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Re-Certified LTO Tapes Poses Serious Data Security Risks and Poor Performance

Those that sell their used tape stock and buyers of re-certified media beware

Fujifilm announced results from a study that finds re-certified tape media poses serious data security risks for those who sell their used tape stock to re-certifiers and poor performance for buyers that purchase from this market.

The joint analysis by Fujifilm and Ovation Data Services, Inc. found that confidential data can be recovered through certain data recovery methods and can expose a range of data, be it personal, corporate, financial or healthcare records.

Organizations that sell their used tape media must understand the inherent risk of having sensitive data out in the public or being maliciously used by third parties and for buyers of re-certified tape, users are very likely to experience unacceptable quality and  performance issues.

About the study
Fujifilm confirmed the dangers of selling and buying used media through a study conducted with OvationData, provider of data recovery, migration and data tape services with HQs in Houston, TX.

Fujifilm randomly acquired a total of 50 re-certified LTO data tapes of various brands from five re-certified tape resellers, and submitted them to OvationData for analysis. It found that 48 out of 50 tapes still contained usable information, even though some reinitializing was performed on the beginning of the tape to make it appear that any prior data was deleted. Additional analysis on a sub-set of these tapes did in fact reveal the existence of highly confidential customer data.

It is astonishing to find that the LTO tapes were only quickly initialized, and not completely overwritten or properly erased. We determined that no physical form of certification appears to have been performed on the tapes other than writing of a single end-of-data marker at the beginning of tape, this means that there was no writing or reading of test data to or from the tapes to check for potential errors or physical tape damage and that the existing data was not fully erased.

To effectively and securely erase data on an LTO format tape (or other tape utilizing a magnetic servo) requires a complete overwrite of the entire length and all tracks of the tape. This process takes several hours and would not prove to be economically feasible for the re-certifier. Otherwise, simply initializing with a new end-of-data marker can be overcome with the appropriate data recovery techniques.

The study also highlights the fact that there are no industry standards for re-certifying used media despite claims by re-certifiers, so the quality and reliability of used media is questionable. Furthermore, the past handling and storage history of used media can never be ascertained, potentially exposing future users to risks.

In addition to the 48 used tapes containing user data, a number had significant quality issues. 16 tapes had unacceptably high read, write, and servo error rates, likely due to excessive wear and edge damage from mishandling or misaligned tape drives. Additionally, one third of the tapes had manufacturing dates prior to June of 2006 according to OvationData, raising concerns about the tape's environmental exposure history.

Protecting your business
Re-certified data tapes pose a data security concern for organizations because sensitive data can be accessible after resale. Any data retention policy that causes a company to fall out of regulatory compliance can result in severe penalties that can include fines or criminal charges.

Fujifilm recommends that organizations review their media management policies *from purchase to end-of-life and make sure to:

  • Enact policies that ensure control of data before, during and after it leaves your organization;
  • Prohibit the selling of used media to protect against potential breach of confidentiality or violation of government regulations;
  • Develop guidelines for confirming appropriate data deletion and destruction of retired media;
  • Specify 'new, factory fresh' media when purchasing new media through a reseller. This will ensure that the media you receive is not merely initialized or repackaged to appear as new.

Counterfeit tapes
Data media buyers also need to be aware of resellers that are repackaging used tape and selling them as new in counterfeited manufacturer packaging. These counterfeit products are sold to unsuspecting customers, usually via discount websites. Fujifilm is working with several customers who found that they had purchased used tape sold as new - and taking action against resellers engaged in this business.


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