In an increasingly digital world, our information storage capacity has expanded to match, while the means of storage themselves have become physically smaller than ever. Whether using portable media or larger systems, the constantly growing amount of data we hold also carries an increased risk of theft. In decades past, data theft for profit or sabotage would involve taking a bulky folder from a file cabinet. Now, the equivalent of an entire records room (or even a whole library’s worth!) can be carried away in a portable device no bigger than a candy bar.
Proper data storage and maintenance protocols are only part of total security. Whether in person or remote, an unauthorized user can access a system and steal or alter data if it is not secured or destroyed. Likewise, suppose a business upgrades its computer hardware. Any outdated storage media stored or discarded carelessly can become the target of malicious “salvage” – it should be appropriately disposed of by an appropriate agency. Data destruction is, thus, a strong defence against a wide variety of issues arising from such breaches.
Data destruction is how digitized information is made unreadable and irretrievable. Essentially, it is the same as data sanitization, which uses similar methods. However, it also includes verifying that the data has been destroyed securely.
Verification can be given with something as simple as a document with a one-line statement, but it is better to provide complete legal certificates for a data destruction business. These document the devices destroyed, the methods used, and other pertinent information, creating a chain of custody and a trail that can be audited.
Along with verification, a company offering data destruction services to your business will provide a range of options, from simple deletion to thorough physical destruction of media.
Erasure or Formatting
The most basic form of destroying data technically does not remove information from storage media. Instead, erasure removes digital pointers to the data so that a computer or other system reading the medium cannot find it by normal means. Erasure can be done quickly, but it is the least secure method.
Formatting works the same as erasure, ‘resetting’ the entire medium and removing all the pointers en masse. This handles all of a medium’s storage capacity but is also more time-consuming. The information is still present and depending on the skill of a user and any tools they have, it can be ‘un-erased’ and retrieved.
Data is stored as a mass of bits, each one a binary – “0” or “1.” Overwriting changes the bits to represent new data put in place. To some extent, this happens in a computer system regularly, whenever a user deletes unwanted files and downloads or creates new data. This method is more secure than just erasing data but more time-consuming as it requires writing over instead of deletion.
Additionally, unless every bit is overwritten (usually using specialized software), the medium may still hold fragments of the original data. A diligent bad actor may not be able to fully retrieve leftover data, but with time and effort, they can piece together some information.
By using a handheld device or larger machine which generates a powerful magnetic field, degaussing both permanently scrambles any data and renders the medium inoperative.
This technique is effective, but its drawback lies in the medium. Over time, data storage has shifted from magnetic discs to solid-state drives. These hold data in billions of microscopic electronic switches which cannot be degaussed. Data destruction in the case of SSDs can still involve erasure, formatting, and overwriting, with the same drawbacks.
The ultimate and most secure method involves not just sanitizing measures but physically destroying the medium. A given storage device is shredded, crushed, cut apart, or disintegrated into tiny fragments. Whether floppy discs or hard drives, thumb drives or SSDs, data is irretrievable if the object which held it no longer exists. The medium is lost, but a combination of outdated hardware and sensitive information means the protection is well worth the loss.
There are many benefits to data destruction. Regardless of your primary need, whether avoiding legal penalties, lost earnings, or damage to your clients’ trust, they all share the same reward: peace of mind.
Healthcare and private-sector businesses must comply with PHIPA or CPPA regulations. Depending on the nature of the sensitive material, the aftermath of a breach can range from monetary losses from corporate espionage to severe legal penalties for violating privacy laws. Proper data management processes, including destruction and certification, will protect you from these liabilities.
Damage to a business by data theft is often hard to recover from, if at all. After a data breach, most affected companies go out of business within months. Maintaining the safety and proper disposal of data is paramount to the health and survival of your business.
Outdated or undisposed hardware not only presents security issues but also take up a surprising amount of space. A small business with a room full of old hardware or a shelf full of drives carries dead weight – and potential risk. Store your data encrypted in upgraded physical systems or a reputable cloud service, properly destroy unwanted materials, and your business functions more efficiently.
Businesses big and small make up a vast portion of the digital landscape. With those companies, come their client and customer bases and any data sets required to interact with them and address their needs. Data security is paramount to maintaining their trust and growing your business.
The importance of secure data destruction cannot be overstated, nor can the need for a legitimate service that offers accurate certification.
PC Corp can evaluate your current information technology and working with our trusted data destruction partners we can ensure your data destruction practices are effectively safeguarding your resources and reputation.
We make I.T. easy! Contact us to find out how.