Ensuring Data Security: The Professional and Certified Approach to Safe Hard Drive Disposal and Secure Data Destruction

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The increase in internal and external security threats combined with regulations requiring demonstrable due diligence in protecting the confidentiality of personal information means that the value of secure data destruction has increased over time. More organizations are taking the issue seriously and acting responsibly. Published surveys have shown that although the majority of companies are aware of the security risks associated with end-of-life computer assets, fewer than half have a strategy in place to mitigate those risks. Executive management needs to be aware of the potential brand damage that can occur if customer or employee records are exposed. High-profile incidents of security breaches and identity theft continue to raise public awareness and concern about the protection of personal information. This has led to data security laws and regulations specific to certain industries and locales. These laws may hold an organization and its management criminally liable if customer or employee information is compromised due to inadequate data protection measures. Criminal and civil penalties can be severe for non-compliance. This is particularly true in healthcare and financial industries, but there may be generic statutes that affect a wide array of businesses. Firms may have a general counsel/legal compliance team in place to monitor these regulatory changes and advise management on the proper course of action.

The introduction outlines the main theme of ensuring data security by taking a professional and certified approach to safe hard drive disposal and secure data destruction. It is important to understand the reasons behind professional data destruction and what the risks are when companies do not take this issue seriously enough. This often occurs when they donate old computer equipment or they assign IT staff to the job using the tools they have on hand. Professional data destruction can be expensive and companies often do not understand the value of the service.

Importance of Data Security

Data is one of the most valuable assets in any organisation. The loss, abuse, or corruption of data can result in severe financial and legal consequences, which can run the risk of potentially ruining a business altogether. The significance of data and the potential consequences of its loss or mistreatment are often underestimated. To realise the full implications of data security, a clear understanding of the true value of information and the risks associated with data loss is required. Whether information is of a personal, business, customer, patient, student or classified government nature, there are always data security measures that need to be taken into account. Any breach in data security can have a profound impact upon an organisation or individual. Beyond the obvious financial costs of replacing assets and remedying the effects of data loss or corruption, internal and external customer trust can be irreparably damaged. Any organisation handling personal or sensitive information has a duty of care to ensure the confidentiality and integrity of that information. Failure to do so can result in a loss of business and legal sanctions. For government agencies, the implications of data loss can compromise national security. Whether the consequences are direct or indirect, the impact of data loss on any organisation will hinder its ability to achieve its mission. Data loss can also affect an individual’s reputation and credit rating. Considering the data-driven culture of today and the expectations that information should be available on demand, it is clear that the importance of data security in preventing negative outcomes is higher than ever.

Risks of Improper Data Disposal

When end-life IT assets like computers, servers, and data storage devices are improperly disposed of, there is a risk of sensitive data being compromised. Simply formatting a hard drive is not always enough to remove confidential data; recovery is still possible by someone who knows how. Anyone who has legitimate access to the disk, say, in a data recovery company, can easily recover that data. Furthermore, if hardware is resold, the security risk may be higher as there is a chance that the new user/customer has less than honest intentions. In a couple of high-profile incidents, old machines that still contained recoverable sensitive data have ‘leaked’ into eBay or been sold for spares or repair, and the drives later disposed of improperly. An organization’s legal obligation to protect the privacy of employee and customer information extends to the entire lifecycle of the data. Data protection legislation requires data controllers to take adequate technical and organizational measures to safeguard personal data. Failure to do so can result in heavy fines. Measures considered adequate for data protection, considering the available technology and the cost of implementation, are determined on a case-by-case basis. The destruction of data storage devices may, in some cases, be the only adequate measure, especially when the risk of improper data recovery is high. High-profile incidents of data loss through improper disposal have also led to a loss of consumer confidence and damaged brand integrity.professional & safe hdd disposal Improper data disposal can lead to serious consequences and legal penalties. It is essential for organizations to adopt a professional and certified approach to ensure secure hard drive disposal and data destruction.

Professional Hard Drive Disposal

ITAD service providers need to have better knowledge and expertise in understanding the various methods that can be employed to destroy the data on different types of modern storage devices. It is now recognized that on-site erasure of data on hard disk drives is not complete and leaves around 1% of data behind, and that the overwriting of the entire hard disk is no longer suitable due to modern high-density drives and new storage systems such as journaling file systems and solid state drives. These new storage systems can make it difficult to locate the position of all data on the drive, and in some cases the data that is effectively ‘hidden’ as a result of these techniques can remain after a standard overwrite. For traditional hard disk drives, the use of a degausser is seen as an effective way of removing all data. This is a device that passes a high-energy magnetic field over the storage device, and as a result of the technology used in modern hard disk drives, this renders them inoperable. The same method can be applied to any storage device that uses magnetic memory. Following this, the shredding of the device into very small particles is sufficient to ensure that none of the data can be retrieved. This is not suitable for solid-state devices and, in particular, mobile phones which can hold NAND-based memory, and as a result, some damage the device in an attempt to destroy all data. This, however, does not take into account the ‘bad memory’ on flash drives, and various methods are currently being researched to effectively destroy data on solid-state drives. Such methods should be carried out in an environmentally sustainable manner and should comply with all local laws and regulations.

Certified Data Destruction Methods

Once you have decided to retire a hard drive, it is your responsibility to ensure that the data does not end up in the wrong hands, whether through physical or informational means. One of the most practical ways of doing this is to use a company that specializes in data destruction. There are numerous companies internationally that provide a service where they will take your hard drive (along with many other forms of data storage) and destroy the data, subsequently providing evidence that the data has been destroyed. One of the most convenient and beneficial aspects of these methods is that you can still physically use the hard drives and in many cases the process is environmentally friendly. However, there is a large amount of variability in what is done to the drive to actually destroy the data, therefore it is important to research and find the true best method for data security.