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Asset Disposal Checklist: The Top Steps to Take to Ensure Secure Data Destruction and Drive Disposal

An important part of the data management process is dealing with the hardware that stores the data. An organization’s hardware needs evolve over the course of time. Some organizations outgrow their data storage hardware because the volume of data that they work with has increased, which means they need to upgrade to new hardware. Some have to change their hardware because the technology is growing obsolete. Whatever the case may be, this hardware, once replaced, needs to be disposed of. But, as it happens, merely disposing of the drives is neither the correct nor the sensible thing to do.

Can Data Really be Erased?

The short answer is yes. The longer answer is more complicated. Simply deleting or overwriting the data on the drives you’re getting rid of is not enough. There are traces of the deleted files that remain on the drive and, by applying certain techniques and using the right technology, this data can be recovered from supposedly empty drives. Any organization that deals with sensitive data, no matter the kind, can become a victim of a data breach because they didn’t dispose of their drives properly. And very few organizations can claim to not be concerned if their data were to leak. Data destruction, therefore, is a critical step in the data management process.

Data Breaches Have a Severe Impact

Data breaches can cause all sorts of issues for an organization. One very direct consequence is financial, where the organization becomes liable to pay fines and conduct an audit to find the source of the leak. The organization can also face lawsuits filed by the parties whose data is compromised due to the breach. Financial losses can accumulate to be in the millions, if not more. The organization also is susceptible to the loss of trust and reputation, which can have an impact on the stock prices and the financial statements. The organization can also be extorted by cyber criminals who can threaten to make public confidential information that they found through improper asset disposal. None of these scenarios are ideal. But, with a little effort, all of them are avoidable.

What Can Organizations Do?

There are certain steps an organization can take to ensure that it has done the best that it can to dispose of its assets. These steps can reduce the chances of data breaches occurring from this source to as close to zero as possible. Given the scope of damage that a data breach can have, it is prudent for any organization to try to follow all these steps during asset disposal.

  • Track the Hardware

Keeping track of all the hardware that is being disposed of is a great practice. An organization must make sure that they record all pieces of hardware that leave their premises, no matter how small or insignificant. This can be useful in an audit to find a particular piece of hardware or trace a specific leak. No hardware should be allowed to slip through the net because it would reflect poorly on the disposal process as well, even if that hardware is insignificant to data storage. All pieces must be accounted for before they can be further processed.

  • Have Robust Internal Policies

The organization must proactively design internal IT policies that aim to reduce the need to record personally identifiable information on work devices. There are some organizations and employees who deal with highly sensitive and confidential data. Those organizations should develop policies that encourage proper data management and layout the steps that the employees can take to limit the amount of personal data that they need to store on work devices. Despite the fact that people are becoming conscious of the data that they are sharing and want to have a greater control over their data, storing personal data on work devices is unavoidable at times because of policies that have been implemented on an organizational level.

  • Ensure Continuity of Operations

Data that is stored in the drives scheduled for disposal needs to be transferred or backed up before the drive can be cleared. This is a very obvious and critical step, especially since the loss of such data can cause the operations of the organization to come to a grinding halt. Even our smartphones remind us to back up all our data or transfer it before a factory reset. It is also important that the backup and transfer is structured and easy to keep track of, to avoid confusion from duplicated records.

  • Have a Clear Disposal Decision

It is wise to decide how you want to dispose of your hardware before you begin the process. Hardware can be disposed of in one of two ways: it can either be refurbished and sold in the secondary market or it can be recycled. Given the environmental concerns about e-waste, avoid direct disposal in most cases, as e-waste contains several precious metals which can be reused if efficiently extracted and toxic materials that pollute the environment and do not decompose unless treated with chemicals. The process of asset disposition becomes smoother and quicker when the decision is made in advance.

  • Find the Right Partner

As discussed above, it is important that asset disposal is done properly. Any chance of data breach must be avoided. Data destruction is an important step in the asset disposition process, critical enough to warrant the US government setting up guidelines to ensure that its departments are shielded from the possibility of data leaks. These guidelines are called the NIST SP 800-88 guidelines and they have become the standard for data sanitization processes across industries. Compliance with these guidelines ensures that an organization has done the utmost it can to prevent data breaches and it is extremely difficult to extract data from its drives. This job can be handed over to professionals, who ensure NIST compliance and take over the entire process of asset disposition from you.

Adonis: Asset Disposal Professionals

Adonis offers professional asset disposal and data destruction services to organizations. Working with partners such as Adonis is a smart decision, especially since Adonis are NIST compliant. Adonis ensures full transparency and traceability during the entire disposition process, which means that you know exactly where each piece of your hardware is. Adonis also ensures that only those drives that are on the client’s list are processed, which has previously led Adonis to send back drives which were not on the list. Working with Adonis means you hand over the crucial task of secure data destruction and asset disposition to experts while you focus on your core activities. Reach out to us today for your asset disposal needs and more information regarding our secure data destruction practices.