What Is Remote Wipe? All You Must Know

Haseeb Awan
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October 20, 2022
Modified On
April 13, 2023

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Modified On
April 13, 2023
"The US loses $30 billion in cellphones every year."

People are constantly misplacing their devices, which exposes them to the risk of losing private information. It's difficult to imagine our phones, which contain so much personal information, being stolen or lost. Allow for the possibility that your phone's security has been compromised, allowing your data to be stolen: It's a terrifying thought, but it can happen. This is where remote wiping comes as your saviour.

An administrator can remotely delete data from any device using remote wipe security solutions. The primary purpose of remote wiping is to prevent data loss if a device is lost or stolen. 

However, suppose the administrator does not have the device's physical access to wipe it. In that case, it also has the ability to delete data from a device given to a new owner or getting retired.

Remote Wipe: What Is It?

A mobile device management (MDM) solution may include remote wipe functionality. The MDM tool can be set up to enable an administrator to remotely delete specific files or folders from a device, erase the device's entire memory, or make the device unusable.

An administrator can remotely wipe a device by sending a command over mobile or Wi-Fi networks to the MDM application that has been installed on the device. The MDM solution starts the remote wipe procedure as soon as it receives this command. The specified files will be deleted if the wiping procedure is not stopped by a system reboot or another similar occurrence.

How Does Remote Wiping Work?

Each device has a different mechanism for a remote wipe. The majority of the time, the device has third-party MDM software installed. The equipment and the individual attempting to wipe away the data communication via this software.

Remote wipes can be configured to erase all of the data on the phone or just the data on a specific portion of the device. Let's say, for example, that a company permits staff to use their cell devices for business purposes. Employees might have a folder or application connected to sensitive information on their phones. The users' data on the device (photos, messages, and other data) may be preserved after a remote wipe if that employee is fired or leaves the company.

Another use for remote wiping is to disable a device permanently. In this instance, the wipe erases all programming from the device and its internal data.

Remote Wiping Is Seldom Simple Or Guaranteed!

Although remote wiping may appear to be fail-safe for businesses, it is essential to remember that it is not always simple to execute. A device must be turned on and connected to the internet for a remote wipe to occur. This makes it possible for the device to receive the command via MDM. Due to these conditions, there is typically only a small window when the wiping process can be done. It might be challenging to determine when the phone dies if someone turns it off purposefully.

Anyone attempting to wipe their device remotely must have the remote wiping feature activated. A setting in the Android Device Manager needs to be activated to perform a remote wipe on an Android device. The device's location tracker must also be activated. The wipe won't work if the service isn't turned on.

Why Is Remote Wiping Crucial?

The primary purpose of the remote wipe is to handle physical dangers to device security, such as the misuse or loss of a company's devices. If a user's device is compromised, an attacker might be able to read the information stored there if it isn't secured through encryption or if they can figure out the owner's password or PIN.

The COVID-19 pandemic made remote work the norm, and as a result, mobile and corporate technologies are commonly used for business purposes from outside the organization. Due to these two factors, corporate devices are now more likely to be lost or stolen than in the past when they were primarily kept in the office and had access to business information and systems. For an organization to manage the physical security risks associated with remote work, the remote wipe feature really helps.

Remote Wiping: Limitations

The following are a few remote wipe solutions' limitations:

Devices Must Be Online: 

A device cannot be erased if it is off, in aeroplane mode, or otherwise disconnected from the network.

Remote Wipe Can Be Interrupted: 

Some data may not be satisfactorily removed from the device if a thief reboots it while data deletion is in progress.

Data Can Be Retrieved: 

An attacker might occasionally succeed in getting data from the device, though. For instance, old and solid-state drives might make it possible to recover deleted data.

Protects Only Against Loss/Theft That Is Already Known About: 

Remote wipe solutions depend on an administrator sending a command to the device to wipe it. This indicates that a device won't be deleted unless the administrator is informed about it. A hacker might be capable of extracting information from a device before it is erased if an employed person is unaware that it has been stolen or needs to wait to report it.

Some Facts You Need To Know About Remote Wiping

Power and Network Connection Is A Must

The phone or tablet must be turned on, linked to the network, and capable of receiving the protocol because the command "wipe" is transmitted wirelessly to the device. It might be simple to remotely wipe a device if it is lost in an airport. On the other hand, it's simple to turn off the device, shield it, or remove the SIM card if someone wants to prevent the device from being erased.

Since the window for remote wiping can be extremely brief, it's crucial to notify your IT department as soon as possible if a device goes missing. Data breaches can happen within seconds of a device being stolen.

Remote Wiping Is Not A Monolithic

There are countless options for remote erasure on modern mobile phones and mobile management systems. The device can occasionally be reset to the factory default state using remote wiping. Others may have a more subtle remote wipe. For instance, some configurations have "enterprise wipe," which only removes the software and data installed by the business and leaves user data unaffected. Since your company is more concerned with those assets, phones with a container setup may only have the work profile wiped.

An enterprise wipe can be used when someone leaves the organization without inadequately reactivating their smartphone in a Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) environment. In that case, it makes more sense to delete the enterprise data since they might still be storing confidential info.

Instead of immediately erasing all stored data, another strategy is to lock lost devices. A customized notification, such as a mobile number to call if the device is found, can be pushed to the device's lock screen using an MDM solution.

Employees Must Be Notified.

No matter which MDM/EMM tool your business uses, remote wiping is typically included, so employee smartphones likely have some erasure capability. Employees may naturally anticipate that corporate-owned devices can be erased at any time.

However, IT administrators may still be able to remotely wipe devices under BYOD policies if staff members are mandated to configure an EMM/MDM  or malware detection tool on their smartphone or tablet. Staff members must agree to this in an organization's BYOD policy before using their own devices to access work systems.

Organizations without an MDM/EMM system in place may handle remote wiping on a manual basis by restricting access to an app and deleting any associated data. A screen that informs users that this is a part of the T&C frequently appears when they sign up for those services.

There is generally no other way to allow complete access to your company's systems while maintaining data security. Professionals may object to the idea that IT has the power to wipe data from their devices remotely, but it is a necessary measure. Remote wiping is a crucial safeguard for priceless informational assets from the perspective of the business.

Benefits for Small Businesses of Remote Wipe Solutions

Any device owner can benefit from a remote wipe feature, but businesses can take advantage of it. Intellectual property, customer information, and passwords to personal accounts are just a few examples of the information every organization needs to keep private.

Make sure your company is utilizing the many advantages of remote wipes:

  • Safeguards your private data. If the device is misplaced or stolen, a remote wipe guarantee that all critical data can be deleted.
  • Enables the wiping of any device: With the right software, you can wipe data virtually from any digital equipment, protecting your data whether it's stored on a laptop, smartphone, or tablet.
  • Secures data from ex-employees: If an employee is fired or leaves, you can quickly delete business data from their devices by issuing a remote wipe command.
  • Enables you to react quickly: If a device belonging to your company has been stolen or lost, remote wipe applications give you the freedom to take swift and effective action.
  • Keeping information out of misuse: You can keep your information away from people who would misuse it, like rival companies or ex-employees.

Best Practices for Secure Mobile File Sharing and Remote Wipe

How should enterprise IT organizations manage remote wipe processes to maximize mobile security in light of these risks and difficulties? Here are some suggestions:

  • Deploy a mobile device container solution that is secure.
  • Secure mobile containers separate business data from personal data and allow IT administrators to delete business information without impacting personal data. Other security benefits of secure mobile containers include enhanced protection from malware infections.
  • Inform employees that their data will never be erased by the organization's secure mobile file-sharing solution. This removes any incentive for employees to postpone reporting stolen or lost devices.
  • Educate employees on the significance of mobile security, explicitly protecting the company.
  • Business data is regularly far more precious than employees' $500 referenced in polls. For instance, customer data exposed in regulated industries could result in fines of several hundred thousand dollars or more. Both these lost data, such as product proposals, could result in a loss of competitive advantage for the company. Employees should understand that a $200 mobile phone could contain valuable data.
  • Monitor how business services are used on mobile devices. Suppose a machine known to contain business information has not obtained any enterprise servers in months. In that case, it is likely that the device is no longer in the owner's possession and that the data on it is vulnerable. When an unusually quiet device is discovered, the IT department may wish to contact the manufacturer.

Use in the Business

Effective mobile device management requires the ability to remotely wipe lost or stolen company devices. To keep up with your business's demands without worrying about what will happen to your business data if a device goes missing, we are committed to helping you safeguard your digital assets on demand. Know where every asset is and have the authority to protect it from a possible data leak immediately. You are aware of the requirements of your company. 

Use in Small Businesses

The pressure on small businesses to guarantee the security of sensitive information on employees' laptop computers, cell phones, tablet devices, and other gadgets is increasing daily. How can you effectively serve your customers while ensuring data security, protecting customer information, and minimizing risk? Any digital asset can be tracked with a robust MDM solution; if it disappears, it can be locked or erased. You can prevent all the expensive consequences of a data breach and keep your customer's trust if you have the choice to delete confidential data when a device is breached.

Use in Personal Data Wiping

Ever misplaced your laptop or phone? Do you have quick access to your email and other accounts and sensitive personal data stored on your devices? You can feel secure about the confidentiality of your information and devices with any reliable MDM tool.

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Haseeb Awan
CEO, Efani Secure Mobile

I founded Efani after being Sim Swapped 4 times. I am an experienced CEO with a demonstrated history of working in the crypto and cybersecurity industry. I provide Secure Mobile Service for influential people to protect them against SIM Swaps, eavesdropping, location tracking, and other mobile security threats. I've been covered in New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Mashable, Hulu, Nasdaq, Netflix, Techcrunch, Coindesk, etc. Contact me at 855-55-EFANI or haseebawan@efani.com for a confidential assessment to see if we're the right fit!

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