Improper electronic media destruction has caused headaches for businesses and individuals for decades. Digital information is one of the highest-value assets and is the most common target in any security breach. Personal information on employees and customers along with critical operational and financial documents can bring significant returns to a hacker or a competitor- and put you out of business.
One of the biggest mistakes that a company can make is disposing of electronic media without properly destroying the data stored on the equipment. It’s a given that computers and external hard drives could hold critical information even after you delete it. Did you know that your fax machines, printers, copiers, and even older digital phones store easily retrievable data?
Just imagine if your competitors get a hold of every single number you called or faxed in the past year- or every document you copied in the past five years. One of the most important steps in an information security plan is the proper disposal of equipment once you retire it from use. We commonly refer to this as media destruction.
What Is Electronic Media Destruction?
Electronic media destruction includes the methods that shredding and product destruction companies use to ensure your data is completely unreadable. Moreover, it ensures that the drive is securely destroyed. Electronic media can include:
- Hard drives (including magnetic, rotational, and solid-state)
- Media/backup tapes
- Thumb/jump drives
- CDs / DVDs
- Microfilm and microfiche
- Credit cards and debit cards
To virtually eliminate the risk of a data breach, you can just shred your media. However, there are additional measures that your business can take to ensure your data is useless to anyone before it’s destroyed.
Data Erasure/Software Overwrite
Using software to overwrite your data to clear or wipe a hard drive is the first step in the process. Data erasure overwrites the data and destroys all electronic data on a hard drive or digital media.
This type of software eliminates the ability to retrieve data using standard operating system commands and methods. Some use traditional recovery methods by writing meaningless patterns of data onto each of the hard drive’s sectors.
Using this type of software before you send electronic media to be degaussed or destroyed ensures that no critical business information is transported off-site. In addition, it eliminates the risk of unauthorized employees accessing the drive.
Degaussing uses an electromagnetic field to destroy data on a hard drive. This field, usually generated by a machine, renders a hard drive completely unreadable. Unfortunately, this doesn’t mean you can grab a magnet, run it over your hard drive, and call it good. You need to have a certified shredding or data removal company that specializes in hard drive destruction and has a degaussing machine that adheres to NSA and DoD standards to ensure your data is no longer accessible.
Check out this video to see a degaussing machine in action:
The last step (or the first step) to ensuring your data is secure is physical destruction. Physical destruction is the only way to ensure your data is completely unrecoverable. Furthermore, it’s important to ensure the shredding company you select is properly certified and secure. That way, you can guarantee that your media is destroyed and disposed of properly. A shredding company will come pick up your electronic media and do this to it:
Some service providers offer another option for hard drives specifically – crushing:
One Step Further – Classified Media Destruction
Many data destruction companies comply with the regulations and requirements for electronic media destruction by the National Security Agency and Department of Defense. These procedures include several of the destruction methods mentioned above (and depending on the type of media, several applications of each step).
Follow these links to get more information on the disposal and destruction of classified information:
(Source: DoD Security Officer toolkit)
Do You Need Electronic Media Destruction Services? Shred Nations Can Help!
Shred Nations offers hard drive destruction and electronic media destruction services to ensure all the data on the electronic equipment you’re retiring is completely unrecoverable. Our trained staff of specialists can help you decide the best course of action for your project.
Our network of contractors will come to your location if you need to ensure a proper chain of custody. Or you can even ship your drives to a secure facility for destruction. You will receive a certificate of destruction that details when and where the hard drive was destroyed, and then pieces are separated into component parts and recycled. To start a service, fill out the form, or give us a call at (800) 747-3365 for a free quote in minutes.