As we think about the lifecycle of all our systems and data, at some point there will be a need to dispose of our systems and the storage devices that hold our data. Methods of data destruction will be sought after.
Many environments have restrictions on exactly what type of data you’re able to destroy. In those cases, you may need to store the data off-site instead of destroying it.
If you are planning to dispose of storage devices, you certainly don’t want to put them out with the normal trash. People do manage to find these devices by rummaging around in your dumpsters. You certainly don’t want any of your data to be in the hands of a third party.
If you’re planning to reuse these storage devices, then you need some method to make sure that all the data on that device has been sanitized. You don’t want to move these storage devices between systems and then find out that some of the old data now exists on the new system.
Sometimes important information can be thrown out with the trash. You don’t want someone going into your trash bins to find it. You may want to consider securing your garbage by putting a fence and a lock around your dumpsters.
Many organizations have a policy for shredding their documents. So even if somebody did come across all of this disposed of data, they would have to put everything back together again, which would certainly take a lot of time.
It’s common for governments to avoid this completely by simply burning everything that they never want anyone else to be able to see to ensure data destruction. If you do plan on burning these documents, there’s no going back. If you need to destroy a physical storage device, then you may want to think about shredding it or pulverizing it. This uses machinery to break up the components themselves and completely destroy the storage device.
You can also do this more elegantly by using electromagnetics. A degausser will send a magnetic field throughout the device, which will remove all of the data from the storage platters and destroy all of the electronics on the device.
Did you know that it’s nearly impossible to actually remove information from a hard drive? When you delete a file from your computer, it still exists. More importantly, it’s still forensically recoverable. But don’t go outside and smash your hard drive with a hammer, because even that is not secure.
Hard drives store information magnetically on a spinning platter about 30% smaller than a CD. They also keep small amounts of data stored within RAM (Random Access Memory) chips found elsewhere in the casing. The only method of completely eliminating that information is to blast the hard drive with a magnetic field. The machines that do this are called Degaussers.