ERASER: Your Data Won't Be Back

Kaan Onarlioglu, William Robertson, Engin Kirda
In Proceedings of the IEEE European Symposium on Security and Privacy (EuroSP)

privacy systems

Secure deletion of data from non-volatile storage is a well-recognized problem. While numerous solutions have been proposed, advances in storage technologies have stymied efforts to solve the problem. For instance, both SSDs and journaling file systems make use of techniques such as wear leveling and I/O operation logs that involve replication of data; this is in direct opposition to efforts to securely delete sensitive data from storage.

We present a technique to provide secure deletion guarantees at file granularity, independent of the characteristics of the underlying storage medium. The approach builds on prior seminal work on cryptographic erasure, encrypting every file on an insecure medium with a unique key that can later be discarded to cryptographically render the data irrecoverable. To make the approach scalable and, therefore, usable on commodity systems, keys are organized in an efficient tree structure where a single master key is confined to a secure store.

We describe an implementation of this scheme as a file-aware stackable block device, deployed as a standalone Linux kernel module that does not require modifications to the operating system. Our prototype demonstrates that secure deletion independent of the underlying storage medium can be achieved with comparable overhead to existing full disk encryption implementations.