Secure computer disposal
Secure computer disposal is one aspect of computer management often overlooked by business owners. What to do with personal computers, laptops and servers once they reach the end of their useful life. The most crucial factor is that these machines will contain valuable and confidential data. Just deleting this data will not remove it securely from a device. It is relatively easy for a knowledgeable computer user to recover deleted data from a PC, laptop or server.
Data is easy to recover using data recovery products and know-how. Deleting partitions or reformatting will not work either as there are many ways to recover deleted partitions or recover from a format. It is not necessary to have the original machine as data recovery is achieved by connecting a drive to another computer.
Company data falling into the wrong hands could be damaging in all sorts of ways. The financial loss to the business, loss of customer confidence, loss of reputation or even legal action for failure to secure data and breaching the General Data Protection Regulation. There have been numerous high-profile cases of government data falling into the wrong hands which highlight some of the risks.
Many people think “If I delete the data and format the disk then no one would bother trying to recover my data and in any case, there is nothing confidential on it”. On the confidentiality front, hackers can be very creative, finding ways to misuse other people’s data. Can anyone likely steal your data? Hackers spend vast amounts of time trying to get into people’s systems. A computer hard disk full of data is a treasure trove for them. Do you want to take the risk?
How is a secure erase done?
There are three main ways of destroying data from a computer’s hard disk.
- We use a software program that writes meaningless data to every part of the disk, destroying all data. The software is programmable to make more than one pass, and this is required to comply with some standards but takes longer. We don’t damage the computer, so it is reusable.
- Degaussing involves removing the drive and subjecting it to a powerful magnetic field, which destroys all the data and damages the physical drive. Degaussing needs a specialist and costly hardware which is also very heavy, so it is not practical.
- Physical destruction means the device is unusable. Computer destruction is not safe and effective in the office environment.
Wiping servers is more complicated when data is in fault-tolerant RAID systems. Servers typically need additional drivers to boot so are more complicated to erase than laptops and desktop computers. Depending on the hardware, there are various options for secure wiping servers.
Destroy hard disks
What will criminals do with my data?
Destroy hard disks to avoid the dangers of personal or business data falling into the hands of criminals. Other people’s data is a treasure trove for snoopers and criminals alike. People often have pictures they would not want other people to see. Email can contain sensitive attachments like scans of documents like passports, insurance, and medical information.
Criminals will use your contacts to send spam and malware to your friends, family and business associates. That malware will steal people’s identities and make more victims. Computer crime is rife, and most people don’t appreciate how creative criminals are.
Physically destroy hard disks.
There are some circumstances when it is not practical or cost-effective to wipe old hard disks securely. Older computers might be faulty or not boot from a USB key or CD. If hard drives are faulty or have an old interface like SCSI, connecting them to other machines is not practical.
In these situations, the answer is to destroy the hard disks. In the business environment smashing disks with hammers or drilling holes through them is impossible or compatible with health and safety rules. Smashing hard drives with hammers can result in flying pieces of the circuit board or metal casing, as well as possibly causing damage to other property or personal injury.
Atomik.biz offers a physical hard disk destruction service. We use a 10-ton hydraulic press to destroy hard disks. The hydraulic press deforms the hard disk, so data can’t be read from it.
Atomik.biz destroys hard disks off-site. If you want your destroyed hard disks returned or pictures of the drive before disposal, we will do that. We dispose of destroyed hard drives for recycling.
Our hydraulic press is also useful for destroying large numbers of CDs or old backup tapes.
Physical hardware disposal
Another consideration is what to do with the physical machine. It is illegal to dump them so they must go to a licensed recycling company that will charge for disposal. Some companies want to donate old computers to charities or third-world countries. That is good for the environment and means more use for older machines.
Whatever happens to these machines, it is essential that they are securely erased before disposal.
To reuse the machine, the only option is software-based erasure. Secure wiping a computer needs power, a monitor, and a keyboard. To make this task as easy as possible Atomik.biz favours using a bootable memory stick with the erasure software on it. USB sticks are quick to boot, the machine does not have to have a working operating system, and we don’t need a password.
Wiping multiple computers simultaneously will save time and therefore, money. As the software has to write data to every part of the disk, it will take some time, typically twenty minutes to an hour per drive depending on the performance of the machine and the size of the disk drive.
Our preferred solution for secure computer disposal of computers is to run a software-erase program on each machine that is collected for recycling. If this is not possible, we will destroy the drive with our ten-tonne hydraulic press.
Charges will depend on the value of the machines which will be offset against the fees for secure wiping of the disk drives.
Office Equipment removal and recycling
Atomik.biz offers a service to clear old computers, screens, phone systems, and communication equipment. There are several common scenarios where we remove electronic equipment.
We are removing old broken or disused equipment from a functioning business.
Old equipment often sits around offices for months or years as it has company information on it. Business owners must ensure old computers are securely wiped before recycling. We securely erase the data on-site or at our premises before recycling it. We provide a certificate that proves we have securely erased the information. This equipment has no value, so we charge for the service. If disk drives are not working, we can’t produce a certificate, so we physically destroy them with our 10-tonne hydraulic press. We destroy physical disks off-site because our hydraulic press is not portable.
Another scenario is a company closing down. It is still essential to securely wipe the data and produce certificates. If the machine is reusable, it will have some value that we will offset against recycling costs. The service we offer is removing all computers, printers, screens, phones, comms equipment, software manuals, etc. We will negotiate with the liquidators and arrange timely office clearance.