September 24, 2015

Best Way to Destroy a Hard Drive? Don’t be Fooled

If you’ve ever done an online search for the ‘best way to destroy hard drive’, you know there are some pretty crazy suggestions.

On a website for mechanics, for example, a first-person story about how to destroy an old hard drive suggests readers take apart the drive, sand down the platters, and poke holes in them. Or, says the writer, pound nails through the drive or smash it into bent pieces.

But that’s not the craziest suggestion by far.  

“I just take mine to a shooting range; simple, effective, and satisfyingly messy” – commented one reader.

Another story at an information security website lists other hard drive destruction suggestions.  

“Throw it in your fireplace.”

“I’d toast them with a blowtorch if I were you.”

“Take them miles out to sea and throw them in. Even if somebody finds one, the salt water will have done a job on it.”

The writer wonders how many people actually followed their recommendations.

“Yes, some might be feasible if you have one or two hard drives to dispose of, but even those could pose huge liability risks when done for an employer.”

While individuals should always protect their personal data from information thieves, there are privacy laws that legislate keeping confidential information safe in the workplace.

A data breach can damage reputation, and the 2015 Cost of Data Breach Study: Global Analysis showed that the average cost paid by organizations for each lost or stolen record containing confidential information rose from $145 in 2014 to $154 in 2015.   

Of course, in today’s increasingly digital world, there’s so much sensitive data stored on hard drives as well as flash drives, optical media, cell phones, and office equipment such as photocopiers. If the drives are physically intact when equipment becomes dated or breaks down, all the private information can still be retrieved.

Research has shown that simply deleting information isn’t enough – because the information remains on the drive.

“Even reformatting or overwriting may not be enough to prevent confidential, proprietary or sensitive data from being recovered by a determined individual using the right techniques and equipment,” said a blogger.

Degaussing, the elimination of a magnetic field, is not always strong enough to fully erase data either, and data recovery may still be possible.

So how to safely dispose of hard drives?

At the end of the day, hard drive destruction really is the best way. But rather than haphazard, backyard destruction methods, experts recommend professional crushing and shredding to render equipment beyond repair.

Here are workplace best practices for protecting – and destroying – confidential data stored on hard drives:   

Find out how securing paper documents throughout their lifecycle through secure paper shredding can also reduce the risk of a data breach.