Let’s talk trash! 😃 I mean, let’s talk about safe and secure data disposal – how we get rid of our data once we’re done so no one else can gain access. Believe it or not, there is a lot to this process!
Safe and Secure Data Disposal
So, what does data disposal mean? Well, first about data… All data has what’s called a useful lifetime. For example, say you get an email from Emily with The Tech Frood inviting you to lunch. That email is relevant up until it’s time for lunch, right? After lunch, it is no longer relevant; its usefulness has expired. You can delete the email. In another example – say you have medical records that you really need to keep for a while, maybe even for years and years. Eventually though, they too will become irrelevant and no longer necessary to keep. They will need to be disposed of (trashed!).
The reality is all data eventually runs out of its usefulness. When working with sensitive data you will need to use the best way to not only dispose of it, but to also make sure the data is non-retrievable. Your disposal needs to be permanent – you do not want it to come back because it could be a major liability. For instance, if you are hanging on to old customer records and, perish the thought, you experience a data breach, the hacker would not only have access to your current customer records but also all of your past customer records, too. This would be a nightmare!
Paper and digital – both need safe and secure data disposal
Essentially, there are two types of data – paper and digital. Although more and more of us are moving toward paper-free/digital work environments, we do still sometimes have to print things out on paper. But this paper data could potentially contain account numbers and other personally identifiable information. When this data becomes useless, it must be properly destroyed. The best way, aside from incineration 🔥, is by putting it through a shredder (diamond cut is the best, but a crisscross cutting shredder will suffice).Some businesses hire commercial shredding companies to destroy their sensitive data – there are several right here in Asheville.
Digital data is a bit different, but not entirely. All digital data is stored on your computer’s hard drive. If not disposed of properly it can easily be retrieved. Even if you do not save data to your computer and instead you save to a network, the hard drive still contains caches of the editing that was done. While it may not be the final copy, it could still contain sensitive data – enough for hackers to steal. Additionally, deleting a file and then emptying out your recycling bin on your computer does not necessarily mean the data is not also stored on your hard drive – even if it has been formatted! Hackers have very sophisticated tools. So again, do not just throw it into the trash! Digital data needs to be purged and the hard drive cleaned.
The process of safe and secure data disposal
So, how do we protect ourselves in the most secure way? Since most of us do not have access to big mechanical shredders – where you physically shred your hard drive – you must go through a data disposal process instead. Simply put, this process basically overwrites the data that is on the hard drive to ensure it is indecipherable. To understand the process, think of it this way: say I write down the word Asheville, but I don’t want anyone to read it, so I write over it with the word Mountains. This is what we get:
It is much harder to read the word Asheville, but it is still possible. What if we add another word on top? Say, Beautiful…
Now it is even harder to decipher! We can continue passing over the word Asheville as many times as needed so it becomes impossible to decode. This is exactly what must be done to hard drives except there are programs available to complete the task. We can tell our program to overwrite data as many times as needed.
Safe and secure data disposal – equipment
Did you know some printers have hard drives, too? Almost all printers nowadays have some memory (RAM), but more and more are being made with hard drives to save your print-jobs for easy retrieving. These hard drives also need to be purged in order to keep your sensitive data secure. Still using USB keys/flash drives? These are pretty much like having a paper copy and unless encrypted can make you vulnerable if lost or stolen. These also need to be considered when thinking of safe and secure data disposal.
So, just like we do not want to toss paper with sensitive data in a trash can, we also don’t want to toss away our old computers – hackers are dumpster divers! In a world where people update their computers every few years, disposing data is an extremely important task and doing it the right way to ensure the data is properly and permanently removed is crucial. This safe and secure data disposal process is sophisticated and can be complicated but given its extreme importance, we offer this among the many services we provide at The Tech Frood.
Contact us today with your data disposal needs!