You’re familiar with confidential agreements asking for the return, disposal or destruction of confidential information belonging to the client. This information may be found in electronic files, paper files, emails, graphics, and media such as USB drives, CDs and DVDs. Getting rid of paper confidential material is pretty easy: you shred it. I use a crosscut paper shredder, the Black & Decker BD-890A. That way, every page and scrap of paper gets reduced to mulch.
But, what to do with DVDs or CDs containing client files? There are a few options for our peace of mind:
- Chuck them in the trash
- Shred them in a special shredder (which is more expensive)
- Scratch the silvery side of each disk with a knife to make it unreadable
- Drill holes into each disk (what I’ve done)
Putting confidential DVDs or CDs in the trash is the half-way method because someone hunting for stuff in your garbage may end up reading proprietary material. It’s a minuscule possibility but it’s better not to do it. I’ve seen paper shredders that can also destroy CDs and DVDs, but they employ high-torque motors (6 to 9 rpm) that increase the price of the shredder. For the occasional disposal of confidential media, it’s too expensive an option.
I’ve applied method #3 above and felt good about myself, confident that I’ve met the spirit and the letter of the law in keeping confidential information out of the hands of unauthorized third parties. However, drilling holes into the media started to seem a more elegant solution. Here’s how I did it:
Insert that drill bit into your power drill and use a high torque setting. That way, you don’t have to press too hard onto the media to make the holes and you won’t risk ruining your drill bit.
Drilling into a plastic substance like polycarbonate carries a very low risk of having shards fly into your face and eyes, but use some wrapping material or sandwich the disks in a way that any pieces and bits are contained inside the wrapping. I used a very low-tech material: newspapers (see below).
Making sure that you take proper care of confidential and proprietary materials from your customer is not just good business practice and a polite way of maintaining your relationship, but it is crucial in this day of cybercrimes affecting companies big and small.
The same destructive method can be applied to hard drives. Regardless of the erasure method employed, data can still be retrieved by determined information thieves. Since it’s better to be safe than sorry, use a power drill on a high torque setting, mounted on a conventional power drill clamp to make those orifices safely on a hard drive. Remember to wear goggles.