January 13, 2022

6 Disastrous Ways to Deal With Old Hard Drives

A few years ago, Breaking Bad fans were presented with a distorted depiction of how to destroy a hard drive.

The television show followed Walter White, a high school chemistry teacher who becomes engulfed in a life of crime. In one episode, White uses a super, over-sized magnet to get rid of incriminating evidence on a laptop. In the show, the magnet acts like a make-shift degausser, producing powerful magnetic fields that demagnetise the hard drive and destroy the data. But it was a huge exaggeration.

At one time, magnets placed on a computer hard drive may have worked to destroy hard drive data when disposing of old hard drives but hard drives today are more resistant than ever to magnets. Also, even if a magnet corrupts data, with today’s technology a repair may be possible.

Here are 6 other disastrous ways to dispose of old hard drives – and, in effect, increase the risk of a data breach:

  1. Erase or wipe data
    Of 159 used drives purchased on eBay in the U.S., U.K., Germany and Finland, sensitive data was discovered to be present on 42% of devices, with 15% containing personally identifiable information (PII) a report found.[1]
  2. Format the hard drive
    Even after a full format, data can be recovered from a drive. Similar to the ‘delete’ issue, special software can often recover data.
  3. Don’t worry about it
    Confidential data on old hard drives is a security risk for as long as it exists. Regardless of size, all companies that handle private information are targets of information thieves. Plus, all companies have a legal obligation to comply with data protection laws and keep private information of customers, employees and the business, secure from creation to disposal.
  4. Lock up obsolete hard drives
    Many workplaces do not have a policy for hard drive shredding, and they stockpile hard drives on-site. Even if hard drives are in a locked storage area, information still exists – and can be stolen.
  5. Damage the hard drive with a hammer, etc
    While this will work theoretically, it is not recommended or realistic in a corporate and professional environment. All hard drives – old computer hard drives, retired servers, unused flash and external hard drives, mobile devices, and photocopier hard drives – should be securely destroyed by a professional destruction company that issues an official Certificate of Media Destruction for proper record-keeping.
  6. Recycle hard drives
    There is no way to ensure that hard drives sent for recycling will not be accessed by information thieves. Data security management has to be part of any recycling equation.
How to destroy hard disks and drives permanently

The best way to dispose of hard drives – and destroy digital data that is no longer needed – is to have them physically destroyed by a professional document destruction company. This is one of the fastest and most effective and risk-free ways of ensuring that information on an old hard disk or drive is permanently destroyed. In addition, where possible, components of the degaussed, shredded or crushed hard drive, are securely recycled.
Speak to your document shredding partner about specialised hard drive destruction services. Your supplier should provide a secure chain of custody process with regular collections of hard drives and e-media by security vetted and trained information security professionals. Learn more about the Shred-it secure hard drive destruction process.

[1] Source: Blancco Technology Group

Disclaimer: This article is provided for your convenience and does not constitute legal advice. Readers should not take, or refrain from taking, actions based upon the content of this article. Prior results do not guarantee similar outcomes. Please seek professional legal advice.