In this disaster recovery blog, you’re probably used to seeing articles on DR, DRP, DRM and in general anything relating to getting data and systems back in order after an IT incident.

What else would you expect! However, there are cases where complete destruction of data is actually what you want.

This is true when you want to avoid a data disaster at some future date, by preventing prying eyes from seeing confidential data on old storage media, for example.

You might think it was easier to destroy than to create, but this exercise can be a challenge. How would you set about it? (Hint: just throwing away your end-of-life hard drive is not a solution).

The first step to securely disposing of data, copies of data or storage media that you no longer need to keep is strong encryption.

The good news here is that you should be using strong encryption on your data anyway, at least, on any data deemed be to confidential. Strong encryption should be part of your disaster recovery and business continuity management.

It therefore gives you a head start when the time comes to throw stuff away, by simply destroying the encryption keys.

However, even the best-designed encryption methods sometimes suffer from hidden flaws or vulnerabilities. Bad actors may have to wait for six months after they’ve fished your old hard drive out of the rubbish pile, but there’s always a chance they can get back into your data afterwards.

For truly effective data destruction (and the safeguarding of your IT confidentiality and corporate reputation), you’ll want to physically destroy old storage media.

Your options in this case include shredding (yes, even for hard drives), degaussing (wrecks the magnetic fields that hold data in place), and smelting (heat up storage media to the point where they melt).

Before doing any of those, you might also like to overwrite all the already-encrypted data with meaningless data patterns, remembering of course that the simple “delete” command is effectively useless against hackers. Does all this sound like overkill? Will it help you sleep better at night? It’s your choice!