Tyler M
Tyler M 12 February 2021
Categories Technology

7 Safe Ways to Dispose of Your Crucial Data

Disposing of data securely is crucial to protect sensitive and confidential business information from accidental disclosure. Failure to ensure this can lead to serious cases of data breaches, compliance issues, and inflated costs.

It is always recommended to erase the data and dispose of the media properly. For this, you need to familiarize yourself with the effective methods of destroying and disposing of any media containing classified information. Seeking professional assistance of IT services providers can prove to be extremely helpful in fortifying your cybersecurity and cloud security measures.

All businesses, regardless of their size, industry and type, depend greatly on data for their growth. While most of them know how to securely collect, use, transfer, and store data, they usually find themselves in a conundrum when it comes to disposing it.

International compliance and data privacy regulations like the GDPR require businesses to dispose of data in a secure and responsible manner. Failure to do so can expose your organization to cybersecurity incidents, penalties, cloud security vulnerabilities, reputational damage, and loss of investors’ trust. 

Further, when physical and digital data is disposed, it exits your secure ecosystem and is no longer protected, which makes it an easy target for identity thieves. Identity theft and crime related to stolen financial credentials are some of the most common cybercrimes that can leave a business in ruins.

Fortunately, you can take concrete steps to reduce your risk of becoming a victim. Let’s check out a few reliable ones.

Disposing Physical Data

For physical documents (paper copies), it is best to have all sensitive records shredded. If the volume of paperwork to be shredded is large, consider collecting the data in a secure bin that allows people to put papers in, but limits access for removal. Secure this bin to your premises with a cable lock. You can have a trusted shredding vendor empty the bin at regular intervals.  

If the shredding volume isn’t high, you can have the paperwork taken to a shredding facility for proper disposal. Documents that should always be destroyed before discarding include any papers containing financial and bank details, credit card numbers, legal and medical information, passwords, and your signature.

Disposing Digital Data

Disposing digital data can be a tad tricky. For starters, you may think deleting a file means it’s gone forever. But the reality is that the file continues to stay on the hard disk or other storage media (except in some SSD drives on specific operating systems) of your device. Deleting a file only leaves more storage area for new files. Several free tools are available to recover deleted data. Hence, deleting does not mean disposing of. Let’s find out how to dispose of digital data in a better manner.

1. Wiping

Data wiping entails logically removing data from an electronic medium so that it cannot be read. It is done by physically connecting any media to a bulk wiping device or internally by starting a PC from a network or CD. The wiped media can then be reused without any loss of storage capacity.

However, data wiping can take hours, sometimes an entire day for a single device. While it can be helpful for individual computers, it may not be the most practical solution for businesses with multiple devices to be wiped.

2. Overwriting

When the existing data on an electronic media is overwritten, a pattern of ones and zeros form over it. In most cases, overwriting data once can do the trick. High-security data, however, may need multiple passes for its complete destruction and to prevent the shadow memory from being detected.  

Overwriting may be ineffective on hard drives that come with advanced storage management components. Cybersecurity experts recommend following the standards set by the NIST to prevent criminals from recovering overwritten data.

3. Erasure

Erasure helps destroy all traces of data stored on a hard drive, and deliver a certificate of destruction, showing that the data on the electronic media has been successfully erased.

It is most suitable for businesses that use equipment such as desktops, data centers, and laptops, which have been purchased off-lease. It also works well when you want to reuse hard drives or redeploy them for storing different materials.

4. Degaussing

Degaussing involves destroying digital data using a high-powered magnet, which interrupts the electronic medium’s magnetic field. This method is great for quickly destroying large volumes of data.

One of the best things about degaussing is that it makes data completely unrecoverable. This is why it is the preferred method for disposing highly sensitive data.

However, it is best to avoid using this method if you want to reuse the electronic media as it leaves the hard drive inoperable, while also damaging any vulnerable equipment nearby.

5. Shredding

Apart from destroying physical documents, shredding can be used to dispose electronic data in any hard drive, which has reached its end-of-life. In fact, most providers of Managed IT services consider it the most secure, cost-effective, and practical way to destroy digital data.

This method is also effective for disposing motherboards, optical drives, thumb drives, credit card swipe devices, smartphones, and more. It is most suitable for destroying data if you have a huge data center or large volumes of hard drives and media.

6. Physical Destruction

Physically destroying equipment by smashing it to pieces or even burning it is an effective way for organizations to destroy data. It gives the highest probability that the data has, in fact, been destroyed.

However, it can be expensive. Further, because electronic media is essentially destroyed forever, the high capital cost can be high too. Also, this method may not work if your organization has a green and sustainable program in effect.

7. Exiting Cloud Accounts Securely

If you’ve been using an online service and have discontinued it, simply logging out permanently will not do the trick. Your past account activity and data will still be stored in the online account with the cloud service provider. Cloud security specialists will advise you to make sure to retrieve all your necessary data and close the account.

Closing the account will not delete it immediately though. For a thorough job, contact the cloud provider’s support desk to find out how long it takes for closed accounts to be permanently deleted.

You should also know that different service providers have different data retention and disposal policies. You can work around this by finding out the best migration plan available, and implement that.

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