Securing Your Business through Data Destruction

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Your computer is at the end of its illustrious life and it is time to get a newer, more powerful, model.  But what are you going to do with your old one.  Give it to charity?  Sell it to get some final value out of it?  Just dump it in the dumpster out back?  Not so fast.  There is something that you need to consider before you go too far with your plans.

Your old computer may not seem like it is worth anything but look closer.  It has drudged through the ups and the downs of your business, helped you calculate pay roll, assisted in designing your company’s bestselling products, and sent countless classified emails. There is a world of valuable information still written to the hard drive in ones and zeros.  Before you get rid of your old clunker of a computer by either selling it or sending it to its final resting place you need to make sure that the data that was on it is wiped from the drives and a simple delete is not good enough.  Which begs the question of “how?”

First, consult your Managed Service Provider if you have one. They will follow best practices in securing your proprietary information. If you do not use a MSP, there are a few different ways you can destroy the data that lives on your hard drives. However, I feel obliged to remind you that you should make sure that you have a backup of the data before you proceed.

One of the cheapest methods is overwriting the data.  This method will also allow the drive to be reused later.  There are a few software applications that can do this.  What you are looking for in a software application is something that will overwrite the data on the drive with ones followed by zeros and then be able to repeat for more passes.  The US Department of Defense standard for unclassified computer systems is three such passes, but you can usually find applications that will have predetermined jobs with more passes or will allow you to customize a job with a number that you are comfortable with.  One problem with this method is not completely foolproof.  If errors occur or drive is bad data may not be overwritten correctly and data may still yet be recoverable.

Another way to destroy your important data is to degauss the hard drive.  This is the process of reducing or removing the magnetic field of the drive rendering the data unrecoverable in a very short amount of time.  It should be noted that this and the next option is the standard for the National Security Agency.  The bad part is that the devices that are used to complete this process are not cheap.  This also could leave the hard drive completely unusable in the future.

The final way to secure your data so that it can’t get into any nefarious hands is another method that will render the data unrecoverable and the drive unusable.  That is the physical destruction of the drive.  There are a few ways that this can be accomplished.  You can open up the drive and drill holes in the plates, melt the drive down, etc.  Really this can be anything you put your mind to that would make the drive completely unusable.

Overwriting, degaussing, or physical destruction.  Whatever you do, choose a method to destroy the data on your old hardware before you decide to throw it out to the wild.