One of the most common causes of identity theft and data breaches stems from improper disposal of electronics like hard drives.
When most people hear hard drives, they think of a desktop computer—however as some businesses and individuals have learned the hard way, hard drives are everywhere.
Just ask Affinity Health Plan, who paid a $1.2 million fine several years ago because the hard drives in their copiers still contained PHI and other sensitive documents.
But while the need to safeguard digital data may be obvious, the best way to do it may not, which is why we want to help clear it up here. Comparing against alternative options like formatting or degaussing your media, get the breakdown on how the hard drive destruction process works, and why absolute destruction is a business or individual’s most secure disposal option.
Why Shred Your Hard Drives?
Just like sensitive paper documents, digital data and documents pose a security risk for individuals and businesses.
Information protection and destruction laws like HIPAA and FACTA apply to hard drive destruction in addition to the destruction of their hard-copy counterparts. Just like sensitive information stored on paper, the information on hard drives can be accessed, stolen, and used for fraud and identity theft.
To enforce information security laws, steep fines are associated with violations, and they are only getting more expensive:
HIPAA Noncompliance Penalties Overtime
|Violations Prior to 2/18/2009||Violations After 2/18/2009|
|Penalty Amount||Up to $100 per violation||$100 – $50,000 (or more) per violation|
|Calendar Year Cap||$25,000||$1,500,000|
Private information—no matter what format its in—needs to be carefully handled and disposed of so as not to leak any information that can lead to fraudulent behavior.
What Electronic Items Need to Be Safely Destroyed?
You should shred every hard drive and electronic device containing sensitive data, but what types of media does this include?
- Hard drives across devices (solid state/rotational/magnetic)
- USBs or flash drives
- Zip or floppy disks
- SCSI drives
- Magnetic tapes
- Audio visual media (CDs/DVDs/VHS tapes/cassette tapes)
- Mobile devices (cell phones/tablets/laptops/PDAs)
- Gaming systems
- Credit and debit cards
- Microfilm and microfiche
- Backup tapes
- RAM and ROM-based storage
- Biomedical devices (infusion pumps/MRI and CT machines/ventilators/ultrasound devices)
- Any system or device that at any time contained private information
If you are unsure whether a certain device should be destroyed, destroy it. And NEVER recycle electronics without properly destroying the information on them first. Electronics should be recycled rather than thrown in the trash, but the information on them must be destroyed first. Thieves target electronics dropped off at the recyclers because they often still have valuable information on them.
How to Safely Dispose of Electronic Data
Despite the extraordinary pressure (from both legal authorities and the general public) to scrupulously maintain organizational security, the most thorough way to dispose of hard drives and protect the sensitive data they contain may not be as clear.
When it comes time to get rid of an old hard drive, there’s a few different ways to go about removing information, including:
Option 1: Formatting Hard Drives
This consists of formatting the hard drive and wiping it clean of all stored data.
Issue: With the right software, the sensitive data can be restored.
Option 2: Degaussing Hard Drives
This consists of using magnets to create an electromagnetic field that leaves the information on a hard drive unreadable.
Issue: The machinery required to perform the process makes degaussing fairly expensive.
Option 3: Shredding Hard Drives
Last but certainly not least is the option to have hard drives physically destroyed using hard drive destruction and shredding services.
This consists of using an industrial shredder able to handle heavy-duty projects. Hard drives and electronic media are shredded and broken into thousands of pieces.
Unlike with formatting or degaussing where the hard drive is still intact, complete hard drive destruction leaves zero chance for digital data you’ve disposed of to come back to bite you—the device the data was on becomes a pile of tiny fragments.
How Do Hard Drive Destruction Services Work?
Given the importance of protecting sensitive documents regardless of format, when it comes to digital data, hard drive destruction is one of the most common—and most secure—options businesses and individuals settle on.
Leaving personally identifiable information (PII) on media and hard drives rather than destroying them can lead to identity theft and data breaches that could’ve easily been avoided. Hard drive shredding is a fool-proof means of security.
At Shred Nations, we help connect businesses and individuals who need to shred and dispose hard drives or electronic media with local providers who best suit their disposal project needs and budget. The process is simple:
- Fill out the form to the right or give us a call at (800) 747-3365 to get free hard drive destruction quotes.
- Our representatives will contact you within minutes with multiple pricing options from contractors in your area. You select the right hard drive shredding service to meet your budget and volume.
- Once you decide on a hard drive destruction provider, our partner companies can come to you to pick up materials and devices for your convenience, or you can ship them to the secure shredding facility.
- Once your hard drives and media are collected, they’re destroyed using industrial shredders. To comply with EPA and state hazardous waste laws and regulations, all of our locations ensure shredded electronics are properly recycled.
- Once the hard drive shredding and destruction process is complete, your provider will give you a certificate of destruction detailing the chain of custody for materials during destruction as well as where, when, and who did the shredding. A certificate of destruction guarantees the use of best practices and compliance with HIPAA and FACTA.
Have Hard Drives to Dispose Of? Shred Nations Is Your Solution!
Offering the assurance that your sensitive data is safe, hard drive destruction services are one of the most secure ways to safeguard critical digital documents at a reasonable cost.
Shred Nations partners with a nationwide network of hard drive destruction and shredding providers—helping to connect businesses and individuals in need of protection for their digital data with the secure disposal services and providers who can handle their project size, budget, and schedule.
To set up a schedule with a local hard drive shredding service provider or to request a quote, fill out the form on your right, or give us a call at (800) 747-3365 to get free hard drive destruction quotes from providers near your home or business.