How to Destroy Your Digital Data

Secure data destructionWhen we accidentally delete something, it feels like the end of the world. If a client file or your latest proposal is deleted, you may have to start again. Yet deleting files may not as permanent as many think. When it comes to destroying data properly, you will need to take a more thorough approach.

Deleting items, or “trashing” them, does not permanently remove them from computers hard drive and while it is still there, someone could restore that deleted data.

Most data does reach a point at which it’s no longer useful, and you are no longer required to maintain it, but it may still be valuable to cybercriminals. Bad actors can use names, addresses, credit card numbers, banking accounts or your personal health data. You need a policy to properly destroy paper records, magnetic media, hard drives and any other storage media.

Your obligation to protect customer and staff information extends to properly destroying all their data. Installing a new operating system isn’t going to do it and encryption doesn’t do the job if the cybercriminal can figure out the password.

Some industries require you to prove you have correctly destroyed all data. Even if you have no compliance standards to meet, you should carefully dispose of any computer-related device. Whenever you are recycling, discarding, or donating an old computer, disk drive, USB stick or mobile device, make sure the data is already deleted or destroyed. Otherwise, cyber criminals could get their hands on any confidential business information those devices contain.

Fully, Safely Destroying Your Data

What do we mean by “properly” destroyed? You know about shredding paper documents. You can actually do the same with some devices. You might send the computer or device to a company with a mega-shredder. When compliance matters, you will to keep a record of the chain of custody of the data throughout the entire process.

Overwriting the data (often called zeroing), is another solution. No data is properly deleted until it’s written over – that is where the information is hidden under layers of nonsensical data and cannot be retrieved through disk or file recovery utilities. You can think of this as writing three new books over the top of the pages of an erased book rather than just ripping the pages out.

With magnetic devices, you can neutralize the magnetism (degaussing) to break down the data. This scrambles up the data beyond recovery. A strong degausser will turn the device into a shiny metallic paper weight. An ultraviolet erase could be necessary for some erasable programmable memory but for other devices you may also need to perform a full chip erase.

If you’re really committed to destroying data, physically destroy the device. There are the shredding services or you might actually pay to have the device smelted or pulverized.

Other Components to Destroy with Data

Don’t forget to properly disposal of printers too. Run several pages of unimportant information (maybe a font test) before destroying a laser printer. With an impact printer (if you still have one!), you will want to destroy all ribbons. Some of the larger printers / photocopiers contain an internal hard drive which stores print jobs – thus you will need to make sure this is destroyed too.

If you need help with proper disposal of you computer data or equipment we can help. Contact our experts today on 08 8326 4364 or support@dpcomputing.com.au.

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