The Guide To Secure Document Destruction And Disposal

Most large and small organisations rely on data to be able to manage their businesses efficiently. An abundance of business information is stored digitally and involves collecting, transferring, and storing data.

Even when the data is no longer a useful part of the current business, the information is still confidential and needs to be handled appropriately; following the requirements to legally destroy the assets, including documents where the data is held – secure destruction is crucial.

Any information created and stored in the form of hard or soft copies can be exploited or misused if it gets into the wrong hands. Therefore, correct asset and document disposal are integral to any business or organisation.

Some companies have in-house equipment and data disposal policies, carrying out long-term data storage and document disposal strategies without expert advice or assistance. Suppose a company is not well-versed in this area (i.e. without a lot of internal experience or well-trained staff) and carries on storing and doing in-house destruction activities. This can open the door to inadvertent information leaks.

Any type of vulnerability increases the risk of a breach and can lead to the loss of consumer trust. Stiff penalties, fines, and damage to a company’s brand are likely outcomes.

This is a fairly common scenario and why organisations hire service providers with expertise in this field to do this type of risk-reducing work.

Certified destruction services ensure that your information is rendered non-retrievable by using approved equipment and practices, following strict protocols that destroy the storage media devices or documents that hold your confidential information according to Government requirements and any specific organisation.

Data holds great importance in any business and must be correctly disposed of.

The following table of contents will give you more information about what this blog is all about.

Table Of Contents

What Are The Various Methods Of Document Destruction?

Since the risks involved with improper document disposal are high, companies should not take this process lightly. Various state laws and industry regulations have policies regarding how long the documents or assets should be retained and timeframes for disposal.

Organisations should be aware of these factors and follow the procedures to ensure the well-being of their organisation.

Companies must ensure that a responsible person monitors the procedures within the organisation with the correct authority; who is well-versed in the requirements that govern data security activities. The information is usually stored in media storage devices or in the form of hard copies on paper. The person responsible for this portfolio of activity in a business must follow the correct methods for eradicating the data (destruction) in/on these information-carrying sources.

While determining what methods are needed to destroy or dispose of the information securely, four factors must be considered: the sensitivity of the data, the type of media, the asset’s value and all the policies and legal frameworks the organisation must follow.

Data Destruction Methods For Hard Copies

1. Shredding

Shredding is the most common way of destroying paper documents; being quick, easy and cost-effective. Shredders are the most preferred method of disposal for business documents. Shredding makes it impossible to put pieces back together again. The documents should be shredded and pulverised in large batches so the papers get mixed and cannot be reassembled.

Consumer shredders are available at most office supply stores and vary in size, price and capability according to the desired volume and the shredded output particle size.

2. Pulverising

Another method for paper document disposal includes pulverising. The shredded paper is re-shredded or ground in the pulverising process.

3. Burning

This method is straightforward and does not require any type of complex machinery other than an industrial extraction and air filtration system. This process creates a different type of negative effect due to carrying this type of destruction out. 

This method should only be carried out at a secure facility equipped to handle burning assets, especially in an urban environment, responsibly.

Data Destruction Methods For Hard Drives

When it comes to electronic documents on operating systems, the files are more prone to retrieval even after being ‘deleted’, or the storage device that holds them is ‘destroyed’; unless carried out correctly. Therefore, businesses should give extra care to the electronic document destruction process. 

During the data erasure process of a computer hard drive and other electronic devices, one must remember that it is probable that the backup of the sensitive information being deleted is held for a certain amount of time, even after being ‘deleted’. 

Various methods are followed to ensure that information is no longer accessible to anyone; please see below for further information.

1. Secure Deletion Software

Deletion software is available from IT security firms and can also be downloaded for free (with obvious limitations). Please ensure the software comes from a reputable source and is reliable and trustworthy. We recommend seeking specialist advice before relying on this method of destruction.

2. Shredding

Shredding is the most effective disposal method as it dismantles a hard drive completely, making it completely unusable thereafter. The shredding process involves the hard drive running through an industrial shredding machine, destroying the data storage disk/disc/platter and rendering it useless.

Businesses (and people) can conduct the shredding process internally. However, it would be cost-prohibitive to most businesses as the equipment is very expensive. Without proper supervision, it can also be very dangerous. The particles that are left can also be harmful to the environment if not shredded and recycled correctly.

3. Degaussing

The degaussing process involves using a machine known as a degausser that uses a strong magnetic force to render the hard drive disc/disk/platter unusable by permanently deleting all data. Degaussing a hard drive ensures that the information is non-retainable by anyone after elimination.

The degausser alters the drive’s magnetic direction, disrupting and permanently interrupting the stored data’s continuity, erasing it. Degaussers are usually costly and require a skilled operator to supervise the process for achieving the correct outcome. 

It is advisable to entrust an experienced third party to carry out the degaussing process to ensure destruction requirements are securely and safely carried out.

4. Disintegration

Disintegration involves the process of destroying information with the use of a disintegrator. For highly secure destruction, disintegrator machines are used in conjunction with other machines, such as shredders and hammer mills, connected with a conveyor system for higher levels of automation.

These machines, especially disintegrators, have various knife setups that can slice the hard drives into very small particles. 

Disintegrators require heavy ventilation, are unsuitable for office environments, and need the approval of state and federal authorities to be used. Thus, organisations need the specialist help of a reliable data destruction company that can effectively eradicate their information on hard disks and disc drives.

5. Drilling

You can render a hard drive useless with the assistance of a hand drill, hammer or nail gun, etc..… putting holes in a data storage drive of any kind renders that portion of the drive useless. No complex machines or equipment are involved in this process, so it can be done without too much expertise if you know how to use some basic tools effectively.

But, this is a dangerous exercise and can easily cause the implementer great bodily harm (or people or property around the process as it’s happening). Not necessarily recommended, and it is not as comprehensive a method of destruction as other methods are.

6. Melting

Hard drives are melted by dipping them in acid to destroy their disc/disk/platters and casing. This method is effective but very dangerous as it involves chemicals like hydrochloric and nitric acids.

How Can Ineffective Document Disposal Hurt Your Business

Various factors must be considered while deciding on the method of data sanitisation and document disposal used for your organisation’s needs. You must choose carefully, as improper document management and disposal can risk your company’s privacy and brand image being distorted or ruined.

The equipment and hiring of experienced personnel required for the process to be effective can be a costly and time-consuming exercise. Heavy-duty equipment like industrial shredders is expensive and requires regular maintenance as well. Some machines are unsuitable for the office environment and need to be put in a separate space, potentially increasing the cost of your office and storage space (or rent).

While buying machines is fairly straightforward (as is maintaining them), you must also have trained and accredited staff to operate the machinery and handle the assets with sensitive data. They must know how to use the machinery to adhere to legal and government requirements within the secure disposal journey. Untrained employees risk serious injury if they don’t know how to use the machinery properly; damage can range from minor paper cuts to amputations.

Other considerations are the environment in an office, as shredders are prone to catching fire if not properly monitored.

It is also essential to stay updated with the government’s privacy laws that organisations must adhere to, protecting their personal information and that of their customers.

Ineffective document disposal can make you prone to information leaks or security breaches. Even minor mistakes can put your company at risk.

Businesses are liable for staff injuries and data breaches. Staff need to be qualified to handle machinery (if they exist in your business) and sensitive data in the manner in which the information needs to be handled according to the Information Security Manual (ISM), DSPF and PSPF.

Ethics To Be Followed For Secure Document Destruction

Any data, whatever level of sensitivity it is, when under the care of your business needs to be handled in a certain manner for a specific context. To maintain your organisation’s information security integrity and records, precautionary steps must be followed to manage the data effectively.

Integrating record management-related ethics into your work culture can benefit you in the long run.

Classification of Documents

The segregation of documents based on their purpose can make their disposal easier at the end of their life cycle. You must shred the documents to the correct specification if they are highly classified. If they are not classified but still hold sensitive and confidential information, you must correctly dispose of them also. 

Basic identity records can be misused if they get into the wrong hands and need to be safely handled to protect the privacy of the person whose data you possess/hold.

Following Legal Protocols

Companies must also follow proper legal compliance codes for document eradication/destruction. Government laws and auditing authorities must guide the destruction processes, which ensures that you are not doing anything outside of the law that can be regarded as illegal or doesn’t follow the compliance codes.

See the Australian ISM and PSPF for guidance; and DSPF for Department of Defence requirements.

Proper Record Management

Careless discarding of information and human error can have dire consequences, and these mistakes can occur innocently within your team and hired personnel. Thus, hiring skilled and experienced professionals to do the work for you is usually a better choice, saving you time, stress and cost and giving you peace of mind and less risk.

Benefits Of Hiring A Data Destruction Company

Document destruction service providers help prevent confidential information from getting into the wrong hands and being misused by safely destroying the information holding assets and media. Collaborating with a reliable data destruction company ensures that your information is safely disposed of and unretrievable.

Whether your company is large or small, regularly eradicating unwanted files is a must. Proper disposal is also essential to reduce the risk of stolen stored assets and media. 

Hence, the timely and regular complete physical destruction of all storage devices, including hard drives, SSDs, USB drives and other devices that store media, is essential.

You can avoid the potential risk of a breach by implementing a rigorous disposal process, including a regular destruction service that the persons responsible for information security in your business can easily follow. These services ensure that the data is destroyed and the remaining e-waste is recycled and doesn’t cause any harm to the environment. 

Certified document destruction companies are obligated to give you proof that they have destroyed your information and devices per the necessary protocols, with a certificate of destruction. This will help you track the data destruction process and de-risk your company’s position within the information security framework with your customers. Certified document destruction ensures that your information is securely eradicated and protects your company from data breaches at the end of the life cycle of the documents, assets or media that need to be destroyed.

To ensure that the company is legitimate, you must vet the company and potentially their qualified people to make sure they are safe to do business with. Choosing a reliable and qualified destruction partner is a serious business; and will ensure the least amount of risk possible in helping you keep your data safe. Destruction and erasure of information on documents in devices such as hard disks, solid-state drives, and other data storage devices are essential before employing a suitably qualified and responsible recycling service.

Secure Hard Drive Destruction

Secure Hard Drive Destruction is a certified NAID AAA PSPF disposal service provider. We meet the strictest requirements for handling information security. We also specialise in destroying and handling the most highly classified Government and Defence information.

We offer all kinds of data destruction and document destruction services to ensure the complete eradication of confidential information.

This includes but is not limited to degaussing and shredding security-protected attractive assets, ICT media and assets and all manner of ITAR and Treaty articles for the Australian Department of Defence and other military and Defense related organisations worldwide with various other government departments and agencies.

Frequently Asked Questions

Usually, a team of experts formulates, manages and implements a detailed data destruction process that ensures the safe destruction of data at a proper time and according to the requirements of the law.

Shredding is the most effective way to dispose of hard drives, similar storage devices, and documents of all kinds. The process is cost-effective and highly secure.

Overwriting, Degaussing and physical destruction are the three main methods of destroying data.

The data destruction policy aims to prevent unauthorised disclosure of confidential information by adequately destroying the media storage devices withholding the data.

The Australian Code for the Responsible Conduct of Research states that an organisation should retain information for a minimum of 15 years for most clinical trials. Thus, an agency can keep its data as long as needed for the primary purpose of collection.

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