Why Electronic Media Destruction is Key to Data Protection
A Compelling Case in PointAccording to a recent Blancco Technology Group study, security and privacy concerns are well-founded. Staff from Blannco’s offices in the United States, the United Kingdom, Germany, and Finland purchased 159 used SSDs and HDs on eBay. These eBay sellers insisted that the devices were securely wiped, leaving no data behind. Blannco then asked data recovery experts at Ontrack to see what (if any) data they could recover from the allegedly wiped drives. When these recovery specialists looked for any traces of data on the drives, they discovered something troubling. A staggering 41% of the 159 drives contained personally identifiable information of some kind—birth certificates, photographs, names, and email addresses—all of which could have left those sellers subject to significant data breaches.
Electronic Media Destruction 101Just as you would decimate paper documents, electronic media destruction involves physically destroying electronic media. Processes used are shredding, punching, incinerating, disintegration, and degaussing (more on these later)—so that all traces of data can no longer be found, and the device is entirely unrecognizable. Electronic media destruction isn’t something you do once—it’s basically a (periodic) prerequisite for keeping data safe. It’s also super important to educate every employee on why disposing of electronic media is not only necessary but needs to be done properly.
The Following Methods Are Common Ways to Wipe the Slate Clean
IncinerationThis process involves burning electronic media to convert it to ash and smoke, making it unrecoverable by any means. Incineration also destroys any chemicals that were used in the manufacturing process of the product so they’re not released into the environment during disposal. In California, however, this method is no longer commercially viable in most markets due to local restrictions on incinerators.
DisintegrationSometimes known as pulverization, disintegration involves using a machine similar to an industrial blender, which turns the entire hard drive into fine glass dust that’s then captured and disposed of. Unfortunately, the disintegration process can create fine airborne dust that’s less environmentally friendly than other methods, so companies regulated by the NSA or DoD usually only use this for the most sensitive information.
DegaussingDegaussing is best for electronic media types that rely on magnets to hold their data. It uses an electromagnet to create a powerful magnetic field, which scrambles information, including start-up files, on the hard drive, rendering it useless. This process cannot be reversed. However, because the final product is not visibly distinguishable from readable drives, it can introduce some risk if the handling process is not managed well. Additionally, while degaussing is great for older drive technology, it is not effective on current Solid State drive technology, which is why some IT professionals prefer physical destruction to this method.
Some of the Best Ways to Wipe Out Data
PunchingPunching, also known as Crushing, is the process of using a high-power hydraulic press or “punch” to bend, tear, and fold the hard drive rendering it completely unusable.
ShreddingShredding utilizes a machine that repeatedly slices electronic media with high-speed blades. This results in tiny fragments that cannot be reassembled back into their original form. What’s great about this method is it allows for recycling the various components—so, it’s highly popular for its combination of security and environmentally friendly output.
File This Under Important
Read: Electronic media is not secure, even after it’s wiped or deleted. Which is exactly why all forms of electronic media should be properly destroyed as an investment in consumer privacy compliance and the longevity of a company.