East Coast Electronics Recycling Debunks 5 Data Destruction Myths
While some myths in life are harmless or even helpful, many are dangerous and damaging. On this list are falsehoods and misunderstandings related to wiping data from hard drives and other storage devices before they are recycled.
According to leading electronic and computer recycling company East Coast Electronics Recycling, here are five myths — and their clarifying truths — that organizations must know before they recycle obsolete computers, laptops, flash drives, and other storage devices:
Myth #1: You can easily destroy data on a hard drive by dumping it in water.
According to a spokesperson from East Coast Electronics Recycling, “Hard drives and other electronic devices like USB flash drives often stop working when submerged in water. But this doesn’t mean that it will erase confidential data such as financial information, Social Security numbers, medical documentation, tax records, payroll and personnel data, contracts, proprietary research data, etc. If submerged long enough, then the device will stop working. However, the data will still be stored magnetically on the interior platters.”
Myth #2: You can destroy data by using a magnet.
Since data is stored magnetically on the interior platters, it may seem sensible that using a magnet will wipe away the data. However, when it comes to hard disk drives, the type of magnet necessary to change the polarity of the magnetic elements in a drive — making the data inaccessible and unrecoverable — would need to be extremely strong. And for solid state drives, which are found in flash drives and smartphones, magnets will not have any impact, because the binary code is kept in a stored charge and does not use a magnetic field.
Myth #3: You can scrub data from a hard drive by formatting it.
“Formatting a hard drive is basically like ripping out its table of contents” commented a spokesperson from East Coast Electronics Recycling. “The data can no longer be located, but it’s definitely still there, and can be retrieved with various commercially available products. In fact, one doesn’t need to be a sophisticated cyber criminal to do this. Basically anyone can do it.”
Myth #4: Degaussing is a safe and proven way to delete data.
Degaussing is a process that attempts to destroy the timing tracks and servo motors of a hard drive and also demagnetize the permanent magnet of the spindle motor. That sounds impressive, but there are some real problems with this approach. The first is that it can render drives completely unusable, which solves the data retrieval problem but creates another one for organizations that want to recycle and remarket their old assets. What is more, the process of removing hard drives, degaussing them, re-installing them, and testing them is time-consuming, tedious, and costly, because it should only be done by qualified specialists. And if that was not reason enough to avoid degaussing, consider this: there is still no guarantee that the data will be destroyed. There is always some lingering doubt.
Myth #5: All computer recycling, laptop recycling and electronics recycling companies are basically the same.
According to East Coast Electronics Recycling: “Some self-described computer & electronics recycling companies do not have the personnel, the infrastructure, or the technology — such as state-of-the-art device shredders, and a military-grade data destruction process certified by the U.S. Department of Defense — to perform secure data destruction. Businesses, hospitals and schools simply cannot afford to work with these inferior and in many cases reckless companies. The risks, costs and consequences of data falling into the wrong hands is much too high, and the reputation damage along can be catastrophic. Choosing a reputable, experienced, established and proven computer recycling, laptop recycling, and electronics recycling company is an absolute must!”