.
  2. Financial Services: most financial transactions today are conducted via the Internet, whether between people, businesses, or governments.
  3. High-Tech: some hardware and software are used by millions of people; they can offer attackers an exponential return on investment.
  4. Government: these bodies organize nations, determinepolicy,enforcelaw,andmanage national security affairs.
  5. Services/Consulting: large companies often have long supply chains and large contractor bases; at the political level, this includes think tanks.
  6. Energy/Utilities: in physics, energy is required for any kind of “work,” including starting engines, turning on city lights, or launching a missile.
  7. Chemicals/Manufacturing: chemistry is the study of matter, and bridges all of the natural sciences, including their relationship to energy.
  8. Telecom (Internet, Phone & Cable): this category encompasses all long-distance communications, by electrical signals or electromagnetic waves.
  9. Healthcare/Pharmaceuticals: this category encompasses the development of medications and the provision of medical care.
  10. Aerospace/Defense/Airlines: this category includes the development of spacecraft with myriad commercial and military applications.

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Guide to Secure Hard Drive Erasing Files and Sanitizing Computer Data

The Importance of Secure Drive Erasure

Computers are increasingly used to store financial data, healthcare information, and the keys to our personal identity. When files are placed in the recycle bin, and the recycle bin is emptied, those files can still be easily recovered. This is good news if you need to restore a file that was mistakenly deleted. It’s bad news if you donate or discard your computer and someone else recovers files you thought were long gone. It’s not sufficient to just format a hard drive or perform a complete system restoration. There will still be files left on the drive that could be recovered.

Hard Drive Erasing Cost

We provide drive erasing services at a cost of $70 per computer/drive, assuming the drive is installed in a desktop or laptop computer. If you have a drive that’s already removed from a computer, the cost is $50 per drive. We offer a quantity discounts for additional drives.

We set aside about an hour for the following:

  1. Reserve a time slot for the computer drop off, or provide pickup of the computer.
  2. Remove the drive from the computer.
  3. Install drive in docking station.
  4. Perform erase procedure. This can take several hours depending on the speed and storage capacity of the drive.
  5. Confirm the drive has been securely erased by attempting file recovery using advanced data recovery processes.
  6. Install the drive in the computer.
  7. Reserve a time slot for pickup of the computer. Or, provide delivery of the computer.

Do It Yourself

We provide the list of tools and instructions below for those wanting to perform drive erasing on their own.

What You’ll Need

Here’s the list of what you’ll need for erasing a drive.

  1. Computer Tool Kit ($20) – You’ll need the necessary tools to remove the drive from the computer. Depending on the computer, a basic computer tool kit should be sufficient, although some require advanced tips. Additional speciality tool kits are listed at the bottom of this page.
  2. Drive Docking Station ($40) – You’ll need to connect the bare drive to a working computer. A drive docking station is an easy way to do this. The Sabrent external drive bay works well.
  3. Erasing Software (Free – $40) – There are many utilities available for securely erasing a drive, such as Eraser Secure Data Removal Tool by Heidi Software. See below for a more comprehensive list. If you’re using an Apple computer, drive sanitizing is built-in and available under the Disk Utility when erasing (click the Security Options button).
  4. Available Computer ($200) – You’ll need a computer available for the task of erasing drives. While the task could run in the background of a computer you use regularly, it’s best to have a dedicated computer to ensure nothing interferes with the process. It takes a long time to securely erase drives, so whatever computer you choose will be running, and shouldn’t be restarted, until the process is complete. If you use a laptop computer for the task, you’ll have the benefit of the internal battery to keep the process going in the event of a power outage. However, some laptop computers aren’t designed to operate continuously for extended periods of time. So, a desktop computer is probably a better choice. If you use a desktop computer for the task, you’ll want to have a backup power supply listed below.
  5. Backup Power Supply ($100 – $220) – An uninterruptible power supply (UPS) provides a constant source of power for the erasing procedure. A good unit might cost $100 to $200 for a high quality pure sinewave UPS system.
  6. Hard Drive Erasing System ($300 – $400) – As an alternative to items 2, 3, and 4 above, you might consider purchasing a hard drive erasing system. The StarTech 4-bay system is a good choice. Others are also available.

Drive Erasing Instructions

These are the steps for securely erasing a computer hard drive.

  1. Remove the drive from the computer.
  2. Install drive in docking station.
  3. Perform erase procedure. This can take several hours depending on the speed and storage capacity of the drive.
  4. Confirm the drive has been securely erased by attempting file recovery using advanced data recovery processes.
  5. Install the drive in the computer.

Additional Specialty Tools

Here are some useful tool kits for this and other projects. Some computers, like Apple laptop computers, require special drivers.

Alternatives

Here are some possible, but not ideal, alternatives for data sanitizing.

  • Get a free software program to erase unused drive space. However, there may still be existing files or settings that aren’t removed.
  • Physically destroy, smash, or drill through the drive. This method isn’t ‘green’ since the drive isn’t usable again, and parts that might be properly repurposed or recycled may get damaged.

Drive Erasing Software Utility Programs