Author bio: This article was written by Milica Vojnic of Wisetek. Milica regularly advises businesses on the importance of an effective data destruction policy for improved cyber security.
Cyber security is a notion that has certainly not been taken lightly in recent times. Thanks to the increased presence of third-party threats, organizations have already taken many steps to mitigate the risks so that sensitive information does not fall into the wrong hands. Some common strategies include advanced firewalls, robust cloud storage systems, centralized database control, and tiered access systems.
Unfortunately, one critical metric is often overlooked. The role of data destruction is just as pivotal as other methodologies. Businesses of all sizes need to appreciate the benefits of such policies to make the right decisions at the right times. Let us look at the concept of data destruction in this modern era before discussing some of its most profound advantages.
Data destruction: streamlined techniques for a digital world
Some of us may be able to recall the office logistics associated with the 1980s and 1990s. In terms of data destruction, the processes themselves were rather straightforward. Perhaps the most well-known example involved physically shredding documents. The main issue here is that the information itself has become far more redundant thanks to our present digital landscape. It can be difficult to wipe data from a storage device and the Internet of Things (IoT) also signifies that information may be present long after its initial footprint was seemingly erased. Therefore, new techniques now need to be championed.
What modern methods are employed?
So, what approaches have organizations begun to take? Here are the three predominant methods of data destruction that can be leveraged:
- Physical destruction of the device.
- Overwriting the data within an existing hard drive.
Physical destruction is arguably the most familiar approach. As the term suggests, the actual device (such as a hard drive, smartphone, laptop, or USB stick) is mechanically destroyed. Such actions are normally overseen by professional third-party firms to ensure that the company remains compliant with all GDPR regulations. The only possible issue is that it may still be possible for individuals to recover information even if a device has been fragmented into numerous pieces.
Overwriting data is a second option. The main benefit here is that the device will not need to be destroyed. A series of randomized 0s and 1s will be placed over the existing information; rendering it all but useless. This could be an excellent option for organizations that are unable to afford the costs associated with purchasing completely new devices. Still, there may be times when even overwritten data can be retrieved by those who possess a significant amount of technical expertise.
Degaussing is the final way to destroy data. In this scenario, a very powerful electromagnet will be placed over the device which is storing the information. The strong magnetic waves serve to permanently “scramble” all of the data. Although this is arguably the most effective method, it should be mentioned that the associated firmware will also be rendered useless. The device will therefore need to be replaced.
The organizational benefits of data destruction
Now that we have perused some common methods of digital data destruction, what benefits can an organization enjoy from them? The most apparent involves the simple fact that information will be much less likely to fall into the wrong hands. This is also excellent in terms of customer satisfaction, as clients appreciate that a business cares about their privacy.
Data destruction is also useful from a competitive perspective. Some less-than-scrupulous companies are always eager to obtain any proprietary product information that may be present within a lost or stolen device. Making certain that such details do not fall into the wrong hands is therefore a wise decision.
Finally, data breaches can cost organizations a massive amount of money. There may also be times when legal fines are imposed (if GDPR guidelines were not followed). Not only can these scenarios harm ongoing operations, but the chances are high that the public image of the firm will suffer as a result. Efficiently destroying data eliminates such possibilities.
How to make an informed decision
Many firms will choose to outsource their data destruction requirements to third-party professionals. It is still prudent for firms to address a handful of questions when examining the data destruction possibilities. These include:
- How long has the company been in existence?
- What types of data destruction techniques are offered?
- Are logs and records provided after the data has been destroyed?
- Have previous customers been satisfied with the end results?
There are many companies that offer data destruction services, so it is always wise to perform a significant amount of research in advance. Managers and stakeholders will thereafter be able to make informed decisions.
As digital threats continue to emerge, there is no doubt that the importance of data destruction will become even more recognized.