February 21, 2017

7 Mistakes You're Making When Disposing of Old Hard Drives

A few years ago, Breaking Bad fans were presented with a distorted depiction of how to destroy a hard drive.

The television show followed Walter White, a high school chemistry teacher who becomes engulfed in a life of crime. In one episode, White uses a super, oversized magnet to get rid of incriminating evidence on a laptop. In the show, the magnet acts like a make-shift degausser, producing powerful magnetic fields that demagnetize the hard drive and destroy the data.

But it was a huge exaggeration. The magic of television! 

Here are 7 mistakes you're making when disposing of old hard drives – and, in effect, increase the risk of a data breach.

  1. At one time, magnets placed on a computer hard drive may have worked to destroy hard drive data but hard drives today are more resistant than ever to magnets. Also, even if a magnet corrupts magnetic media data, with today’s technology a repair may be possible.
  2. Erase or wipe data. After purchasing 200 used hard drives from eBay and Craigslist a few years ago, a Data Recover Study showed that special software can recover deleted data – despite the attempts to wipe the hard drives. In fact, personally identifiable information was recovered on 67% of the hard drives.
  3. Format the hard drive. Even after a full format, data can be recovered from a drive. Similar to the ‘delete’ issue, special software can probably recover formatted data.
  4. Don’t worry about it. Confidential or sensitive data on old hard drives is a security risk for as long as it exists.Regardless of size, all companies that handle private information are targets of information thieves. Plus, all companies have a legal obligation to comply with privacy laws and keep private information of customers, employees and business, secure from creation to disposal.
  5. Lock up legacy hard drives. Many workplaces do not have a policy for hard drive shredding, and they stockpile hard drives on-site. Even if hard drives are in a locked storage area, information still exists – and can be stolen.  
  6. Damage the hard drive with a hammer, etc. While this will work theoretically, it is not recommended or realistic in a corporate and professional environment. All hard drives – old computer hard drives, retired servers, unused flash and external hard drives, mobile devices, and photocopier hard drives – should be securely destroyed by a professional data destruction services that issues an official Certificate of Media Destruction for proper record-keeping.
  7. Recycle hard drives. There is no way to ensure that hard drives sent for recycling will not be accessed by information thieves. Data security management has to be part of any recycling equation.  

So how do you dispose of old hard drives the RIGHT way?

The best way to dispose of hard drives – and destroy obsolete digital data that is no longer needed – is to have them physically destroyed by a professional hard drive and media destruction company. This is the most effective and risk-free way to ensure information is permanently destroyed. 

Speak to your document shredding partner about specialized shearing and crushing services. It should provide a secure chain of custody process with regular pick-up of hard drives and e-media by certified information security professionals.