remote wipe

Contributor(s): Colin Steele

Remote wipe is a security feature that allows a network administrator or device owner to send a command to a computing device and delete data. 

What remote wipe accomplishes can depend on the device, its specific operating system version and any third-party mobile device management (MDM) software installed on the device.  A remote wipe may delete data in selected folders, repeatedly overwrite stored data to prevent forensic recovery, return the device to factory settings or remove all programming on the device, essentially turning it into a brick, meaning that it is no longer of any use to anyone. 

In the enterprise, remote wipe capabilities are available natively on most smartphones and tablets through Exchange ActiveSync. Third-party MDM products also offer this technology, as do consumer-focused apps, such as Apple’s Find My iPhone. To remote wipe a laptop, it must have specific security software installed.

Remote wipe contrasts with local wipe (also called auto wipe), a security feature that wipes a mobile device after a pre-specified number of failed login attempts or moves outside of a defined physical boundary (see geofencing).

See also: kill switch


This was last updated in September 2013

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For laptops (and smart devices), encrypting the stored data BEFORE the device is lost/stolen is the best business practice. For laptops, Self-Encrypting Drives (SED), both HDD and solid-state, as standardized by the Trusted Computing Group, offer the best encryption approach, superior in every respect to software-based encryption.


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