Authors: Janine Schneider, Immanuel Lautner, Denise Moussa, Julian Wolf, Nicole Scheler, Felix Freiling, Jaap Haasnoot, Hans Henseler, Simon Malik, Holger Morgenstern and Martin Westman
DFRWS EU 2021
To avoid the disclosure of personal or corporate data, sanitization of storage devices is an important issue when such devices are to be reused. While poor sanitization practices have been reported for second-hand hard disk drives, it has been reported that data has been found on original storage devices based on flash technology. Based on insights into the second-hand chip market in China, we report on the results of the first large-scale study on the effects of chip reuse for USB flash drives. We provide clear evidence of poor sanitization practices in a non-negligible fraction of USB flash drives from the low-cost Chinese market that were sold as original. More specifically, we forensically analyzed 614 USB flash drives and were able to recover non-trivial user data on a total of 75 devices (more than 12 %). This non-negligible probability that any data (including incriminating files) already existed on the drive when it was bought has critical implications to forensic investigations. The absence of external factors which correlate with finding data on new USB flash drives complicates the matter further.