According to the National Institute of Standards and Technology, “Destruction of media is the ultimate form of sanitization.” Most of the standards that exist to erase a hard drive mention several ways to physically destroy one including disintegration, grinding, pulverization, incineration, melting, and of course, shredding. This month, Legal Shred is looking at the benefits of hard drive shredding and why it is the safest, most secure way to ensure that your old and obsolete hard drives are rendered unusable.

Computers do not have an indefinite life span.  While we rely on cloud technology to store much of our data, the truth is computers and hard drives will always be a necessity.  If you’re in need of an upgrade, don’t think about tossing your old hard drives in the trash.

The hard drive is, in a nutshell, your computer’s storage device.  Everything you keep on your computer is stored here.  Your programs, your preferences, even your operating system—they’re all stored on your computer’s hard drive.

The information kept on the hard drive is stored indefinitely, even if the device is inoperable.  It is imperative to remove and destroy the hard drive before selling, donating, or recycling the equipment.  Failure to skip this step could result in compromising your information; whomever has access to the old device can copy old files, view your trade secrets, open employee files, or worse, steal your bank account information.  What’s more, the fines and penalties for compromised information can be enormous.

A violation of the Health Insurance and Portability and Accountability Act (HIPPA) can reach up to $250,000 and 10 years in prison for each act.  A violation of the Gramm-Leach-Bliley act can reach up to $100,000 for each act.  Is your reputation, credibility, and business worth all the risk of just tossing your computer in the dumpster?

Of course, taking a bat to your old drive, while cathartic, is not exactly the most foolproof way to destroy old machines, either.  Data-recovery technology is constantly changing, and yes, even severely damaged drives can be recovered.

Put the bat down and don’t bother with the trash can.  Here’s how you can safely destroy old hard drives without compromising your safety.

  • Take it to a computer recycling company
  • Mail it to a hard drive destruction specialist
  • Bring it it to a local computer shop that will dispose of it

Of course, the most secure way to destroy an old hard drive is to have a professional company physically shred the device for you.

A hard drive shredder is a mechanical device that destroys old hard drives in such a way that the data they contain cannot be recovered. At a minimum, this involves severing every track on every platter in a drive. The most effective way to ensure complete data destruction on a defunct hard drive is to pulverize the assembly, in much the same way as a wood chipper disposes of tree limbs and brush. These shredders are also good for destroying cell phones, tablets, electronic organizers, and other data-storage devices that may contain sensitive information.

Skip the DIY method for hard drive destruction. Your identity relies on it.

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