The thought that you could unwittingly open your data up to unscrupulous hackers is at the forefront of most peoples’ minds. But what about when you dispose of your old computer, hard disk, or USB stick?
If you don’t destroy your data before disposing of your hardware or dropping it off at your local recycling centre, you could see your personal data fall into the wrong hands.
Here are 5 top tips for data destruction from PCPro – well worth a read.
1. Overwrite it
Simply deleting files or formatting them won’t do it. Although they appear removed from your OS, they’ll still be lurking in the recesses of your hard drive.
The answer is to overwrite the data at least 3 times. The article in PCPro suggests using the Gutmann method, which ‘writes a series of 35 patterns over the hard drive’, their preferred free tool is Eraser.
2. Smash it
To eradicate the data you have to physically destroy the hard drive, or more accurately, the platters within the hard drive.
This can be done using various methods: hammering large nails through it, using a sledgehammer to pummel it, take an angle-grinder to it, or dunk it in dilute hydrochloric acid.
The easiest method is to unscrew the hard drive using a Torx screwdriver and remove the platters, which can then be sawn and generally destroyed.
3. Demagnetise it
Although this method won’t work on USB sticks or SSDs (because there’s nothing magnetic about those data storage devices), it can be used on hard drives.
But be warned, waving a household magnet over it won’t be enough to delete your data. Demagnetising (or degaussing) isn’t a viable home data destruction method as degaussing machines are rather expensive.
4. Disc destruction
We’re not talking about scratches as they would have to be pretty deep to make any impact, so you might as well go the whole hog and destroy the disc.
Cut it up using a strong pair of scissors or shears, or, if your shredder has a slot for CDs, use that and dispose of the bits in separate bins to make sure it can’t be put back together again.
5. Purge your printer
Believe it or not, lots of printers have built in hard drives and may automatically store a copy of any document that passes through it – bet you didn’t realise that.
Assuming you’re not planning on selling on the printer (or returning it to the lease company), remove the disc and destroy it. If you do want to sell it on, connect the printer to a PC and wipe it using the a data erasure tool.
So there you go, 5 ways to make sure you don’t pass on any of your sensitive data without realising it.