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What is Degaussing? What’s the difference between degaussing and software wipes?

What is Degaussing?  What’s the difference between degaussing and software wipes?

What is degaussing?  Whether it’s your personal computer or a hard disk drive containing information about clients, it’s likely that at some point you’ll need to get rid of an old electronic device.

Technology needs to be disposed of in a safe and secure manner—you can’t just throw it away once you’re done using it, because all the information will still be on there.

What is degaussing?  What are degaussers?

The big three
When searching the internet for ways to dispose of old electronic devices, there are usually two options that pop up when it pertains to data erasure—software wipes and crushing. There’s a third option that hasn’t gained the momentum in the mainstream media it deserves, but it has certainly gained recognition in the data security industry. Degaussing stands as the only verified method of securely wiping data from a device, and when paired with crushing, it forms an excellent one-two combo.

But first, let’s look at why software wipes don’t work as well. CNet reported that this method of removing data from a hard disk drive works best when you want it to be usable after the fact—for resale purposes, usually. But for organizations tasked with protecting client data or keeping compliant with laws like the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, turning a profit off of these old devices isn’t the main priority—safe record-keeping is.

Software wipes simply overwrites the data on the hard disk drive and serve as a rudimentary approach to denying access to important information. Data hackers can still find and pull the data stored there. It also takes hours to conduct, and don’t always work on every system. This lack of security should be extremely alarming for companies looking for an easy way out of disposing old media.

Organizations need to ensure data is safely erased before getting rid of old media devices.

Use a safe one-two combo
Microsoft reported that if you’re looking to erase data from any electronic device that has personally identifiable information, it should only be done in accordance to government standards. The National Security Agency has identified degaussing as the only surefire way to ensure data is truly wiped from a piece of technology.

Degaussers utilize magnetic fields that effectively demagnetize the device, thus erasing the data. By leaving the electronic in a blank state, organizations are assured complete safety of their information—a diagnostic laboratory wouldn’t even be able to retrieve the data.

“Degaussing and crushing form a potent one-two combo.”

Unlike software wipes, which don’t work on failed hard disk drives that still hold information, products like Proton Data’s T-4 Degausser work on any kind of device and can penetrate any media with up to 15,000 Gauss.

What is degaussing?  Degaussing is not the only thing you should do to insure data security.  While degaussing is the only safe method to remove data from a piece of technology, companies usually go one step further and pair their data erasure methods with crushing. CNet reported that once data is wiped, organizations can remove or destroy the platter on a hard drive to ensure complete certainty the information is unattainable. While most people believe that if the platter can’t spin, then the hard drive can’t be read—but data can actually still be recovered from the device. This is why degaussing beforehand is incredibly important.

After that, companies should consider using a product that effectively crushes the device, or have some fun and do it on their own. Any method that will render it into tiny pieces is ideal. But, before taking a sledgehammer to media, make sure to erase the data. Even tiny pieces can be put together and information can be salvaged if not properly disposed of.

If your organization needs to dispose of old media containing personally identifiable information, consider using the two-pronged approach of degaussing and crushing. Not only is it fast and safe, but it will keep the business in the clear of any potential compliance breaches.

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