What is the Best Method to Dispose your Digital Data?

Data is one of the most important assets for businesses and so maintaining its privacy and confidentiality. Though you incorporate several security measures to protect your data from being breached or leaked while using it in your organization, you’d also want to take appropriate actions while disposing it off. Using an inappropriate data disposal method, or disposing-off the storage device without destroying the crucial business data on it might lead to the data breach, causing huge monetary losses and loss of reputation.

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In this blog, we discuss various methods of data disposal or destruction, with their pros and cons that can help you decide which one is the best as per your requirement.

Data Disposal Methods and Techniques

There are majorly three ways of data disposal – Data erasure, Degaussing, and Destruction of storage media. These data sanitization methods have their own pros and cons.

Method 1. Data Erasure

If you want to wipe digital data without affecting/damaging the data storage device, choose data erasure.

There are various tools such as BitRaser Drive Eraser, which can be used for data erasure.

As per the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), data erasure can be attained by Overwriting, Block Erase, and Cryptographic Erase techniques.

Overwriting – Stale data or data to be disposed of is overwritten with non-sensitive data (0’s and 1’s) by using data erasure software.

Block Erase – Erases/purges flash-memory based block. Thereafter, Overwriting can be used on the purged blocks.

Cryptographic Erase – This data disposal technique is used for devices that have built-in data encryption features, such as Self-Encrypting Drives (SEDs). An effective data erasure tool can destroy the key used for decrypting the data on SEDs, making the data irrecoverable.

Advantages of Data Erasure

  • The device can be reused after data disposal
  • Media need not be shipped, and hence no risk of a data breach during transit

Disadvantages of Data Erasure

  • The device from which data needs to be disposed of must be in working condition
  • Employing data erasure techniques on flash-memory based devices reduces their lifetime

Method 2. Degaussing

This method is used for disposing of data stored on magnetic storage media. In degaussing, the device is exposed to a high-intensity magnetic field which disrupts the data stored in the form of comparatively smaller magnetic field.

Advantages of Degaussing

  • The storage device may still remain useful in some cases
  • Destroys the data even if the device is not in working condition

Disadvantages of Degaussing

  • This method can’t be used for non-magnetic devices
  • Existing degaussers may fail to degauss newer and advanced magnetic devices due to high coercivity (magnetic force)

Method 3. Physical Destruction of Device

A data storage device can be destroyed physically so that it becomes impossible to reconstruct it. Crushing, Grinding, Disintegration, Incineration, Shredding, etc. are some of the methods used to destruct storage devices.

Advantage of Physical Destruction

  • It’s the most effective way of data destruction

Disadvantages of Physical Destruction

  • Storage device needs to be shipped out to the destruction site, exposing it to a risk of data theft during transit
  • It renders the device unusable

Which is the Best Data Erasure Method?

To choose a data sanitization method, you must consider if the storage device to be sanitized is functional or not, the type of storage device (magnetic or non-magnetic), the sensitivity of data, and other factors.

Based on these factors, you can choose a data erasure software, degaussing, or physical destruction method.

For instance, you may prefer to use a data erasure software when your data is highly sensitive and you don’t wish to ship out your device for physical destruction to a service provider.

Similarly, you’d need to dispose of the data by using physical destruction or degaussing if the device isn’t in working condition.

Given below is a comparison between the three data destruction methods/techniques to help you choose a suitable data destruction method:

Data Erasure Degaussing Physical Destruction
Doesn’t damage the storage device May damage the storage device Destruct the device completely
The device need not be shipped to a data destruction center and prevents data breach during transit The storage device needs to be shipped, exposing it to the threat of data breach The device needs to be shipped, exposing it to the threat of data breach
Works only when the storage device is in working condition Data can be disposed of even if the device doesn’t work Condition of the storage device doesn’t matter
Eco-friendly way of data destruction as it uses data erasure software The device couldn’t be reused and lies as e-waste The destructed device adds to e-waste

Using the physical destruction method is the most effective way of data disposal, but it needs your device to be shipped to a data destruction center which exposes your valuable data to a risk of the data breach. Hence, it’s recommended to destroy the data by using a data erasure software such as BitRaser Drive Eraser which is a do-it-yourself tool and implements the International Standards of Data Erasure. The software also generates a certificate of erasure, which guarantees the destruction of data beyond the scope of recovery.

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