Picking up the Pieces: What to do with Old Storage Devices
After a major technology upgrade like a data center move or replacing company computers, your business may acquire a large number of decommissioned data storage devices loaded with confidential information. Instead of leaving the HDDs and SSDs in your unused systems around as an accident waiting to happen, the proactive choice is to make sure the data stored on those devices is no longer accessible.
Reusing Hard Disk Drives
If you’re going to reuse the computer, server, or storage devices in question, it’s best to comprehensively delete any data on the device in a way that it can’t be recovered. Going into Windows Explorer, highlighting all the files on the storage device, and pressing “Delete” isn’t going to do much to stop someone from restoring the data. Running a “quick format” on the drive only deletes the file headers, so again it’s very easy for someone to access the data on the drive.
If the data is not particularly confidential, running a “full format” will make it difficult, but not impossible to recover the data. If your IT staff is going with a straight software method, they can encrypt the entire storage device before performing a “full format” to make it extremely difficult to recover any data. Alternatively, your IT staff can use a device called a “drive eraser” like the Drive eRazer Ultra that will mechanically sanitize hard drives for re-purposing without compromising secure data.
Reusing Solid State Drives
If the information stored on the SSD is extremely confidential, your business is better off not reusing the storage device as existing SSD sanitizing techniques are insufficient to 100 percent guarantee data destruction. While reusing a SSD is possible, the secure options are limited to using a manufacturer supplied complete deletion tool.
The End of the Line
Storage devices that are not going to be used again should be destroyed instead of thrown out. This is important for dead or limited functionality drives too because a data thief can repair the damaged device or move the physical storage medium to a functional one to recover stored data. Larger projects can be outsourced for professional degaussing or shredding, but your IT staff can handle a few dozen devices without much effort.
When working with a HDD, the element to physically disabling the device is to crack the platters. According to ZDNET, the easiest way to disable a HDD is to place the storage device on a sturdy surface and strike it with a heavy hammer. Alternatively, driving a large nail through the body of the HDD through the platter or running a heavy-duty drill through it both work as well. Smashing the memory modules on a SSD works too. Your staff in charge of dismantling the storage devices should wear eye protection and heavy gloves when disposing of the drives.
Putting in a little effort goes a long way when protecting your business from data leaks by destroying or sanitizing retired storage devices. The cost of correctly disposing of storage is much less than what a business incurs in a major data leak.
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