Destruction by water, a magnetic force field, even physical damage: there are several methods of hard drive destruction that people have attempted to use. But are all these methods successful, and what is the only foolproof way to destroy a hard drive?
In the wrong hands, even the tiniest amount of sensitive data could cause untold damage. Think, then, the disaster that could be caused by a hard drive full of confidential information coming into a hacker’s possession. For that reason alone, hard drive destruction is an imperative business practice. But what is the best way to destroy a hard drive, and what is the most effective method? Read on to find out.
The amount of data that can be contained on a single hard drive is remarkable. But while a hard drive can hold increasingly large amounts of data due to their ever-growing capacity, there is not always a correlation between the size of data and its importance. A person’s social security number, for example, or the security key for an online banking system or the alarm system for physical premises could be contained within a document less than 5 KB of data. In the hands of a hacker, even the tiniest amount of data could cause untold damage.
Why Hard Drives Need to Be Destroyed
Digital information is in hot demand, and confidential information about people and companies can fetch untold prices on the black market. With data thieves equally interested in personally identifiable and medical information about individuals as they are in company data, no one is immune and no business or organization can afford not to employ hard drive destruction methods.
Before You Can Understand Hard Drive Destruction, You Must First Understand How a Hard Drive Works
Record players may be almost extinct today, but their legacy lives on in the design of the modern-day hard drive. Similarly to the layout of a record player, a hard drive stores information on a platter, typically made from glass, ceramic, or aluminum. The spinning motion of the platter is controlled by a spindle, while other electronic components including an actuator and electric current itself add to the operation of the hard drive.
Given the similarities between a hard drive and a record player, it makes sense that the only way to completely destroy the data contained on a hard drive is to stop the platters from spinning and preventing them from being able to spin in the future.
With this in mind, let’s look at some common methods that people use to destroy a hard drive, and find out the most effective method.
Attempting Hard Drive Destruction by Water Could Land You in Jail
In December 2015, the world’s eyes were trained on the FBI as divers searched the Seccombe Lake, located nearby to the scene of a deadly shooting that caused 14 fatalities and 22 serious injuries.
Acting on reports that shooters Syed Rizwan Farook and Tashfeen Malik had thrown a laptop with potentially incriminating documents and emails into the lake, FBI divers began the process of trawling the lake in an attempt to recover the laptop.
The events of December 2015 led to an ongoing discussion as to whether water is an effective means of hard drive destruction. Data recovery experts agreed that, while water damage could cause the data recovery process to take slightly longer than usual, there is every chance that the data contained on the laptop’s hard drive would still be fully recoverable.
Water as a hard drive destruction method is basically ineffective. At worst, water may short out the electronics surrounding the hard drive, but it will not render any of the data unrecoverable.
As for Farook and Malik: the pair would probably wish they had chosen an alternative method of hard drive destruction rather than dumping the laptop in the lake.
When It Comes to Hard Drive Destruction, Magnets Can Only Go So Far
It used to be thought that bringing magnets too close to a hard drive could render the data inaccessible. While extreme, industry-strength magnets contained within a degaussing machine will certainly cause hard drive data destruction, regular magnets most likely will not cause damage to your hard drive.
Even A Smashed Hard Drive Can Still Contain Recoverable Data
If water and magnets are unlikely to negatively affect a hard drive, what then is the most effective method of hard drive destruction?
Causing physical damage to a hard drive is the only way to cause damage to the data, but even then, data from a smashed hard drive is still potentially recoverable. Following the school shooting in 2012 at Sandy Hook Elementary School, a forensic team worked tirelessly to recover data from shooter Adam Lanza’s smashed hard drive. The process was both time-consuming and costly, but it was nevertheless possible.
Shredding Is the Only Foolproof Method of Hard Drive Destruction
We now know that water is unlikely to cause sufficient damage to a hard drive, nor will a magnetic field short of a degausser. Physically smashing a hard drive is a better option, but the data can still be recoverable.
That leaves hard drive shredding. The hard drive shredding service provided by Data Destruction Corporation is the only foolproof way of completely destroying data contained on your hard drive. Hard drives are reduced to little more than tiny shards that cannot be deciphered or reconstructed.
To discuss our secure certified hard drive destruction services and to find out more about how we can take your unwanted hard drives off your hands and replace them with a data destruction certificate, contact us at Data Destruction Corporation today.