According to EPA reports, 112,000 computers are discarded every day in the US. These computers come from organizations handling millions of files with customer and organizational data. Further, an average phone user will change the Smartphone every 18 months, discarding it as waste or for sale as a second-hand gadget. Computer and computerized gadget users fail to recognize two aspects of secure data destruction, leaving them vulnerable to compromised access to their data.
- Erasing data does not make it inaccessible to third parties when the gadget leaves your hands. Sophisticated data recovery softwares are being used to recover the data years after computers, hard-disks, memory sticks, phones, and other storage gadgets were disposed of.
- An average data breach costs $8.19 million, a humongous amount considering that an average company hosts 534,465 files holding sensitive information. Do the math and see how much it will cost if one old computer that was serving several clients lands in the wrong hands.
Besides the cost of ensuring suits, clients will lose confidence in your brand. Corporate information may also be lost, compromising your brand position in the industry. The risks place a premium on the need for organizations to secure and completely destroy data when retiring gadgets or passing them on to other users.
Expert data destruction services point at three ways of destroying organizational and personal data with certainty that it will not return to haunt you a decade later. Remember that an important aspect of data destruction is keeping it away from the wrong hands regardless of technological advances or where the gadget lands. Each method comes at a cost as well as advantages and disadvantages.
Overwriting is as simple as writing new data over old data. This is an analog way of destroying data where writing new information over the old one makes it illegible. The method is sometimes referred to as wiping.
It is enough to overwrite the data once and be sure that it cannot be read. Highly sophisticated applications are used in some cases to overwrite the disk several times. It assures the owners that the information cannot be retrieved.
The process presents several challenges.
- Host protected compartments might not be accessed, meaning that information in the compartments will not be destroyed.
- Overwriting an entire disc capacity also takes time and might slow down the disposal.
- The assumption is that all compartments, including the old ones, are writable. If they are damaged and impossible to write, the data they contain will be accessible.
- Since software is used in overwriting, the process could be reversible if malicious people have the technology and intent.
Degaussing is a technical destruction method that works by disrupting the magnetic field that supports data storage and destroying the data in the process. It will effectively and quickly destroy the data stored. However, it only works on devices and gadgets that rely on magnetic storage like hard disks, floppy disks, and magnetic tapes.
Special gadgets and technology that are only available from top secure data destruction service providers are used in this case. While the method is effective, it comes with two major disadvantages.
- It renders the hard drive inoperable when the physical connection mechanism is damaged. Such a disk is rendered useless beyond that point, denying you the chance to sell or pass it on to other individuals or organizations.
- Degaussing does not offer 100% assurance that the data is inaccessible. Since the connection is damaged, you cannot see the information contained to verify that your target data has been destroyed.
While the process offers a better data destruction option, it does not work for devices using other data storage mechanisms. You have to find an alternative destruction method for CDs and Solid State Devices, among others. If pieces of the disk are recovered in the future, new technology may allow recovery of data, leaving your information in the wrong hands.
If you are done with the hard disk, this is the most effective way to destroy the data it contains. The device or storage component is physically destroyed by shredding, drilling, melting, and such other annihilation options. The data will be destroyed alongside the storage device in such a way that it cannot be reassembled.
Physical destruction still presents a number of challenges.
- Unless you supervise the destruction, the people involved may still manipulate the process. This is why you must work with trustworthy and certified data destruction services.
- If physical destruction leaves large portions of the storage device, they may be reassembled and the information retrieved. The data you are trying to protect will still be exposed.
- Destroying storage gadgets means that they cannot be resold or repurposed. It translates into lost revenue and assets.
The best data destruction method will depend on the sensitivity of the information contained, type of media, and the desired end-of-life value of the device. Hire a professional destruction agent with the skill, technology, and integrity to guarantee complete destruction.