What are the Risks Associated with Unsafe Data Disposal Practices?

Just like us, every storage device has a lifecycle. From procuring the device to allocating it to the employees and reallocating it to disposal, the IT management needs to ensure the sanctity and confidentiality of the data. When reallocating and disposing of the storage device, it is imperative to sanitize the device from all data remnants. There are certain unsafe data disposal practices which can lead to data breach problems.

However, it is observed that most businesses are still unaware of the proper methods of safe data disposal. A comprehensive study by Stellar® on 311 used storage devices revealed that 1 in 4 devices was disposed of after only formatting the device.

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Any data recovery expert will tell you that deleting files or formatting the storage device does not erase the data completely. If the residual data falls into the wrong hands, it could have serious consequences.

Let’s have a look at some unsafe data disposal practices and the risk implications involved.

Unsafe Data Disposal Practices

  1. Deleting data

What do you do when you want to get rid of a file or a folder? You press the ‘DEL’ button on your keyboard, right? For you, the file is deleted. However, it is not the case. When you delete a file from the system, only the pointer to the address is deleted from the address table of the file system. Any tech expert can recover the data from the storage device without any trouble.

It is recommended that you use data wiping software to remove the selected files completely.

  1. Tearing not shredding

Although the world has gone digital, paper documents are still an integral part of official functions. One of the most common mistakes that professionals commit is tearing the piece of paper or folder before throwing it into the trash. Anyone can assemble those pieces to accumulate the information.

You should use a shredder to dispose of the unwanted papers so that the information it contains becomes incomprehensible.

  1. Formatting the hard disk

Formatting the hard drive is a process that some IT departments follow to sanitize the data stored on it. However, after formatting the hard drive, the data can still be retrieved by any third-party data recovery software. Only after overwriting the data on the storage device, the previous data can be erased permanently.

You can completely wipe the data from the device using a data wiping software or use a degausser to make the drive unusable.

  1. Physically damaging the storage device

Damaging the storage device is not the best way for data disposal. Whenever the IT department decides to dispose of the storage device, they damage it first. However, if not destroyed properly, the storage device can still be repaired to recover the data.

Moreover, disposing of the data this way also leads to the generation of a significant amount of e-waste. This not only leads to additional efforts by the organization but also has adverse effects on the environment.

Risk Associated with Unsafe Data Disposal

With stringent data protection laws in place and in view of the increasing data breach events, it is imperative for the company to erase data safely.  When the data is not wiped properly, it can cause serious ramifications for the company. Let’s see some risks associated with unsafe data disposal.

  1. It Can Harm Your Brand Reputation

Business data is highly critical as it comprises confidential client information, such as payment methods, personal information, and identity proofs. Any residual data left in the disposed storage device can cause a data breach, leaking all the critical information. This can lead to a setback for your brand reputation.

A 2019 study by Verizon indicates that data privacy was a key aspect to retain customers. As news travels faster than light, potential customers can refrain from doing business with you. Moreover, your goodwill and trust also take a hit with your existing clients.

  1. It Can Cause Harm to your Business

If a storage device is not disposed of properly, the residual data it contains can fall into the hands of unauthorized person. The person can then sell this information to the competitors, which can be catastrophic for your business.

Moreover, if the person in possession of the storage device has malicious intent, they can leak the data online or ask you for ransom in return.

  1. It Can Lead to Penalties

Data protection regulations and compliances have become stringent in the recent past. Data protection regulations, like GDPR, HIPAA, and CCPA have defined protocols on how the data should be handled, barring which the company could incur heavy penalties.

According to MarketWatch, Amazon faces a $425 million fine due to violations of the GDPR regulations. This indicates the criticality to adhere to these regulations. Hence, the companies must follow the proper data destruction methods.

  1. It Can Cause Frauds

If the storage devices are not disposed of properly, the confidential data of employees, such as passport details, bank account numbers, mobile numbers, PAN numbers, and date of birth can be compromised. If the data falls into the hands of scammers, they can utilize the data to their advantage. This can lead to identity thefts, credit card scams, tax frauds, phishing attacks, and more.

How to undergo successful data disposal?

There are various methods for successful data disposal, such as data erasure (wiping), degaussing, or shredding. You can either choose to accomplish the data destruction process in-house or opt for third-party software or services, depending on the nature of the data and storage devices.

Let’s discuss the pros and cons of in-house data destruction and in-lab services.

In-house data destruction

Before destroying the storage media, you can choose BitRaser® Drive Eraser data wiping software. The data wiping software erase complete data from any storage device beyond the scope of data recovery, be it hard drives or USB drives.

Using a data wiping tool has an assurance of security as you are doing the data wiping yourself. However, you would not get the expert assistance of a data recovery professional.

In-lab services

Data wiping can also be accomplished with the help of professional data wiping services. The provider can take care of the data wiping process with advanced proprietary tools and an expert team. They also give certificates of data erasure which ensures that the data is destroyed completely without any chance of being recovered.

Opting for a third-party service provider offers you the expertise and advanced infrastructure of the provider. However, it costs a little more than the in-house efforts.

Final Note

Unsafe data disposal techniques cannot completely remove the data from the storage device. The residual data on the drive can be easily recovered using a data recovery tool.

If it falls into wrong hands, then it may cause harm to your brand reputation, lead to financial loss, and legal penalties. Hence, companies must adopt the right data disposal methods and tools, such as data wiping, degaussing, and shredding.

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