What to Know about Digital Device Disposal

December 14, 2023

Selling Damaged Hard Drives

A pile of hard drives with open covers on white backgroundIn 2023, a team at SolutionsReview.com spent $100 to acquire 14 hard drives from individuals that said the drives were dead or only good for parts. Here’s what their technicians discovered:

  • Only one drive was completely cleared of all data.
  • The team recovered all the stored data from seven out of the 13 remaining drives.
  • Most of the drives did not require much effort to retrieve the files.
  • A final collection of data included 187,630 images, 19,223 documents, 5,931 audio files and 3325 videos, and four mailbox databases.

Malicious actors would be able to utilize financial statements, medical records, trade secrets, login credentials, and other valuable data they could use to benefit financially from—and create havoc for—the owners.

This small sampling is a good illustration of how risky it is to sell used digital devices is a risky business and not recommended.

Disposing of Hard Drives

If you choose to discard or recycle your drives, the act of “erasing” the data beforehand may give you a false sense of security. Here are the different options for erasing data and what happens in each instance:

  • Basic File Deletion: This tells the computer that the sectors of the hard drive where that data is located are available to be overwritten. It does not remove the data from your hard drive. If the drive remains in use, all of the old data may eventually be overwritten with new data. However, if you are recycling or selling the drive, it all remains in place, ready to be retrieved by the next person who comes across it.
  • Reformatting: Reformatting a drive seems like a good way to clear your hard drive, but once again, data can still remain on the drive. This process only replaces the drive’s format with a new version and renders the files invisible to the operating system’s directory (and you); it does not delete files, and someone with skill and/or software can retrieve them.

Digital devices should never be discarded or recycled before they are physically destroyed. Utilizing the services of a professional shredding company is the best way to be confident your data will not end up in the wrong hands.

Data Destruction Practices

State and federal privacy laws require you to completely destroy all personally identifiable information (PII) that was created or stored by your organization, whether on paper or in digital files. Before discarding any digital devices, it is imperative that no information can be retrieved.

Shredding is one of the most popular forms of data destruction. In this process, the drive is run through a media shredder that tears the hard drive’s platters into small, irregular pieces. The data becomes unrecoverable. Shredding is both affordable and effective.

Proof of Compliance

If your organization becomes the target of an audit, you may be required to provide proof of your compliance with state and federal data privacy laws. Be sure to choose a hard drive and media destruction provider that will furnish you with a Certificate of Destruction after each destruction project is complete. The certificate should contain the following information:

  1. The date of destruction.
  2. Your organization’s name and address.
  3. A workorder containing the location, date, time, and initials of the technician that performed the shredding service.

UltraShred Technologies provides hard drive and media destruction services to businesses in Florida, Georgia, and Alabama. We are NAID AAA Certified and compliant with all state and federal data privacy laws. We provide a Certificate of Destruction with serial numbers of your media to ensure that you have record of proper destruction. To speak with one of our friendly shredding experts, call us at 904-928-0200 or complete the form on this page. We are standing by to help!

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