Data security has become one of today’s hottest topics, and with very good reason. Some of the world’s largest organizations – think TD Bank, Starbucks, Apple, even the U.S. government – have been victims of data breaches!
Organizations of all sizes should be taking steps to keep their data safe. But while IT security specialists and cyber security firms are your first line of defense, they can’t do much about protecting data on hardware that’s been decommissioned.
If you want to safeguard your unwanted hard drives, the solution is simple in data destruction terms: destroy them digitally, magnetically, or physically.
Digital Data Destruction
When it comes to digitally destroying a hard drive, the options include:
- erasure, and
All of these mean essentially the same thing – your data is removed from a hard drive and can’t be recovered. But the most accurate term for digital data destruction is overwriting.
Most software that’s designed to erase your hard drive actually writes over the existing data with new data in the form of binary code (a series of zeros and ones). The most widely recognized erasure standards in North America are the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) single, 3 pass, or 7 pass patterns, and the NIST (National Institute of Standards and Technology) SP 800-88, which provides direction on wiping methodology.
Erasure is the preferred method where data destruction is concerned because, if successful, it allows your hard drives to be re-used. But like many other digital processes, erasure software can be subject to failure.
You should also recognize that formatting or re-formatting a hard drive is not the same thing as wiping it. Re-formatting a hard drive simply hides the data it contains, allowing a specific area of that drive to be re-used. In other words, your data is left intact – and it can be recovered with the help of special tools.
Magnetic and Physical Data Destruction
Degaussing is another widely used data destruction technique. It involves generating a magnetic field that’s powerful enough to permanently eliminate the magnetic properties of your hard drive’s platter (or disk). By demagnetizing it, degaussing can destroy the data on a hard drive without physically altering the drive itself.
But if you’re looking for the most foolproof method to secure unwanted data, you can’t do better than physical destruction. Physically destroying your hard drive typically involves bending, breaking, crushing, pulverizing, granulating, or shredding it – with shredding being the most common approach.
Hard drive shredders come in all shapes, sizes, and configurations. And while the industry standard for shredded hard drive particle size is 1.5 inches, there are shredders that can produce particles as small as .25 inches.
As you can imagine, the recent introduction of SSDs (solid state drives) into the digital storage landscape has posed a significant shredding challenge. Data is stored behind each integrated circuit (IC) on an SSD, and ICs are so small that they can pass through many shredders untouched – leaving your data intact! Fortunately, specialized SSD destruction devices are now readily available and are often used as a “pre-shredding” measure.
If your IT asset has been declared obsolete, there are dozens of ways to ensure the information it contains is destroyed. And while data destruction terminology can be a little confusing, the outcome is clear: your data will be gone – and completely unrecoverable.