Destroying your hard drive to protect your data

Close up of a harddrive.
(Image credit: Pixabay)

Data security is essential for all businesses. The Identity Theft Resource Center (ITRC) reports a 17% increase in data breaches from 2020 to 2021, with Dataprot stating that 59% of Americans have experienced some form of cybercrime. It is more important than ever for businesses to take steps to protect their data and destroy it to prevent potential breaches.

About the author

Kyle Mitchell, Commercial Sales Director, Whitaker Brothers.

Effectively destroying sensitive data from hard drives is easier said than done. Even when the data has been deleted from the hard disk drive (HDD), hackers and thieves can still use software to retrieve it. A combination of wiping the drive and destroying it is the most effective way of protecting data. 

Wiping hard drive data 

Removing private information from your hard drive isn’t as simple as deleting it. Wiping the hard drive is the best way to delete data, but even then it can still be retrieved. There are a number of ways you can remove data from your hard drive, either using the operating system settings to clear the information or using third-party utilities to do so.  

Depending on your operating system, you can wipe information through the settings or security options. Choosing to reset your PC and opting to remove all personal files, apps, and settings will clean the data. While this is the most quick and convenient method, it does not offer the same level of security as using third-party utilities.

Many third-party utilities will come at a cost in order to thoroughly wipe your data. However, DBAN is a free alternative. The downside is that it only works with HDD and not solid-state drives (SSD). The upside is that it works independently of your operating system, and so it can wipe your entire machine. This is especially useful for businesses upgrading to new systems as they can safely transfer information before wiping the old drives.

Why you should destroy your hard drive 

Wiping data makes it challenging for hackers and thieves to retrieve the information, but unless you destroy the hard drive itself, it is still possible to recover the data. Combining wiping the data with destroying the drive is the most effective solution for a number of reasons.

With over 60 million Americans having experienced identity theft, according to Dataprot, it shows how important it is for businesses to take data security measures seriously. Creating systems and prioritizing cybersecurity are essential in all businesses, no matter the industry.

Legal compliance is going to save your business money. A global IBM study estimated the average cost of data breaches at $4.24 million in 2021. Most businesses, especially those in the small to medium-sized category, cannot afford this. Taking the time to put the necessary structures in place to meet regulatory requirements will prevent huge costs further down the line.

Your clients trust you to keep their data safe. A breach will not only cost your business financially, but it will also cost you the trust of your customers. Building client trust takes time, so ensuring you completely destroy sensitive information means that you’ll keep their trust.

Data breaches can also cost your business’ reputation. Consider some of the biggest data breaches of recent years. Between 2013 and 2016, more than 3 billion Yahoo! User accounts were hacked. Considered to be one of the biggest breaches in history, it has had an impact on the business’ global reputation.

Different hard drive destruction options 

Destroying a hard drive to make data irretrievable often requires specialized tools. The right tool for the job will depend not only on the scale of data destruction you require but also the data security budget you have.

For many businesses where data destruction isn’t a significant part of operations, a degausser wand is the ideal solution. These tools are also available in larger machines where your business requires more regular data destruction, but many will find that a degausser wand serves their needs perfectly. These tools use a strong magnetic force to scramble data on drives so it cannot be read.

One option is to put holes in the hard drive. Many consider this to be an ineffective and time-consuming process as you need to ensure that all sections of the hard drive platters are destroyed. If there are intact sections, data can still be retrieved. This method can be accomplished with a nail and hammer or using a drill. You won’t require specialist equipment, but it can be difficult to ensure the data is completely destroyed.

Hard drive shredding is one of the most popular and effective methods for destroying data. These high-capacity strong shredders are capable of cutting through HDD and SSD drives with ease, leaving you with smaller pieces and ensuring data cannot be retrieved from them easily. For any businesses in high-security environments, this is the best solution.

To ensure the complete destruction of a hard drive, you may want to consider disintegration. These machines are on the more expensive side but leave the drive in tiny particles. These particles cannot be reassembled, rendering the drive useless.

The most effective way to protect your data 

Data security is important in every organization. When it comes to removing data from hard drives, the most effective method is combining a data wipe with the destruction of the drive itself. This will make retrieving data impossible, as the drive will be physically destroyed and no data will be recovered.

With data breaches and hacking huge threats to businesses in this digital landscape, taking threats seriously is vital. Not only will it ensure that you prevent data breaches and potential fines, but it will also help your business maintain the relationships you have built with clients and that you can continue to improve your reputation.

Data destruction doesn’t have to be complicated, and with a range of high-security solutions available, you can give your business the security it needs.

We've featured the best data migration tools.

Kyle Mitchell, Commercial Sales Director, Whitaker Brothers.